By Lee Williams
Home-built firearms built this country.
Long before we rebelled against England — while we were still a British colony — folks were making guns in their homes.
These weapons played an important role in the Revolutionary War because firearms were in such short supply, and they went west with their owners after the war to help tame the wilderness.
This country has a long and storied history of home gunsmithing, which nowadays is becoming a lost art.
Over the years, various trends helped make home-built firearms popular.
In the 1970s, several manufacturers began offering home build kits, mostly black powder, for the amateur gunsmithing and hobbyist crowd.
The fall of the Soviet Union forced many former satellite countries to sell off guns and gun parts as a way of securing hard currency. The majority of their AK parts kits was purchased by large manufacturers, which are required by federal law to stamp the receivers with serial numbers. Some of the parts kits were purchased by home-builders who are not subject to such requirements.
Pretty much everyone forgot about home builds until the advent of 3D printing, which horrified the gun prohibitionists, even though it, too, is perfectly legal.
The anti-rights crowd instantly seized upon the home-build trend and turned it into a political cudgel in an attempt to force additional gun laws upon an unsuspecting populace, which is unwittingly falling prey to their “ghost gun” propaganda campaign.
And the campaign is working.
Empowered by an anti-rights President, the highly politicized Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently proposed rule 2021R-05, which would reclassify AR uppers as firearms and much more.
This rule is clearly an attempt by ATF to stop Americans from building firearms in their homes. The Justice Department said as much in their press release, which accompanied the ATF’s proposed rule change.
“The proposed rule would modernize the definition of ‘frame or receiver’ and help close a regulatory loophole associated with the un-serialized privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes across the country. These unmarked firearms, known as ‘ghost guns,’ are often assembled from kits that are sold without background checks, making them easily acquired by criminals who otherwise would not be permitted to possess a firearm.”
In other words, the ATF wants to close the “ghost gun loophole.”
A solution for a nonexistent problem
Most “ghost gun” reportage is nothing more than hype and hyperbole, which is unsupported by facts and data that can be verified. Even the gun prohibitionists admit this.
“There is no way to know how many ghost guns are in circulation because they do not have serial numbers and no background check is required to purchase them,” The New York Times reported April 9. “But data shows that their prevalence appears to be growing every year, especially in states like California that have strict gun laws.”
Wait a minute. Data? I thought there wasn’t any.
The Times first said there is no way to verify how many un-serialized firearms are out there, but now they are saying the numbers are increasing? How does that work?
There must be billions of them, right? Increasing to trillions?
The Grey Lady is not alone in the truth stretching.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-rights propaganda factory, the Trace, also wants to have it both ways. In May 2019 The Trace reported that most police departments outside of California do not keep track of un-serialized firearms.
The Trace claimed that ATF does not track un-serialized firearms nationally, but they added that 30% of the firearms seized by ATF agents did not have a serial number.
To be clear, these are firearms seized solely by ATF agents, and despite their reputation, nationally, ATF agents do not seize a lot of firearms compared to local law enforcement, so it begs the question of how many firearms ATF is actually seizing…but the ATF wouldn’t say.
“The ATF declined The Trace’s request to provide a number of weapons recovered, but did say that ghost guns have become a high priority in criminal investigations,” The Trace wrote.
That omission is yet another head-scratcher, which should have invalidated The Trace’s entire story. However, their reporters then turned their nonexistent dataset into a nonexistent national problem.
“What happens in California doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Ghost guns are now spreading across the United States,” The Trace wrote omnisciently. And then they found an anti-gun “expert” to confirm their non-data-based conclusion.
“I see this as a wave that started in California and is going to move east,” said Steve Lindley, the former head of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms, who now, of course, works for the Brady Campaign.
What actually is spreading in California is a culture of noncompliance. In 2016, the California legislature passed a law requiring that all home builds be serialized and registered with the state.
Since then, just over 2,000 home builds have been registered, out of a total population of more than 40 million people.
The usual suspects
If you look at the law enforcement agencies reporting “ghost gun” seizures, you’ll see Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City and a few more of the “usual suspects,” according to Sarasota County (Florida) Sheriff Kurt Hoffman, a staunch Second Amendment advocate.
Apparently, other than maybe in a few cities controlled by anti-gun zealots, home-built firearms are not a problem. All of these cities, Hoffman said, “have plenty of rampant gun violence to keep them busy before spending a minute looking to confiscate citizens’ home-built firearms.”
“As the largest law enforcement agency in Sarasota County, and the largest property/evidence section, we do not have a single ‘home built’ firearm in our possession,” Hoffman told me. “Americans have been building firearms for over 240 years — this is not a new phenomenon — but what is new is the narrative that these guns are wreaking havoc in our cities. It’s pure political theater.”
Hoffman pointed to a news story from Reuters: U.S. cities sue federal government over untraceable ‘ghost guns’.
“If you look at this ‘new trend’ reports from legacy media groups such as Reuters, false narratives like, ‘law enforcement agencies are unanimous in saying the numbers are growing,’ that statement is flat out false. It’s further exacerbated by an attached photo of a protestor holding up her hands with ‘Don’t Shoot’ written on them suggesting, erroneously I suppose, that police shootings and ‘ghost guns’ have something in common. Sensationalism sells I guess,” Hoffman said.
Clearly, the uproar over home-built firearms is nothing more than the next page in the anti-rights playbook. It’s become their latest we-need-to-ban-this template.
It’s a simple formula: Create a furor focused on a firearm or a firearm accessory, give it a scary label and demonize it endlessly, link it to shootings by any means necessary even if they’re not true, and then hand it off to the legacy media for non-stop 24-7 coverage.
The anti-rights crowd doesn’t actually care about home builds, but they hope to use them as a stepping stone in their quest to ban ARs and other semi-autos.
Like Sheriff Hoffman, most real cops will tell you that un-serialized firearms aren’t a problem within their jurisdiction, and that the entire “ghost gun” issue is built upon a false premise.
The gun prohibitionists will claim that home-built firearms allow felons and other prohibited persons to possess firearms, but here’s a news flash — they’re already doing that despite the more than 20,000 gun laws already on the books. Besides, criminals don’t obey the law. That’s what makes them criminals. It doesn’t matter to them whether their weapon has a serial number or not.
In the end, banning law-abiding folks from building guns in their homes accomplishes exactly what the rest of the gun laws do…they infringe on the civil rights of law-abiding Americans, while doing absolutely nothing to deter or reduce crime.
As always, thanks for your time.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project, and used here with their permission.