This just goes to show how meaningless the label felon is and how much power an agency can wield. Arm braces for AR pattern rifles have been a big seller. They’re designed to help you brace an AR pistol against your forearm. It just so happens that these designs can also secure the weapon against your shoulder like a traditional stock. Because of this many people have chosen to build AR pistols with arm braces instead of paying the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) $200 for a tax stamp that gives them the privilege of using a traditional stock on an AR with a barrel shorter than 16″.
The ATF has now ruled that using an arm brace to shoulder an AR with a barrel under 16″ is a felony [PDF]:
The pistol stabilizing brace was neither “designed” nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, and therefore use as a shoulder stock constitutes a “redesign” of the device because a possessor has changed the very function of the item. Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked.
Any person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.
What this means is that having an AR with a barrel under 16″ equipped with an arm brace is perfectly legal so long as you don’t put the brace against your shoulder. The second you do put that brace against your shoulder you are committing a felony. Holding a gun wrong is now officially a felony.
And this new felony didn’t take an act of Congress or the signature of the President. It only required an agency to write a letter. This is why the idea that Congress must vote and the President must sign a bill is some kind of meaningful check against runaway government power is laughable. In the case of firearm laws the ATF need only redefine what “redesign” means and it can create a new felony crime. No fuss, no muss.
I think this also explains why the average working professional unknowingly commits and average of three felonies a day. When an agency can simply redefine a single word and create a new felony it goes without saying that there are going to be a lot of felonies. This is also why everybody who thinks they’re a law-abiding citizen is wrong.