ST. MARTINS − A federal ruling regarding gun braces will go into effect at the end of May, but some Missouri gun owners may be unaware of the changes.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) amended regulations in January to clarify when a rifle is designed, made and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

The final rule, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces,’” changes the definition of a “rifle” or “short-barreled rifle” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. According to the ATF, "the rule’s amended definition of 'rifle' clarifies that the term 'designed, redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder' includes a weapon that is equipped with an accessory, component, or other rearward attachment (e.g., a 'stabilizing brace') that provides surface area that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder, provided other factors, as listed in the definition, indicate the weapon is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder."

This means AR-15 pistols equipped with a “stabilizing brace” are now reclassified as short-barreled rifles (SBRs).

The ATF says the rule does not affect stabilizing braces that are designed for use by individuals with disabilities. These stabilizing braces are designed to conform to the arm and are not used as a buttstock. However, if the brace is attached to a short-barreled rifle, it must be registered or modified with a 16-inch or longer barrel.

Richard Rehmeier, the owner of Bob’s Guns and Knives in St. Martins, said he learned about the rule change through a customer. He thinks there hasn’t been enough work from federal and state officials to publicize the change to gun owners. 

“I think there's a lot of people that are not aware of it,” Rehmeier said. “...Somebody [is going to be] out on a range shooting prairie dogs or something, and a federal agent is going to catch them with it. And they're going to arrest them and say, ‘Hey, you got a short-barreled rifle.’ And they're going to have to pay the piper.”

Rehmeier said he doesn’t believe the rule will have a tangible impact on safety. 

“It doesn't affect the way that gun shoots, the way the gun operates,”  Rehmeier said. “You know, now does it mean that you can be more accurate by holding a gun against your shoulder? It might be, but you can still hold it against your shoulder if you want to do it that way. It's just closer instead of farther away. But it doesn't make the gun less dangerous or more dangerous by having a brace on there. It doesn't affect it at all.”

Rehmeier said he thinks this rule is an attempt to ban assault weapons. 

“I think this is the first step in attacking assault weapons,” Rehmeier said. “People go out and kill people with an AR and now the AR is the bad guy. You know, [people are saying] ‘it's not the bad guy that kills people. It's a bad gun that kills people.’”

The ATF published a list of guidelines for individuals affected by the rule change. Failure to observe the guidelines is a federal felony crime carrying up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each firearm in violation.

While the rule went into effect on Jan. 31 after being published in the Federal Register, enforcement will begin after midnight on May 31. 

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