According to the Federal Register, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) has set tentative dates to finalize two proposed rules affecting gun owners. The first, Definition of ‘‘Frame or Receiver’’ and Identification of Firearms, is scheduled for publication in June 2022. My reading is that the rule would establish broad regulations on homemade firearms and 80% receivers — or, more plainly, the rule would outlaw individuals making their own firearms using unserialized 80% receivers.
But there’s already pushback to the BATF’s not-yet-finalized serialization rules. Cody Wilson, the founder of the Austin, Texas–based Defense Distributed, has perfected the third generation of his home milling machine, sardonically named Ghost Gunner. Ghost Gunner 3 mills don’t need partially fabricated metal parts, aka 80% receivers, that BATF is seeking to further regulate, and perhaps outlaw (as is already the case in New Jersey). Defense Distributed’s Ghost Gunner 3 machines can use a solid block of aluminum to generate an unserialized AR-15 lower receiver. Cody Wilson has pitched GG3’s capabilities on line with the supposition that blocks of aluminum will not be subject to the new BATF regulation, but the day is young. It was thought, not too long ago, that partially machined blocks of aluminum that could not accept any firearms parts — that is, they were only 80% of the way to becoming a firearm and were not functional in any way — could not be classified as “firearms” because, literally and by definition, they weren’t firearms. Cody Wilson is banking on the fact that “0% lowers,” also known as aluminum billets, cannot be called firearms, even by the Precrime Division of BATF.
Now, on to the second new rule, Factoring Criteria for Firearms With an Attached Stabilizing Brace, which is scheduled for publication in August 2022. If enacted as proposed, this rule will restrict firearms with pistol stabilizing braces and may reclassify many of them as National Firearms Act devices. As longtime Gun Tests readers know, this magazine hasn’t covered too many of these firearms, despite AR-pattern pistols being among the most popular handguns being sold these days. I thought that one day I’d wake up and see that Firearms With an Attached Stabilizing Brace were to be “reclassified” by BATF as short-barreled rifles. Voilá. Here we are.
Should BATF have the legal ability to do this without Congressional approval or direction? No. Should BATF have the power to take a legal thing and reclassify it as an illegal thing? No. Should BATF call a thing that has a definition (semi-automatic) something it clearly is not (fully automatic). No. Would BATF do those things anyway, as long as the agency had political cover to exceed its authority? Oh my, yes. See entry under “bump stocks” for just the latest example. Once these issues get finally, legally resolved in ways that the Ban All The Firearms agency can’t misconstrue, we’ll look at them again for coverage.
Until then, here’s hoping that all your fire-control parts are lubed and your barrels are long enough to be legal.