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ATF Reversal Immediately Puts Millions of Gun Owners in Danger of Prison Time

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Gun manufacturer Q, LLC of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, received a cease-and-desist letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Boston Field Office this summer notifying the company that its popular “Honey Badger Pistol” is really a “firearm” as defined by the National Firearms Act.

Specifically, the ATF said it had “examined” the Honey Badger Pistol and determined it is actually a “short-barreled rifle” and therefore subject to the same regulations governing that class of firearms.

This decision has the potential to turn millions of previously law-abiding gun owners into criminals by decree.

The letter, dated Aug. 3 and made public last week, further informed Q that two additional products, the manufacturer’s Sugar Weasel and Mini Fix models, may also fall under the NFA’s “firearms” category.

The letter explained how the ATF arrived at its conclusion.

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“The Honey Badger Pistol is equipped with a proprietary ‘pistol stabilizing base’ accessory made by SB Tactical. The firearm has an overall length of approximately 20-25 inches and a barrel length of approximately 7 inches,” the letter said.

“The objective design features of the Honey Badger firearm, configured with the subject stabilizing brace, indicate the firearm is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder. Since this firearm also contains a rifled barrel, it meets the definition of a ‘rifle.’ Further, since it has a barrel of less than 16 inches in length, it also meets the definition of a ‘short-barreled rifle’ under the [Gun Control Act] and the NFA.”

The agency’s declaration that Honey Badger Pistol is now classified as a “short-barreled rifle” means the gun is “subject to the registration, transfer, taxation, and possession restrictions regarding these regulated firearms, which include criminal penalties relating to the illegal transfer and possession of said firearms.”

Penalties include prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $100,000.

Do unelected bureaucrats have too much power in America?

The ATF ordered Q to “cease and desist all manufacture and transfer of the ‘Honey Badger Pistol’ firearm unless you properly register each firearm manufactured on an ATF Form 2 as required by the NFA, and file the appropriate ATF Form prior to the transfer.”

It also told the company to “contact ATF to develop a plan for addressing those firearms already distributed” and “provide samples of the Sugar Weasel and the Mini Fix firearms to ATF for an official classification.”

So what does this all mean for gun owners?

According to the Washington Free Beacon, “industry insiders” estimate there are about 3 million pistols in the country that are equipped with the specialized brace referred to by the ATF.

“The new letter calls into question the basic legality of the devices and leaves gun owners in flux just three weeks before the presidential election,” the outlet reported.

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“Carolyn Gwathmey, the public affairs officer for the ATF, said the letter only directly applies to the New Hampshire gun company’s pistol, but neither she nor the letter offered an explanation for why that model differs from other weapons equipped with the braces.”

The decision thus has the potential to “leave millions of American gun owners in serious legal jeopardy,” the Free Beacon added.

But the ATF appears to have exceeded its authority.

Unsurprisingly, gun rights organizations are not happy, because this new order sounds dangerously like new legislation, something that falls well outside of the control of these unelected bureaucrats. Only Congress has the power to pass new laws.

Activist groups are now “pressuring the administration to rein in the ATF,” according to the Free Beacon.

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Amy Hunter told the outlet that NRA is “exhausting all options to overturn this unjust and rogue action by ATF.”

In a statement, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action described this latest affront to our Second Amendment rights as “arbitrary, inequitable, and incorrect.”

“By blurring the lines on legal definitions that carry serious criminal consequences, ATF is putting law-abiding gun owners, the firearm industry, and law enforcement in the impossible position of attempting to read the minds of ATF bureaucrats when complying with or applying federal law.”

The Firearms Policy Coalition also issued a statement about what looks like a clear case of overreach by a government agency.

“ATF does not explain how it arrived at this conclusion other than vague generalizations that the firearm was ‘designed’ to be fired from the shoulder and by virtue of its barrel length meeting the definition of a SBR,” the letter said.

“There can be no question that our Constitution requires accountability to coincide with the enactment of laws, and that those laws must be within specific, limited, and enumerated powers, not left to bureaucrats who escape all aspects of responsibility. Once more, we remind ATF and the executive branch that their authority has limits and that, if need be, they will once again be reminded of those limits through legal action.”

In the video below, the owner of a Honey Badger Pistol discusses how “with the stroke of a pen,” unelected ATF officials can potentially turn millions of once law-abiding citizens into felons.

Honey Badger Pistol owners, he said, can register their guns as short-barreled rifles in order to avoid running afoul of authorities, but they’ll need to pay a $200 fee. (He noted that Q will refund owners that fee.)

Regulatory agencies have been pushing their limits for a decades. And they will continue to do so until they are made to stop.

Acts of Congress should be what determines the legality of an object or act, not the whims of government bureaucrats. Enforcing the law is one thing, but changing course on the law’s interpretation is far too close to changing the law.

During his first presidential campaign, President Donald Trump promised to surround himself with only the best and the brightest people.

Naive to the ways of the Washington swamp, he didn’t realize the power and the will of career government bureaucrats to undermine his agenda or to sabotage the political groups they despise.

If he wins a second term, he is going to have to do a thorough housecleaning. I suppose he is painfully aware of that by now.

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Elizabeth writes commentary for The Western Journal and The Washington Examiner. Her articles have appeared on many websites, including MSN, RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist and RealClearPolitics. Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Elizabeth is a contract writer at The Western Journal. Her articles have appeared on many conservative websites including RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist,, HotAir, MSN and RealClearPolitics.

Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter.