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The Nashville Shooter Used a Gun with an Arm Brace. House Republicans Want to Make it Easier to Get One.

March 29, 2023

Late Monday evening, Nashville police released images of the weapons recovered from the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, that killed three nine-year-olds and three school staff members. These images make clear that one of the guns used by the shooter, a Lead Star Arms Grunt AR-15 pistol,  was equipped with a stabilizing arm brace — the kind of firearm now regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) with its arm brace rule that was finalized in January. This is the same rule that House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were prepared to vote to repeal yesterday morning.

Originally designed as a niche accessory to help disabled shooters in 2012, the gun industry has turned arm-brace-equipped firearms into a loophole to sell short-barreled rifles, which have been regulated for nearly a century. The Department of Justice has explained that short-barreled rifles are subject to stricter scrutiny because “they are easily concealable, can cause great damage, and are more likely to be used to commit crimes.” Thankfully, in January, the Biden-Harris Administration finalized a rule to close this loophole.

The House Judiciary Committee was set to hold a markup yesterday on legislation that would repeal the Biden-Harris regulation under the Congressional Review Act, but canceled the vote as news of the shooting in Nashville broke Monday afternoon. 185 House Republicans currently support repealing this rule. There are two questions ahead: 1) how long House Republicans will hold off on advancing this until bringing this dangerous bill, and 2) why do these Republicans want to make it easier to get short-barreled rifles? 

Guns with stabilizing arm braces have been used in the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs in November 2022 where five people were shot and killed, in a Boulder grocery store in 2021 where ten people were shot and killed, including a law enforcement officer, in the mass shooting in Dayton in 2019 where nine people were shot and killed, and now in the mass shooting in Nashville on Monday.

In mass shooting after mass shooting, we see only one kind of short-barreled rifle used: those with arm braces. That’s because arm braces have enabled shooters to evade the heightened regulations that Congress put in place on short-barreled rifles with the National Firearms Act in 1934 specifically because these firearms are more dangerous and associated with violence and crime. House Republicans are now actively seeking to repeal these requirements, pretending guns with arm braces aren’t short-barreled rifles, even though these firearms look, shoot, and kill all the same. 

The move to undo the arm brace rule comes as part of a concerted attack by gun extremists on ATF, whose mission is to protect the public from violent crime, including gun crime. Just last week, subcommittees of the House Oversight & Accountability Committee and House Judiciary Committee held a hearing attacking the ATF. At the hearing, Everytown’s Federal Legal Director, Rob Wilcox, pushed back on the lies from gun-lobby-backed lawmakers and testified to the crucial role that ATF, in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies,  plays in ending our gun violence epidemic. Gun extremists have already introduced legislation this Congress to abolish ATF in its entirety and are on the record saying that if they cannot eliminate ATF, they are “going to try defunding” it.

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