STONE COUNTY, Ark. – Stone County Arkansas Sheriff Brandon Long announced his department would not enforce a new federal gun equipment rule, a decision he said was based upon the U.S. Constitution and Arkansas law.

The sheriff’s move came after the Justice Department announced on Friday that it was finalizing a rule that would tighten restrictions on stabilizing braces, an attachment used to act as a shoulder stock or brace for handguns. In announcing the rule, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new rule would classify stabilizing brace-equipped handguns the same as short-barreled rifles.

Long said he released the letter because he “just wanted to let people know where we stood.” He said the phones at his office “lit up” as members of the community became concerned their guns would be confiscated or they would be arrested as news of the new rule came out.

People purchased and installed stabilizing braces on their personal firearms before the rule was made, the sheriff said.

“We’d rather solve real crimes and arrest real criminals,” Long said, echoing a sentiment in his letter.

Long, who assumed office on Jan. 1, posted an open letter “to the citizens of Stone County” on Facebook Monday that his department would not be enforcing the rule.

“Since this ‘rule’ came into effect on January 13th, 2023, many otherwise legal gun owners are now in fear of their Second Amendment rights being violated,” the sheriff’s open letter said. “After speaking with many of you, I want to publicly say that the Stone County Sheriff’s Office WILL NOT assist the federal government in enforcing this act.”

Long supported the decision by citing “The right to keep and bear arms” as “an inalienable right by the people.”

Long also pointed out that an Arkansas law passed in January 2021 supports his non-enforcement decision. That law states that any new federal restrictions on firearms ownership after Jan. 1, 2021, are invalid, including firearm registration or taxation.

The stabilizing brace rule would require owners who wish to continue using a brace-equipped handgun to register it with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and pay the required tax for a short-barreled rifle.

The ATF requires registration and a $200 tax for a short-barreled rifle, a rule which had been in effect since the 1930s. Handgun owners who wish to continue using a stabilizing brace have 120 days to register those guns with ATF.

An ATF spokesperson indicated that the open letter would not change the agency’s position.

“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is the lead federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing the National Firearms Act and will continue to work with local, state and federal partners to combat violent crime on our communities,” Erik Longnecker, ATF deputy chief, public affairs division, said.

Long said he anticipated similar letters being released by other Arkansas sheriffs.

The Associated Press reports that about 3 million stabilizing braces are currently in the United States.