Last Monday the Department of Justice (DoJ) unveiled two new gun control proposals that the agency said were aimed at reducing gun violence. The first was meant to crack down on accessories that could be used to illegally convert pistols into “short-barreled rifles,” while the department also published model legislation that was drafted to help states craft their own “extreme risk protection order” or “red flag” laws.
By sending the two proposals to the Federal Register and publishing the model legislation, the DoJ in essence met the deadlines that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced alongside President Joe Biden in April.
“The Justice Department is determined to take concrete steps to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in our communities,” said Attorney General Garland via a statement. “Today we continue to deliver on our promise to help save lives while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. We welcome the opportunity to work with communities in the weeks and months ahead in our shared commitment to end gun violence.”
The proposed rules would regulate so-called “stabilizing braces,” which the DoJ maintains can be used to convert a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, which is highly regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. The Justice Department has warned that gun owners are able to purchase the devices without going through a background check and without having to abide by any of registration requirements reserved for NFA items.
The NFA had imposed greater restrictions on short-barreled rifles and shotguns because such firearms were seen to be more easily concealable, and were believed to be able to “cause great damage” while they were also believed to more likely be used to commit crimes.
The DoJ issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would “make clear that the statutory restrictions on short-barreled rifles apply to pistols that are equipped with certain stabilizing braces and intended to be fired from the shoulder.” Many companies now sell such accessories and the proposed rules would simply clarify when these attached accessories actually convert a pistol into an NFA-regulated short-barreled rifled. Now that the rule has been published in the Federal Register, the public will have ninety days to submit comments.
The Justice Department also published model legislation and detailed commentary that it said would make it easier for states to craft those “extreme risk protection orders,” which could authorize a court to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms. The DoJ said that by allowing family members or law enforcement to intervene and to petition for these orders before warning signs turn into tragedy, these extreme risk protection orders could potentially save lives. The model legislation, which was developed after consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, was meant to provide a framework that will help more states enact the “red flag” laws.
The DoJ had previously unveiled a separate proposal that called for regulating so-called “ghost guns” – firearms that can be self-assembled at home from parts that lack federal serial numbers.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.