The “proposed rule” can be seen as a trial balloon. It has no legal authority, as it has not been officially published in the Federal Register. Once officially published, the public can make comments for 90 days once the proposed rule has been published.
Significantly, the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, signed this trial balloon, and not the acting head of the ATF.
The proposed rule is 71 pages of details only a bureaucrat would love.
The document arbitrarily states short-barreled rifles and shotguns are “dangerous and unusual”. Of course, all weapons are dangerous, otherwise, they would not be weapons. But all weapons are not unusual.
Banning short-barreled rifles and shotguns was not the intent of the law in 1934. The intent was to regulate “gangster weapons”.
Pistols were seen as subject to abuse. Sawed-off shotguns were seen as used by gangsters. Sawed-off rifles were added, virtually as an afterthought. This is why the overall length of 26 inches was included.
It makes no sense to consider short-barreled rifles as “dangerous and unusual” but to have pistols as constitutionally protected. The NRA lobbied congress to remove pistols from the law, which was done. Short barreled shotguns and rifles were left in as booby prizes for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.
“Dangerous and unusual” might have applied to pistols cut down from rifles and shotguns with a vice and a hacksaw. It did not apply to pistols that were equipped with shoulder stocks, which were common.
Pistols with shoulder stocks were ruled to be short-barreled rifles by the ATF in 1961. The rule was codified into law in 1968. There is no indication they were considered a criminal problem before that. Many pistols with shoulder stocks have been classified as curios and relics, not dangerous and unusual, at all. This is reasonable. Adding a shoulder stock to a pistol makes it less concealable, not more.
Click the link to read the whole article: ATF Proposed Rule