It’s been less than a month since new federal rules took effect attempting to rein in the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns,” a catchall term for unserialized, home-built firearms that Democratic leaders, law enforcement officials, and gun control groups say are turning up in the hands of criminals across the United States.
But barely a few weeks into the new regulatory regime, the firearms industry has already adapted and scored an early legal victory. And gun enthusiasts have created and released open-source blueprints for a simple plastic tool that offers a relatively quick, easy—and apparently legal—workaround for anyone who still wants to build an untraceable weapon.
The tool, known as a jig, is designed to help with the assembly of the exact type of Glock-style pistol frames that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is trying to restrict. One version was posted by Ethan Middleton, a Wisconsin-based 3D-printed gun file designer known online as Middleton Made.
“It’s the biggest middle finger to the ATF,” Middleton told VICE News. “Whatever they’re going to do, we’re going to try to find a way around it.” …
The new rules say that when an unfinished frame or receiver is “distributed, or possessed with a compatible jig or template,” it can be considered a firearm under the law because it makes completing the build process faster and easier.
As a result, some retailers have responded by selling only the pistol frame alone, while others are selling kits that include the necessary parts and tools but no frame. Jigs are a common tool and factory-made versions are available online, but prices have climbed to over $100, making the 3D-printed version an extremely low-cost alternative.
Another designer that created and released files for a 3D-printed jig, who goes by the handle Mr. Snow, told VICE News the ATF’s new rules were in place for less than a week when he released his file publicly for anyone to download. The point, he said, is to keep “entry level” gun building accessible as a hobby. He also voiced frustration with the rule change, saying it’s still vague about exactly when an unfinished frame and other tools and parts cross the line.
“It’s like Schrödinger’s gun,” said Mr. Snow. “We’re not really sure when it becomes a gun. It just depends how hard you look at it, and which amalgamation of parts you have.”
— Keegan Hamilton in A Simple Plastic Tool Is Undermining New Ghost Gun Rules