Even though it looked like a rifle, the gun used to kill nine people and wound at least 14 more in Dayton on Sunday was likely classified as a pistol, skirting around laws restricting short-barreled rifles, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Will the device on Connor Betts’ weapon, called a “pistol brace,” become the next bump stock in nation’s gun control debate? The AR-15 style .223 caliber firearm used in Dayton was legally purchased by Betts’ from an online retailer in Texas. The lower receiver, which houses the trigger, was made by Anderson Manufacturing in Hebron, Ky. Under federal law, the lower receiver is the gun. Purchasing a lower receiver requires a background check.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Betts’ gun was “modified in essence to function like a rifle” and “to avoid any legal prohibitions.” Federal restrictions on short-barreled rifles were enacted to stop people from making rifles, guns fired from the shoulder, more concealable. Rifles typically can fire more powerful cartridges than pistols and shoulder stocks allow the rifles to be fired more accurately. It is illegal to own a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches without paying $200 for a National Firearms Act tax stamp and completing background checks. It is unclear if Betts’ went through this process, but the firearm he used did have a barrel shorter than 16 inches. The pistol brace, also known as a stabilizing brace, allows pistols with short barrels to have something resembling a shoulder stock. Companies began marketing pistol braces in the early 2010s after getting approval letters from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The braces are designed to be strapped to the arm, allowing AR-15 style pistols to be more easily fired with one hand.