ATF Plans to Amend the Definition of Firearm – Now Open for Public Comment

Faye Higbee
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The ATF plans to amend the definition of a firearm to a broader platform and has finally put it out for public comment until August 19th. Gun rights groups are going through the proposal to see exactly what the ramifications entail.

Do It Yourself Gun Makers, Gun Manufacturers, Gun Owners

At issue is the definition of a firearm based on frames or receivers – the ATF plans may not benefit anyone but the ATF.

The Department of Justice (“Department”) proposes amending Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) regulations to provide new regulatory definitions of “firearm frame or receiver” and “frame or receiver” because the current regulations fail to capture the full meaning of those terms. The Department also proposes amending ATF’s definitions of “firearm” and “gunsmith” to clarify the meaning of those terms, and to provide definitions of terms such as “complete weapon,” “complete muffler or silencer device,” “privately made firearm,” and “readily” for purposes of clarity given advancements in firearms technology. Further, the Department proposes amendments to ATF’s regulations on marking and recordkeeping that are necessary to implement these new or amended definitions.

Although the new definition would more broadly define the term “frame or receiver” than the current definition, it is not intended to alter any prior determinations by ATF of what it considers the frame or receiver of a particular split/modular weapon. ATF would also continue to consider the same factors when classifying firearms.

ATF proposal

The ATF plans to amend the definitions of frame and receivers to benefit themselves – and it could land gun owners and manufacturers in hot water. With Biden pushing gun control, is it any wonder this is coming out now?

More from the Federal Register:

This third supplement would define “frame or receiver” to include “in the case of a frame or receiver that is partially complete, disassembled, or inoperable, a frame or receiver that has reached a stage in manufacture where it may readily be completed, assembled, converted, or restored to a functional state.” To determine this status, “the Director may consider any available instructions, guides, templates, jigs, equipment, tools, or marketing materials.” 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.”

ATF proposal

There are some catches in this proposal that could cause major problems. Even though they claim they’re not altering previous rules, that’s not entirely correct. As gun rights groups and their attorneys review this proposal, it would be a good idea for gun owners and do-it-yourselfers to stay connected to the gun rights groups for information so that your objections will be correctly worded. You’ll have until August 19th to respond. Whether or not the ATF will take the responses to heart or not is another issue. During the Trump administration, one of their plans was dumped. This one may not be.

In other words, a incomplete receiver could be considered a firearm under this proposed rule based on a number of other factors beyond the gun part itself, as opposed to a simple definition of “an incomplete receiver is determined to be a firearm when it is ‘x’ percent completed.” The ATF is trying to give itself as much wiggle room as possible at the expense of clarity to the firearms industry and anyone hoping to build their own firearm. Remember, any violation of the vague standards proposed by the ATF could result in federal charges or sanctions against manufacturers and DIY gun makers, which is why the industry has been asking for clear cut standards that are easy to follow. That’s not what the ATF delivered with this new proposed rule.

Cam Edwards at Bearing Arms.

With the ATF plans up for public comment, it’s obvious that the fight for the Second Amendment continues.


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