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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


The federal government did adopt a new rule reclassifying guns with “stabilizing devices” as rifles. However, it is hyperbole to say the rule, which is being challenged in court by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, would potentially criminalize Americans overnight.

If the rule is upheld, weapons with attachments that enable firing from the shoulder must be registered by May 31, 2023. Registration is free during the 120-day period and costs $200 after that.

Enforcement would begin after the 120 days for unregistered existing weapons with a stabilizing brace, with violations punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.

Estimates vary for how many Americans own guns with these stabilizing devices. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms estimates about three million have been sold since 2013. The Congressional Research Service estimates there are between 10 and 40 million in circulation.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


U.S. Government Publishing Office: Federal Register: Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached “Stabilizing Braces’’

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty: Darren A. Britto, Gabriel A. Tschauner, and Shawn M. Kroll v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives | Complaint

US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: Frequently asked questions for final rule 2021-08F

Federal Register: Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached “Stabilizing Braces”

Congressional Research Service: Handguns, Stabilizing Braces, and Related Components

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.