Part of Joe Biden’s anti-gun day on Monday, March 11, was denigrating homemade firearms and the companies that help people make them. His new regulations against these weapons went live – but they’ve already been defeated. Like other regulations, this one created a winner and losers in the marketplace, not safety. While this implementation will increase costs to consumers, it won’t remove gun kits from the marketplace.
Homemade Beer and AR-15’s
Alcohol sales are highly regulated, yet people can and do brew at home without much government interference. The same used to be true for firearms. People who wanted to go through the trouble to make a homemade gun were welcome to. So long as they never sold or transferred it, they could generally avoid government interference. That was when a homemade firearm was just that – before anti-gun campaigns branded them “ghost guns.”
Only one part – generally called the “frame,” the “lower,” or the “receiver,” — is legally considered a firearm. And under federal law and ATF regulations, it’s a firearm only once it’s past a certain point in the manufacturing process. This gave rise to a market for 80% lowers. Because they were only 80% complete, the unfinished parts weren’t considered firearms, so they didn’t require background checks in most states. Companies sold these unfinished frames, often along with jigs and drill bits used by customers to finish them at home. Biden’s new ATF regulation implemented Monday aims to put a stop to this.
The regulations didn’t make these kits illegal; it did subject to the same regulations and background checks as fully finished firearms. Including the government as a party to the transaction is something buyers of the 80% kits prefer to avoid, and so while they’re still legal, they’re now impractical. Enter Cody Wilson and the 0% lower. Mr. Wilson’s workaround for customers who want to make a gun at home is to sell them a whole block of aluminum. Also included is a computerized mill that cuts the metal into a finished firearm receiver. And with that, the new gun regulations became a boon for Mr. Wilson’s business and a waste of time for the government. It’s unlikely Biden would be so bold as to try and outlaw sales of aluminum.
According to Wilson, the “zero percent receiver will become the only legal and affordable method of making an unregistered metal lower.” While orders will surely accelerate rapidly, Wilson would rather the regulations go the other way. He is no random gun nut with a gift for CNC manufacturing. Instead, Mr. Wilson is an activist and advocate for user-created weapons without government oversight. He previously released the first 3D printer file of a functioning firearm after years of fighting – and eventually defeating – Obama and the feds for the right to do so.
All that really changed is the entry cost. For an 80% lower, a high-quality one could run in the hundreds of dollars. Mr. Wilson’s mill is $2,500. That has been the legacy of gun control since its inception: Costs to consumers increase, and the low end of the market is crowded out. Criminals would prefer not to confront background checks for gun purchases. That doesn’t mean everyone who shares that desire is a criminal or plans to become one. Americans shouldn’t have to put up with a system that makes it easy for the rich to have such a gun while impossible for those without a few extra thousand dollars.