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Monday, JPFO contributor and National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea noted that in its first ruling of the new year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has determined that a business, merely by making its machining equipment available for a fee, to individuals to use in building a firearm, has now "manufactured" the gun, and must meet all the requirements imposed on commercial gun manufacturers. This includes a gun manufacturer's license from the BATFE, the marking of the firearm (or receiver, which for legal purposes is the firearm) with a serial number, manufacturers' record keeping, and conducting a background check on the person who actually did the work in making the gun.
This, although heinous, should not have been unexpected. The BATFE had asserted such a position, if only informally, almost two years ago. Again from David Codrea:
This, of course, raises a good many questions. Attorney Joshua Prince asks one:
If you own one of Defense Distributed's "Ghost Gunner" firearm-optimized CNC milling machines, and a buddy wanting to complete his "80% complete" AR-15 receiver offers to bring a pizza in exchange for use of the machine, would you become an "unlicensed gun manufacturer" (and a gun trafficker) if you agreed?
For that matter, if renting out access to one's machining equipment, which is then used to manufacture a gun, is to be considered "being in the business of" manufacturing firearms, how is selling the equipment any different?
Incredibly, the rampant illogic gets worse. Ares Armor, a company that manufactures "80% complete" AR-15 receivers (some polymer, and some aluminum), and has been doing battle with the BATFE for nearly a year now, took to their Facebook page to amusingly summarize perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the new ruling (warning: mild profanity in the link):
What this is about is that the BATFE has previously ruled that by drilling a single hole in the fire control cavity of an 80% complete receiver, or even making the material that should be removed a different color, so that the home gun maker can more easily see what must be done to make the receiver usable, the 80% complete receiver is not just an 80% complete receiver, and is instead a full-blown firearm (well, firearm receiver, which amounts to the same thing by law).
This became a problem for them when people realized that they could buy an 80% receiver, drill a single hole in the fire control cavity themselves, thus making the receiver "complete" in the BATFE's eyes, even though considerably more machining would be required to make the receiver usable in a functional firearm. That, in turn, means that if now the owner of the "gun" turns it over to a gunsmith with the right machining equipment, the gunsmith could do the rest of the machining, and it wouldn't be "manufacturing" a gun (which, after all," has already been "manufactured), but merely "gunsmithing" (modifying, repairing, etc.), requiring no serial number, no background check, etc.
This, of course, could not be borne. So part of this new ruling fabricates a new, artificial distinction in gunsmithing.
So now, any gunsmith or machinist who is hired by the "gun" owner to complete the machining is going to be ruled to have "manufactured" a gun, and will thus be held to the same restrictions that apply to all commercial gun manufacturers. The BATFE is insisting on having its cake and eating it, too. They have previously argued that an 80% receiver ceases to be an 80% receiver, and becomes a "firearm," if the manufacturer does so much as scratch an outline showing where material needs to be milled away; but now, if the buyer of what the BATFE recognizes as an incomplete receiver similarly removes some of the material that must be removed in order to make the receiver function in a firearm, and then turns it over to a skilled professional gunsmith or machinist to finish the work, the professional ends up being considered the one to have "manufactured" the gun.
We're incessantly told about the dangers of failing to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally incompetent. How much more dangerous, though, is it to hand guns, badges, and the power to formulate gun policy (no legislation needed!) to such people?
A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.