For those unaware, the BATFE has entered into the Federal Register a proposed rule change. Among other things, the BATFE want to amend Congressional language in 18 USC 921 and re-define what a ‘firearm’ is. This is due to specific language in the US Code, identifying the receiver as the portion of a gun with both barrel and trigger. As AR-15s have a split design, it does not technically meet the definition of ‘firearm’. This has led to the BATFE dropping several cases against unlicensed gun manufacturers because at no point was a firearm– as described in US Code– ever produced.
The BATFE also seeks to include kits like the Polymer 80 or Ghost Guns CNC machines as ‘readily convertible’ firearms that need serialization and background checks. We strongly advise people to read the rule change and leave a response of their own. My thoughts and response are below.
There is no clear line of delineation possible when trying to separate firearms from parts kits. ‘Readily convertible’ means very different things to different people. Someone with a home CNC machine or 3D printer can easily manufacture receivers for personal use. The cost of these machines goes down daily and access is constantly increasing. That argument becomes classism; an elitist view that punishes people who may not have the time or money to invest in such equipment. It gatekeeps ownership of a firearm behind a wall of cost and free time to produce. Does the BATFE intend to collect credit card statements to see if someone paid “enough” for their CNC machine, or check timecards to inquire how long it took to build?
Vague laws lead to vague enforcement, which leads to laws being overturned when they should not have been emplaced to begin with.
The BATFE’s argument also presumes that the need to deter and hinder criminals is more important than the rights and freedoms of citizens. It is legal under Federal statute to manufacture firearms for personal use without an FFL or other license. These proposed revisions would criminalize law-abiding behavior and remove rights from citizens. This is a miscarriage of justice that offends the most fundamental sense of fairness.
Who, precisely, will these rules hinder? Responsible gun owners who want to make their own firearms should not be restricted from doing so. They can already obtain manufactured weapons, so there is no harm in them building their own for personal use. Felons barred from gun ownership are not going to be deterred by legal entanglements or reworded definitions that try to prevent them from making or obtaining guns they cannot lawfully possess anyway. Even if the 80% builds were somehow regulated effectively, it would require an un-Constitutional act to try and delete the CNC code for these items from the internet.
The language seems to target the very thin margin of criminals who want to manufacture these firearms and distribute them to other criminals; an act that is already a significant criminal offense in operating without an FFL.
Serializing multiple components is not just an ‘interpretation’ of US Code, it is an attempt to end-run Congress and rewrite a very specifically outlined definition of what constitutes a ‘Firearm’. This is an excess of power from an office of the Executive branch. If such laws need address, then Congress should repeal or replace those laws in accordance with the desires of their constituents.
The proposed rule changes, regulating firearms parts and redefining what firearms are, is a useless gesture. It will inconvenience very few criminals and it will hinder many responsible gun owners. It will fetter innovation and drive many employers out of business and drive up significant costs of regulation and parts tracking. This is an unwelcome intrusion into the essential human right to keep and bear arms for personal defense. Using criminal actors as a justification for restricting the actions of responsible citizens is an anathema to freedom-minded persons everywhere.