Unofficial Congressional Civilian Disarmament Caucus co-chairmen Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (both D-CT) have introduced the as yet un-numbered Untraceable Firearms Act of 2020. At first glance, it resembles Rep. David Cicilline‘s [D-RI-1] H.R.3553 – Untraceable Firearms Act of 2019, which has been stalled in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security since August 2019. But the Senators are opportunistically using the COVID-19 outbreak to push their gun-regulating scheme.
Both bills purport to ban “ghost guns,” which the bills define as un-serialized firearms, and 80% unfinished frames and receivers, but there are some notable differences. H.R.3553 defines the “frame or receiver” as “the part of a firearm that can provide the action or housing for the hammer, bolt, or breechblock and firing mechanism.” That’s in line with the current definition written into law. (Added: A commenter noted that HR3553 adds a comma between “bolt” and “or breechblock.” That is a change from current law which requires the frame/receiver to house both, not one or the other. I missed that.)
The Senators, however, have obviously taken note of the very real legal issues with the ATF’s difficulties apply the legal language of what constitutes a frame or receiver. The Senate bill redefines them as “the part of a firearm that provides or is intended to provide the housing for the trigger group, regardless of the stage of manufacture.”
The bill’s “regardless of the stage of manufacture” language covers not only 80% frames and receivers, but it’s so broadly written that it also blanks and castings, which would have to be created with serial numbers.
As for 3D-printed firearms, the instant you deposit the first drop of additive plastic or metallic powder, it would become a firearm under the bill’s language and must therefore be serialized. How do you serialize a drop of plastic? You can’t, so the bill generously allows licensed manufacturers to possess their own products during construction.
But no one else. If you’re not a licensed gun maker, you’re SOL. This bill outlaws home-built firearms completely, as it forbids non-licensees putting their own serial numbers on their own homemade guns.
H.R 3553 would have grandfathered existing unserialized home-builds so long as it’s not “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” The Senate bill does not.
The UFA bill also “modernizes” the ban on “undetectable” firearms. It adds long gun barrels to the list of major components that must be detectable, and specifies they must be detectable by any airport detection device, not just X-ray machines.
The final difference between the Senate bill and H.R. 3553 is this:
‘‘(ee)(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, offer to sell, or transfer, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, to any person other than a licensed manufacturer a machine that has the sole or primary function of manufacturing firearms
The only exception is a “person who is engaged in the business of selling manufacturing equipment to a licensed manufacturer.” That language is clearly targeting directly at Defense Distributed‘s Ghost Gunner CNC mill.
Since the Ghost Gunner is simply a CNC mill — only firearm-specific control files are solely or primarily for turning out firearms — that can make anything you program it produce, enforcing that language should be a challenge. What makes Ghost Gunner solely or primarily for firearms manufacture; the name? Or suppose Haas Automation sold a CNC mill to Ruger. Can they later sell that model to Wilson Sporting Goods, who use it to make golf ball molds? Would Wilson have to get an FFL or surrender their mill?
I don’t see how that ban can work. Nor does DefDist’s Cody Wilson. “As written, the bill only strengthens our company and Ghost Gunner use. You give these people years and they somehow can only write laws that empower and advantage established interests,” he told TTAG.