88th LegislatureGunsState HouseStatewide NewsTexas House Legislation Seeks to Remove Short-Barreled Rifles From List of ‘Prohibited Weapons’

A bill seeking to remove short-barrelled rifles from the list of prohibited weapons now heads to committee.
March 16, 2023
State Rep. Richard Hayes (R-Denton) has filed House Bill (HB) 2705 to remove short-barreled rifles (SBR) from the list of prohibited weapons under Texas law.

Current law prohibits SBRs unless they are registered with the federal government.

Gun rights groups argue that outdated federal laws have not kept up with modern firearm designs, creating a legal quirk regarding the legality of two very similar guns. The activists argue neither should be prohibited.

SBRs are simply rifles with a barrel length of fewer than 16 inches. While ordinary rifles can be readily purchased by legal gun owners, SBRs have been subjected to heightened regulations since the passage of the National Firearms Act (NFA) in 1934.

A joint lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Gun Owners Of America (GOA) asserts that the original intent of the NFA was to strengthen regulations for handguns, creating the concept of SBRs to prevent people from outmaneuvering the proposed prohibition on handguns by shortening their rifles. A last-minute deal removed the handgun regulations from the law but left in SBRs.

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Fast forward to the present, millions of modern firearms have been sold, like the AR-15 rifle, in a pistol configuration that allows gun owners to circumvent NFA regulations. But the firearms are functionally identical; only the type of stock or pistol brace distinguishes them.

In discussing his legislation, Hayes elaborated on the background of pistol braces and their prior recognition of existing outside of NFA regulation, writing in a statement to The Texan that “after decades of not treating certain firearms as short-barreled rifles, the ATF has reversed course… criminalizing thousands of Texans overnight.”

Hayes also told The Texan that the braces came about to allow disabled veterans to hold a pistol with one arm. Over time, he said, other pistol users began using them as well.

“Constitutional rights are fundamental and should not change from administration to administration,” Hayes said in a statement.

He added, “The idea that unelected bureaucrats in Washington can transform hundreds of thousands of Texans into felons overnight is ridiculous, and that is why I have filed HB 2705 to remove short barrel firearms from the list of prohibited weapons in the Texas Penal Code.”

The Texan also spoke with GOA State Director Wesley Virdell, who said their organization is “excited” about Hayes’ legislation and they believe the bills should draw enough support to pass.

“We are excited that Representative Richard Hayes has picked up the mantle of gun rights this session, along with other gun rights champions like Rep. Ben Bumgarner,” Virdell said in a statement.”

We look forward to working with them to get a bill across the finish line, and I think this is a common sense gun rights bill everyone can get behind.”

The Biden administration recently moved to redefine pistol brace weapons as SBRs, reversing years of prior recognition by federal firearms authorities that the braces were legal pistols.

This has prompted several legal challenges to the pistol brace ban, as well as legislative proposals reducing regulations on SBRs.

The legislation has been referred to the House Select Committee on Community Safety, which is hearing all gun-related measures this session.


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Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.