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ATF Shifting Goalposts Again on Firearm Receivers by Jeff Knox

Brownells Polymer80 Frames For Glock-Style Pistols
Brownells Polymer80 Frames For Glock-Style Pistols

U.S.A. –-( The BATFE has released a letter to FFLs and the public, “clarifying” their new rules regarding so-called “80% receivers,” which were adopted earlier this year. The general understanding within the industry has been that the new regulation had the impact of requiring “unfinished receivers” to be treated as “firearms” if they were sold together with the parts and tools needed to turn them into functional firearms.

The industry responded by separating the “unfinished receivers” from the tools and parts kits and selling them separately, with no jigs, tools, or any other parts needed to finish them. The regulatory changes were not authorized by Congress and are currently being challenged in court as an unconstitutional overstep by the BATFE.

This new letter moves the goalposts yet again. Now they are claiming that, with regard to “unfinished receivers” for striker-fired handguns, they consider these “partially completed receivers” to be “readily convertible” into functional receivers, and therefore they must be treated exactly the same as completed receivers.

This means the manufacturers are now required to be licensed by the government to manufacture and sell guns and that each receiver be marked with a serial number and manufacturer information, sold only through licensed firearm dealers. Now purchasers will be subjected to identification and background checks.

The letter graciously invites anyone unsure whether the “unfinished receiver” they own or are manufacturing meets the nebulous criteria of being “readily convertible” into a firearm to send them a sample. They’ll be happy to let you know…eventually.

What they absolutely refuse to do, is publish a clear definition of exactly where the line is between a “receiver” and a “receiver-shaped object.” For several years they had a relatively clear standard, with people occasionally testing the borders of the standard.

It was understood that, as long as certain holes were not drilled, and certain sections weren’t machined to size and shape, the item was a paperweight, regardless of what tools, parts, or accessories might come along with it and regardless of how it might be advertised. Manufacturers who made “80% receivers” with drill hole positions marked were slapped down, as were those who manufactured their items with two separate colors and densities of polymer, which the BATFE said were too easy to finish. And some manufacturers loudly marketed their products as complete, do-it-yourself, “untraceable” gun kits, requiring no background checks or any registration – which really annoyed the control freaks.

The BATFE’s new regulations, adopted last April, threw much of the previously established understanding right out the window.

It cracked down on advertising that promoted the items as a way of avoiding gun control laws and required that “kits” be treated like guns, regardless of how complete or incomplete the receiver might be. But that wasn’t good enough for them, so now they have gone a step further, redefining “receiver” to include “unfinished receivers,” which they say are “readily convertible” into “receivers.”

The BATFE’s “reimagined” interpretations of the Gun Control Act of 1968 were already a serious overstep of their authority. The entire federal gun control regulatory scheme was unconstitutional from the get-go, not just for its violation of the Second Amendment, but for Congress’s failure to do their job of fleshing out the details of their legislation, instead delegating the lion’s share of that work to bureaucrats in the BATFE.

For the time being, this latest “clarification” of their regulations only applies to “unfinished receivers” for striker-fired handguns, like those made by Polymer 80 and Lone Wolf, but another “clarification” applying the same nebulous standards to “unfinished receivers” for other pistols and rifles, will almost certainly be forthcoming.

All of this nonsense is being challenged in court, but there’s no telling how long it might take for these matters to make their way to the Supreme Court for final resolution. Since the Bruen decision striking down New York’s arbitrary concealed carry requirements and establishing a clear standard for judging Second Amendment cases, it appears that some of the Circuit Courts of Appeal – particularly those that serve anti-rights-dominant areas like New York and California – are intentionally dragging their feet and doing their best to keep Second Amendment challenges from getting to the SCOTUS.

Are they hoping for Democrats to follow through on their threats to “stack the Court,” hoping for hard-line originalists like Justice Clarence Thomas to retire or kick the bucket, or just trying to allow the most damage possible before the eventual smackdown of their hubris? That’s all anyone’s guess, but while we wait for this BS to be rectified, companies like Polymer 80 and Lone Wolf are under the gun and at risk of being driven out of business, criminally prosecuted, or both.

Republican Representatives in Congress need to address this abusive, bureaucratic corruption as soon as the new Congress is seated in January, and not just with a strongly worded – and easily ignored – letter, but with real reform legislation. With Republicans holding a majority in the US House, they should be able to force a bill out of that body in pretty short order. Getting it through the Senate would be a challenge but not an impossibility, and even if they can’t get it through, the attempt would highlight the BATFE’s excesses and inconsistencies.

This type of bureaucratic overreach is a total violation of the process, ideals, and objectives of the founders and must be reined in by Congress. That’s not likely to happen unless your cowardly elected servants hear from you loud, long, and unequivocally. The Congressional Switchboard can be reached by calling 202-224-3121.

About Jeff Knox:

Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father, Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.

The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalitio

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