Despite the best efforts of the Biden Administration and the weaponized regulatory apparatus that is the ATF, it’s still legal for Americans to build their own firearms in most of the United States. Since a now obscure California politician coined the goosebump-inducing moniker “ghost gun” almost a decade ago, the Gun Control Industry™ latched onto it and the media have compliantly echoed the term ever since. All the better to scare the bejeezus out of low-information types and drive home the immediacy of the dire threat that home-made firearms pose to a peaceful society.
While the Gun Control Act of 1968 mandated that anyone “engaged in the business” of making firearms had to get a Federal Firearms License and serialize the guns they produce, nothing in the law prevents an individual from making guns for their own use. Millions of Americans make what the ATF calls privately made firearms or PMFs every year.
As a result of the ongoing demonization campaign against home-made firearms, a number of the usual suspect states have passed laws mandating that people who build their own guns serialize and register them, and undergo a background check. Most states, however, still recognize the right to make your own guns without any involvement by government functionaries.
One of the many states that still “allows” its residents to make their own firearms is Minnesota. That’s why the prosecution of Walker Anderson for the non-crime of possessing two guns he built himself is so baffling.
Anderson is a 22-year-old auto mechanic and student who lives in Becker, Minnesota, northwest of Minneapolis in Sherburne County. In May of 2022, he and a friend were shooting on some private property near the town of Santiago. A nearby property owner called the local Sheriff’s department about the noise and a couple of deputies rolled up to check it out.
The deputies quickly determined that Anderson and his friend were well within the law to be shooting in the rural area and began chatting with the two. Then one of the deputies asked to see the guns they were shooting.
Anderson’s mother, Sara Forgues, describes her son as a “nerd-level rule-follower.” That’s why before he built the guns, not only did he research Minnesota law himself, he asked a local FFL to make sure there was nothing in Minnesota law prohibiting him from building his own guns. He then bought one 80% lower online and a second one from a local gun store (no background check required) to build the 7.5-inch AR pistol and 20-inch AR10 rifle he was shooting that day.
Being a mechanic, building the two guns was a fun project and it was legal for him to do so. That’s why Anderson thought nothing of letting the deputies look at his firearms.
Like virtually every state, Minnesota has plenty of vague and poorly-written laws on its books. One of them is Minnesota Statute 609.667, entitled FIREARMS; REMOVAL OR ALTERATION OF SERIAL NUMBER.
The law was obviously intended to criminalize obliterating the serial number of a commercially manufactured firearm as so many criminals routinely do. Here’s the entire language of the law . . .
Whoever commits any of the following acts may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both:
(1) obliterates, removes, changes, or alters the serial number or other identification of a firearm;
(2) receives or possesses a firearm, the serial number or other identification of which has been obliterated, removed, changed, or altered; or
(3) receives or possesses a firearm that is not identified by a serial number.
As used in this section, “serial number or other identification” means the serial number and other information required under United States Code, title 26, section 5842, for the identification of firearms.
Item (3) above is the one that has resulted Walker Anderson facing two felony charges. In the context of the law, it’s clearly intended to prohibit the possession of a commercially manufactured gun with a serial number that’s been removed. That, however, isn’t how the deputies or Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott have chosen to interpret the law. Brott charged Anderson with two felony counts of violating 609.667.
That was a surprise to Anderson and his family, not only because Anderson’s father volunteered to work for Brott’s election effort, but also because Brott has campaigned and portrays himself as a staunch gun rights supporter. He sent this letter out to county residents when the Minnesota legislature was considering a range of new gun control bills.
To learn more about Minnesota law, TTAG talked to Dan Repka, an attorney who handles a lot of criminal defense work in Minnesota including many firearms-related cases. He’s one of US LawShield’s program attorneys in the state. Repka confirmed that the Gopher State has no prohibition against home-made firearms on the books and no requirement to serialize or register them. He was baffled to hear the case has gotten this far.
Other similar cases (the one below from Hennepin County) that were charged as a result of the same kind of mis-reading of the Minnesota statute have been dismissed.
Never mind the fact that in a state like Minnesota, with hundreds of thousands of hunters, there has to be thousands of people who still own pre-68 guns they bought or inherited that aren’t serialized. Under Sherburne County’s reading of the law, they’re all felons.
We talked to Rob Doar, Senior Vice President-Government Affairs for the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus about the case. He said . . .
This prosecution is a travesty. It’s a bad reading of legislation that was clearly intended to cover NFA-regulated arms that Mr. Anderson did not possess. This case should have never been prosecuted and should be promptly dismissed.
The Sherburne County Attorney who’s prosecuting Anderson, however, has refused to back down. A plea deal that was offered — Anderson has no prior criminal record — required that he plead guilty to a felony charge to get misdemeanor-level sentencing, something Anderson isn’t willing to do for obvious reasons. As a result, he’s set for a jury trial September 5.
This has obviously been a stressful and costly ordeal for Anderson and his family. They’ve set up a GiveSendGo page HERE to help them cover the mounting legal bills as they defend against charges that should never have been brought.
Gun owners throughout the state should be keeping an eye on this case. If the trial goes against Anderson, it could affect all of those who either own pre-68 unserialized guns or those who have built their own firearms under the perfectly reasonable assumption that it is perfectly legal.
We’ll stay in touch with Anderson’s family as the trial nears. Stay tuned.