Armed Attorneys

Understanding Constructive Possession in ATF's Final Rule on Stabilizing Braces

Video Highlights

  • The video discusses the final rule on stabilizing braces by the ATF and the concept of constructive possession.
  • The National Firearms Act (NFA) criminalizes the possession of certain firearms unless properly registered.
  • Possessing NFA items without proper registration can lead to federal and state offenses with severe penalties.
  • Constructive possession refers to the legal concept of holding someone responsible for items they may not physically possess but have control over.
  • Intent to possess an unregistered NFA item plays a crucial role in constructive possession.
  • The video highlights the interconnection between constructive possession, attempted possession, and preparatory offenses.
  • Various examples and circumstantial evidence are explored to illustrate constructive possession and intent.

Video Summary

The ATF's final rule on stabilizing braces has raised concerns and questions among gun owners regarding constructive possession. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of constructive possession, its implications, and its relationship to the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the recent rule change on stabilizing braces.

The National Firearms Act and Criminalization: The NFA, enacted in the early 1930s, criminalizes the possession of specific firearms, including machine guns, short barrel rifles and shotguns, suppressors, and other weapons with unique characteristics. These firearms are deemed illegal unless properly registered with the federal government, accompanied by a tax payment and stamp. Violating the NFA can result in federal and state offenses, carrying significant penalties such as confinement and fines.

Constructive Possession Explained: Constructive possession is a legal concept that holds individuals responsible for items they may not physically possess but have control over. While not physically holding the item, individuals can still be deemed in possession if they have dominion, control, or ownership over the premises where the firearm is located. Circumstantial evidence plays a crucial role in establishing constructive possession, and the government must demonstrate a sufficient nexus between the defendant and the firearm.

Intent and Attempted Possession: Intent to possess an unregistered NFA item is an essential component of constructive possession. Disconnecting an arm brace from an AR pistol, for example, transforms it into two separate legal items. However, if circumstantial evidence suggests an individual's intent to possess an unregistered short barrel rifle, it may lead to a criminal offense. Proximity, the ability to quickly reattach components, social media posts, and statements indicating non-compliance can all be factors in establishing intent.

Interplay with Preparatory Offenses: Constructive possession and attempted possession are interconnected with preparatory offenses, also known as incomplete crimes or inchoate offenses. The legal system aims to prevent individuals from completing a crime before taking action. Preparatory offenses include conspiracies, attempts, and other acts beyond mere preparation that demonstrate an individual's intention to commit a crime. The subjective nature of proving intent in inchoate offenses often makes it a complex and contentious area of the law.

Implications for Gun Owners: The recent ATF rule change on stabilizing braces has brought constructive possession to the forefront of discussion. Gun owners need to understand the implications and potential consequences to ensure compliance with the law. Removal of the arm brace from an AR pistol may be seen as a measure of compliance, but individuals should be aware of factors that could indicate an intent to possess an unregistered NFA item.