In the proposed rulemaking, ATF makes a series of extremely troublesome assertions to justify its rulings. For example, in attempting to justify it expansion of the phrase “frame or receiver” to separately cover multiple parts on a single weapon, ATF asserts that:
At the time these definitions were published around 50 years ago, single-framed firearms such as revolvers and break-open shotguns were far more prevalent for civilian use than split/multi-piece receiver weapons, such as semiautomatic rifles and pistols with detachable magazines.
In reality, ATF and its precursors were patently aware of striker-fired, selfloading firearms which were so tremendously popular they, in large part, led to the adoption of the very law ATF purports to be interpreting. Many of the popular imported firearms targeted by the [Gun Control Act of 1968], which ATF enforced, meet the exact factors ATF here claims it could not have known about.
In addition to this, hundreds of thousands of American made striker-fired pistols were flooding the market by 1968. To suggest that these firearms were so rare in what ATF terms “civilian use” compared to revolvers and break-open shotguns, despite their popularity literally preceding the very law ATF is presently interpreting, is disingenuous if not outright dishonest.
Similarly, ATF states that the AR-15 platform was “originally manufactured almost exclusively for military use,” and yet was acutely aware of the AR-15 as being intended for civilian use as early as 1963. Furthermore, the concept of a “split receiver” was nowhere near new. In fact, self-loading firearms invited, or even required, “split” components as early as their introduction. These firearms were incredibly common, undisputedly in common lawful use, and thus very unlikely to have gone unnoticed by ATF and its predecessor.
Once again, reliance on palpably false claims of changed circumstance to justify a radical change in the definition of a “frame or receiver” is arbitrary and capricious and undoubtedly masks the true, and likely unlawful, reasoning behind the change.
Because even a cursory review of the historical record demonstrates that many of the “facts” cited by ATF are either unsupportable or demonstrably false, its rulemaking is irretrievably defective. A rulemaking based on patently false information is arbitrary and capricious.
– Firearms Policy Coalition’s Comments on “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms” ATF 2021R-05