Is Federal Express the Newest Enemy
of Privately Manufactured Firearms?



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By Kurt Hofmann, February 25th 2015, 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

The name "Federal Express" notwithstanding, the shipping company is not affiliated with the federal government, but judging by recent developments, a person could be forgiven for thinking there is such a connection. The recent developments arose when Defense Distributed, the group that brought 3-D printing of firearms to public attention, tried to contract with FedEx for shipping their new "Ghost Gunner" CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) milling machines.

The Ghost Gunner name was inspired by rabidly anti-gun California state Senator Kevin de León, who refers to both plastic guns (which do not show up on magnetometers) and homemade guns (which the state doesn't know about), as "ghost guns," in need of strict controls (banning, in other words). The Ghost Gunner was designed with the specific task of turning "80% complete" firearm receivers into fully functioning receivers (which makes them "guns," legally speaking, subject to all laws regulating guns). A Ghost Gunner was even used recently to build AR-15 receivers on the steps of the Texas Capitol Building, at a gun rights rally.

This became a story about Federal Express when the company told Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson that they would not be shipping the Ghost Gunner to buyers. From Reason:

After months, Wilson tells me this morning, of trying to set up a merchant account with FedEx via the (NRA Business Alliance, no less), he says he was informed Friday on the phone by a FedEx representative that they were not going to be able to ship his Ghost Gunner.

"I told them, look you guys ship guns, this should not be a controversy. This is not regulated. This is totally settled law here." Still, so far, no go. Wilson was just told that they won't be able to ship the Ghost Gunner, with no specific explanation as to why, and nothing in writing.

Wired has more on FedEx's "reasoning":

But now FedEx tells WIRED it's too wary of the legal issues around homemade gunsmithing to ship the machine to customers. "This device is capable of manufacturing firearms, and potentially by private individuals," FedEx spokesperson Scott Fiedler wrote in a statement. "We are uncertain at this time whether this device is a regulated commodity by local, state or federal governments. As such, to ensure we comply with the applicable law and regulations, FedEx declined to ship this device until we know more about how it will be regulated."

Get that? They're refusing shipment until they know more about how it will be regulated--a pretty strong indicator that they know it's not regulated now. As Wilson says, there is absolutely no reason for FedEx to be concerned about legal issues, because there are no legal issues with shipping CNC milling machines. Wilson also points out that FedEx ships actual guns and ammunition, both of which are heavily regulated under federal and many states' laws, and that hasn't stopped them.

How any hypothetical future law could restrict sales and shipment of milling machines without running afoul of Constitutional protections--to a degree that even today's government officials would not dare attempt--is something of a mystery.

This would indicate that FedEx's concerns are not legal, but political, or perhaps philosophical--as if the company is truly opposed to private gun ownership without the government's permission, or even knowledge. That the company would elevate these concerns above the money to be made in a mutually beneficial business arrangement is telling.

This is far from the first time that Defense Distributed has faced pushback from corporate America, without any legal requirement for such obstruction. The JP Morgan Chase bank terminated their relationship with the group for similarly nebulous reasons. That was particularly interesting, given that bank's cozy relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even one of the principles of the "Project Gunwalker" scandal.

And perhaps it was premature to declare that FedEx has no affiliation with the Federal Government. It's hard to know what backroom carrot-and/or-stick negotiations between the two entities might have taken place. Could there have been a kind of "Operation Choke Point"-like pressure applied? Or perhaps the promise of some fat government shipping contracts? It's impossible to say, but given this administration's hostility to private gun ownership--particularly as it would look like when millions of Americans could produce effective, militia-appropriate fighting rifles in total anonymity in their own homes, it's difficult to rule out some quiet federal involvement.

Whether this stance is one that Federal Express chose to take on its own, or simply allowed to be dictated to them by the federal government, they have, as Defense Distributed says, put "the 'Fed' in 'Federal Express.'" They're playing for the wrong side.

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.


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