WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate has voted down the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would have nullified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pistol brace rule.
The vote centered around a new ATF rule that would change the definition of a pistol with a barrel less than 16 inches equipped with a stabilizing device from a pistol to a short-barreled rifle (SBR). The change would subject the firearm to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and require the owner to register the gun with the ATF. Failure to do so would be a felony punishable by up to a $250,000 fine and ten years in prison.
Only 250,000 pistols equipped with stabilizing devices out of the millions in public circulation have been registered with the ATF; this means the federal government has made millions of law-abiding citizens felons overnight.
Multiple gun groups have sued the ATF and the Justice Department over the regulation. The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Gun Owners of America (GOA), and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) have injunctions against the rule, forbidding the ATF from taking any enforcement action against their members.
After a contentious debate, a CRA resolution was passed in the House of Representatives. House leadership was initially reluctant to bring up the resolution, but the Freedom Caucus, led by Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and others, forced their hand. The House vote was mostly along party lines, although a few Democrats crossed the aisle to back the resolution.
In the Senate, the resolution failed on a party-line vote. Many hoped that so-called blue-dog Democrats facing tough reelections would cross the aisle and back the resolution. One of the Democrats that faced tremendous pressure to support the CRA was Joe Manchin (D-WV). Senator Manchin represents one of the country’s most pro-gun and deep-red states. He claims to be pro-gun, yet he refuses to break from his party to protect the rights of the people he represents.
Another Democrat many hoped would back the CRA is John Tester (D-MT). Senator Tester is from the deep-red state of Montana. Montana is one of the states suing the federal government over the pistol brace rule along with the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition (FRAC). Many hoped that the fact that the people of Montana did not like or want the pistol brace rule would sway the Senator’s vote. Ultimately, the Senator decided to back his party rather than the citizens of Montana, which might hurt him in his bid to win reelection.
Many in the gun rights community were dismayed at the vote. Several gun rights organizations pointed out the outpouring of grassroots efforts to get the resolution passed. One of these organizations is GOA. The gun rights group pointed out that if the rule were proposed in Congress, it would never pass. GOA accused the Senate of taking the easy way out. The group vowed to keep fighting in the court system, where they have largely succeeded.
Erich Pratt, GOA’s Senior Vice President, issued the following statement:
“It’s incredibly disappointing that, despite an outpouring of grassroots opposition to the rule, the Senate concurred with President Biden and voted to make their constituents felons. Gun Owners of America will continue to fight back in the Courts, where we have already seen some strong success. The fight will go on.”
Aidan Johnston, GOA’s Director of Federal Affairs, added:
“It’s truly outrageous that a rule from the ATF can ban 40 million guns when the same proposal, if originating from Congress, could never pass the same test. Instead, Senators took the easy way out and chose to rubber stamp this administration’s unconstitutional move to criminalize owning a piece of plastic.”
Even if the CRA resolution passed in the Senate, President Joe Biden would have likely vetoed it. What the vote does tell gun owners is where their senators sit on the issue.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.