Yesterday, Stephen Gutowski revealed a leaked ATF document he obtained that outlines the proposed new rulemaking around 80% lowers and build kits that the agency is working on (see the full document here). The document — which could still change before it’s officially released to the public for comment — makes it clear that the agency’s intent is to outlaw virtually all unserialized 80% lower receivers and build kits.
The document reworks and broadens the definition of what parts constitute a regulated firearm receiver. It then says any unfinished part that “may readily be converted” into a receiver must be treated as a receiver and requires sellers to obtain federal licenses, mark the unfinished parts with serial numbers, and perform background checks on buyers. The proposal provides only subjective standards for what makes an unfinished part “readily” convertible into a finished firearm but provides footnotes to court cases where the term has been applied. One court example included in the document said a part completed in “around an eight-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop” was considered “readily” convertible. The only example of a ruling defining when a part is not “readily” convertible involved a process that “required [a] master gunsmith in a gun shop and $65,000 worth of equipment and tools.”
The examples provided in the document show the proposed rule would likely outlaw the sale of any unfinished receiver, especially when included in a kit with other parts and instructions or tools needed to complete the part. That’s because most unfinished parts sold in America today, including so-called 80% AR-15 lowers, can be finished at home in a few hours with commonly available tools like drill presses and compact mills.
Apparently spending eight hours in a machine shop to complete a lower and build out a rifle or pistol is far too “readily convertible” into a working firearm for the ATF’s tastes. Read Gutowski’s full report here.
Under the ATF’s proposed new rules around these products, the percentage of completion standard (80% doesn’t matter…neither would 70%, 60%, whatever) would go out the window. Instead, the regulator’s measure of what materials can be sold in order to build out a non-serialized firearm is the amount of time and equipment required to finish the job.
In other words, the new ATF rules as they currently stand in the leaked document and if eventually adopted would effectively mean the end of the unserialized 80% business. Taken to its logical extremes, sellers of aluminum billet would have to obtain a federal firearms license and serialize their inventories.
Here’s the Firearms Policy Coalition’s reaction to what the BATFE has planned . . .
Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) was made aware of an apparently leaked ATF document, captioned “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms,” detailing the Biden administration’s first set of plans to further regulate firearms. After an initial review, FPC Law determined that the proposed new regulations contained in the document would give the ATF new and expansive powers to attack the right to keep and bear arms, particularly the right to self-build arms for lawful purposes. A copy of the document can be found at FPCLaw.org and at The Reload, a new publication founded by prominent firearms journalist Stephen Gutowski.
The FPC Law team is currently conducting an in-depth analysis of the document’s contents for both regulatory and pre-litigation purposes. The apparent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking primarily details how the ATF intends to change the definition of a “frame or receiver” to now also include, among other things, any “unfinished component” that “may readily be converted” into a firearm receiver. Moreover, under the document’s proposed rule, any number of parts, components, and accessories could be legally classified by the ATF as “firearms.”
FPC strongly condemns the ATF’s apparent draft rule and is committed to mounting an aggressive regulatory and legal response should the Biden Administration move forward with this apparent proposed rulemaking, which would egregiously and irrationally expand federal powers, add burden on gun owners, and unconstitutionally restrict the peaceful exercise of fundamental rights. As was the case when the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice entered into rulemaking to declare that bumpstocks were machine guns, FPC will use every available resource to defend the People’s human right to keep and bear arms. We stand ready to defend the People and human liberty in the rulemaking process and beyond.
Further information and analysis will be made available at FPCLaw.org.
Individuals who want to become a member of the FPC Grassroots Army and support the fight for human rights can become a member for just $25 at JoinFPC.org.
Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates leading the Second Amendment litigation and research space. Some FPC legal actions include:
Challenge to Pennsylvania’s laws completely denying the right to carry to individuals who were previously granted relief from prior non-violent convictions and are not currently prohibited from possessing firearms (Suarez v. Evanchick)
Challenge to New Jersey’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” (Kashinsky v. Murphy)
Challenge to Maryland’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh)
Challenge to California’s ban on so-called “assault weapons” (Miller v. Calif. Att’y General)
Challenge to Maryland’s ban on handgun carry (Call v. Jones)
Challenge to New York City’s ban on handgun carry (Greco v. New York City)
Challenge to Pennsylvania’s ban on handgun carry by adults under 21 (Lara v. Evanchick)
Challenge to California’s handgun “roster”, microstamping, and self-manufacturing ban laws (Renna v. Becerra)
Challenge to the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. ATF)
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, and other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.