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Redefining the Firearm – Has the ATF Crackdown Begun?

With the anti-gun trifecta of Biden, Garland, and – should he be confirmed – ATF Director David Chipman, the agency is ready to get to work.

by | Jun 1, 2021 | Articles, Good Reads, Gun Control

In the early days of the Trump presidency, ATF Associate Deputy Director Roland Turk provided a 15-page paper to “provide the new Administration and the Bureau multiple options … to reduce or modify [firearm] regulations.”

My, how that changed looking forward to the Biden administration! From the surprise raid on Polymer80, Inc. to a new rule proposal, the ATF seems eager to please the new anti-gun president.


By December of 2020 – after the media had declared Biden the new president, but well before he was congressionally confirmed, never mind inaugurated – the president-to-be had a meeting with a high-ranking official in the agency. Days later, the ATF quietly decided that 80% pistol kits from Polymer80, Inc. were, in fact, firearms. The company’s headquarters and warehouse were raided, and at least one individual reported that federal agents showed up at his home demanding he surrender the “firearm” he “illegally” purchased online.

Only the public outcry and then-President Trump’s promise to investigate the agency’s behavior caused the ATF to step back. Now that Biden and AG Merrick Garland are in charge, don’t expect any Second Amendment rescue to come from the White House – and don’t expect the agency to wait for a new director, either.

Time for a Change

Early in April, Biden signed six executive actions targeting the right to keep and bear arms. As Liberty Nation explained at the time, “the executive can’t sign bills into law that didn’t clear the House and the Senate first – but never underestimate just how much damage a president can do to liberty by simply deploying the alphabet boys.”

Candidate Biden promised America a war on guns, and President Biden is making good on it – with the help of the ATF.

The agency’s new proposed rule change is marketed as a simple update, bringing the regulations into the 21st century to account for the advancements in firearms tech over the last 50 years. Such proposals require a 90-day public comment period, and so it was quietly posted, sans fanfare. The section on rules for public comment is found roughly halfway through on page 29. Between the lack of news alerts and the excessive length – more than 34,000 words and 62 pages, when saved as a PDF – it certainly seems the ATF hopes people will either miss it entirely or, at the very least, get bored and confused and simply give up. After all, the author(s) spent more than 3,600 words and six pages on a vague summary and background information before even beginning to discuss the actual changes they suggest.

Liberty Nation has posted the full document as a READ IN FULL – with a table of contents, of sorts, so that readers aren’t required to wade through all the legalese unless they want. Thus, without further ado, let’s get straight to how it could affect you, without any undue verbosity.

Receivers Redefined

The ATF wants to change the legislative definition of a firearm, as found in the National Firearms Act (NFA) and Gun Control Act (GCA) to explicitly include gun parts that could house the pieces necessary to fire a round in modern weapons. While this proposal assures that they won’t change their rulings on what parts constitute, legally, a firearm, that is part of the explanation – not the actual wording to be injected into the regulations.

For revolvers, shotguns, and most non-AR-type rifles, this only brings the law in line with how the ATF already classifies critical parts. For the AR-style rifle designs already approved by the agency, nothing will change. However, for new designs, both the lower and upper receivers would technically meet the definition of “firearm frame or receiver,” thus requiring serialization and a background check for the buyer. As it stands, the upper receiver (which houses the bolt carrier group, a necessary firing component) isn’t classified as a firearm, and consumers can order them online to be shipped directly to their homes.

Exorcising “Ghost Guns”

So-called 80% pistol frames and AR lower receivers have become a booming industry of late. With a bit of time and ingenuity – especially if one buys the frame or receiver as part of a complete weapon kit – these can be finished out and assembled as complete firearms without any component requiring FFL (Federal Firearms License) middlemen, government paperwork, or background checks. To the anti-gun left, this is simply unacceptable.

[bookpromo align=”right”] While the agency can’t do away with homemade guns entirely – DIY gunsmithing has been an American tradition since before there was a United States, and any information that makes it to the internet is, essentially, forever – the ATF can and will make it so that people can’t take the easy route to an off the books firearm by purchasing an 80% kit. With the line “for clarification, ‘partially complete’ for purposes of this definition ‘means a forging, casting, printing, extrusion, machined body, or similar article that has reached a stage in manufacture where it is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon,’” the agency basically says that if an incomplete receiver or frame looks like a gun, it is a gun.

While this doesn’t necessarily put the 35 non-FFL manufacturers and 36 non-FFL retailers the ATF believes this will affect out of business, the fact that all benefit to buying an 80% disappears likely will.

Silencer, Muffler … Whatever – It’s a Weapon

According to the agency, multiple pieces of sound suppressing devices must be stamped with serials and treated as NFA items. Under this rule proposal, however, that will be simplified so that only the outer housing will have to be tracked. This isn’t the ATF throwing a bone to gun owners, however; it’s for the sake of law enforcement – who, according to this proposal, will also be exempt from any of these rules – so that they can more easily track weapons. And yes, though these don’t fit the actual definition of a firearm, the ATF does treat these items as if they were firearms themselves: “It would make clear that even though a firearm, including a silencer, may have more than one part that falls within the definition of ‘frame or receiver,’ ATF may classify a specific part or parts to be the ‘frame or receiver’ of a particular weapon.” Any time “silencer” or “muffler” appears in the text, it’s treated as a weapon in of itself.

More Money, Less Freedom

To top it all off, as one might suspect, the enforcement of all these rules will cost the American taxpayers a significant chunk of change.


Read more from James Fite.

Read More From James Fite

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