Three months and one week after e-filing my Form 1 to turn that Lancer L15 into a short barreled rifle, I finally received the expected disapproval notice from the ATF (Nick gave us the heads up while my form was still pending). Unfortunately, after speaking to some folks in the know — FFL-07 + SOTs, those deeply involved in 2A politics in Washington State here, etc. — it does seem like the ATF’s interpretation of current Washington law is correct. When the state’s law banning the possession of SBRs was amended, going into effect almost exactly a year ago, it seemed that the intent was to simply defer to federal law on the subject. However, what happened was. . .
the legislature actually wrote specific language into the text of the amendment, precisely stating what SBR-related activities would now be legal:
(2) It is not unlawful for a person to possess, transport, acquire, or transfer a short-barreled rifle that is legally registered and possessed, transported, acquired, or transferred in accordance with federal law.
Unfortunately, “manufacture” or “make” or “assemble” isn’t mentioned, and apparently that is absolutely not covered under the legal definition of “acquire,” either. This becomes doubly clear when we read the text outlining what is illegal in Washington:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, own, buy, sell, loan, furnish, transport, or have in possession or under control, any [insert NFA items here]… or to assemble or repair any machine gun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle…
Hmm. “Manufacture” is the first one out of the gate. Apparently this was an oversight. Whoops. At any rate, yeah, it sure does appear that manufacturing a SBR via Form 1 would not be legal for a resident of Washington after all. Even if that wasn’t in there, the law goes on to say that assembling or repairing an SBR is illegal, and the amendment from a year ago did not change that, either.
So…back to the drawing board we go. Amendments are already being drafted for future legislative sessions, and there is some agreement among representatives that the entire original point of last year’s amendment to this law was to defer to federal law anyway. Hopefully it isn’t too much of an uphill battle and we’ll see Form 1’d SBRs in Washington in the not-too-distant future.
Another alternative, although a bit annoying for all parties, will be to contract a licensed manufacturer (FFL-07 with SOT, I do believe) to have them manufacture an SBR for you from your shopping list of parts or from your provided parts (be careful of constructive possession in that case). They’ll assemble it, they’ll engrave it with their manufacturer info, then they’ll transfer it to you on a Form 4 — the same transfer process as if you were purchasing any other NFA item.
Obviously this process would come with added expenses (e.g. paying the manufacturer for building it, storing it for about 9 months, doing the transfer paperwork, etc…maybe even 11% excise tax on the completed rifle’s value in some cases?) you wouldn’t incur if you did it yourself.
For the time being, I suppose we Washingtonians are stuck with purchasing from the limited pool of factory SBRs on the market or jumping through some silly SOT hoops to end up with a custom model.