GARLAND Co., Ark. (KARK) — The Garland Co. Sheriff joined several others across the state in announcing Friday he will not enforce a new federal rule that requires the registration of stabilizing braces for handguns.
The rule, signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, reclassified handguns equipped with these braces as short-barreled rifles, which already must be registered.
“The ATF is concerned that people are using these against their shoulder as a short-barreled rifle instead of a handgun,” said Nathan House, the Arkansas Armory’s General Manager.
It will soon be a felony to own braces that are not registered. If owners do not want to register the braces, the ATF said they can attach longer barrels, throw them away, turn the guns into the agency or destroy them.
Garland Co. Sheriff Mike McCormick published an open letter Friday saying his office will not assist the federal government in enforcing this rule, calling it an infringement on second-amendment rights. Several Arkansas sheriffs have said the same thing.
“They’re going to essentially turn a blind eye to someone who’s breaking the law,” said Matt Bender, a University of Arkansas law professor. “They have the discretion to do that.”
Bender said sheriffs point to a law passed two years ago that essentially says Arkansas can reject any gun-related federal rulings passed after Jan. 2021.
“They are relying on sentiment and also a very performative piece of legislation,” Bender said.
Bender said most people will probably feel safe keeping their braces, but that does not mean they will not be breaking the law.
“That does carry serious penalties just like most federal criminal offenses do,” Bender said.
House said he thinks the sheriffs’ intentions are good, but he wondered whether they would ultimately defer to federal law in cases where they need an arrest warrant.
“I appreciate that stand, but in practice, I don’t think it makes a big difference,” House said.
House said he thinks the courts should get involved to strike down the federal ruling.
The ATF said people affected by this ruling will have 120 days to comply once it takes effect.