The Biden Administration has passed the highest magnitude of gun control laws of any presidential administration. Whether done legally or through loopholes, it is clear that the Biden administration is no friend to the second amendment. The most pivotal piece of gun control legislation is slated for its effective date on August 24, 2022. This ruling will amend some of the key definitions about firearms and manufacturers, with extreme prejudice towards DIY builders and 80% lowers primarily for the AR-15 platform.
What is an 80% Lower?
According to the current federal law, 80% lowers or receiver blanks are receivers that have not had their fire control group cavities milled out. This means that according to the ATFs rulings, they are not actually firearms. People are able to buy 80% lowers without having to go through the background check process. Despite a severe lack of evidence, the Biden Administration has tried to pin a number of “mass shootings” on so-called “ghost guns” or guns that are made from 80% lowers. The private manufacture of firearms has generally been uncontested because of its legitimacy in law, but the media paints the manufacture of 80% lower firearms as the hobby of criminals. According to current ATF rulings, here is the definition of a firearm.
“Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; The frame or receiver of any such weapon; Any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or Any destructive device.”
Taken from the ATF website, this excerpt clearly states that in order for a receiver to be considered a firearm, it must be able to be readily converted to expel a projectile. Since the 80% lower build process requires power tools to mill out the fire control group, it has not been considered a firearm, until the recent ATF ruling, 2021r-05f.
While 80% lowers primarily means those of the AR-15 platform, the same concept has been applied to polymer framed handguns with relatively simple build schedules. Polymer 80s and the PSA dagger would also fall under this new ruling which is aimed at banning the sale of 80% lowers on the basis that the current rulings do not fit with the times.
What is ATF Final Ruling 2021r-05f?
On April 11, 2022, President Biden said in a press conference that the proposed rule, 2021r-05f was finalized. Its main purpose is to ban 80% lowers and limit the private manufacture of firearms for personal use. The ruling will be put in effect on August 24, 2022.
The ruling amends the definitions of frames and receivers:
“the part of a handgun or “variants” (also a defined term) using a handgun design, that provides housing or a structure for the sear or equivalent—that part that holds back the hammer, striker, bolt, or similar component prior to firing.”
“the part of a rifle, shotgun, or projectile weapon other than a handgun, or variants, that provides housing or a structure for the bolt, breechblock or other primary component designed to block or seal the breech prior to firing.”
The final ruling 2021r-05f does not necessarily ban 80% lowers, but makes them firearms. That means that people can not buy them like normal, and they must be serialized or marked. The ruling also affects upper receivers, as both halves of the AR-15 receiver make up the whole receiver. Suppressors, and 3D printed parts will also be attacked in this ruling.
When it comes to the aspect of multi part receivers, “[T]he final rule explains that similar modular subparts of a “multi-piece frame or receiver” (e.g., two similar left and right halves of a frame or receiver) must be marked with the same serial number and associated licensee information. If one of those parts is removed and replaced with an unserialized part, then the possessor would violate section 922(k) for possessing a firearm with a removed serial number. However, the final rule sets forth a process by which a marked modular subpart of a non-NFA multi-piece frame or receiver may be removed and replaced without violating section 922(k). The replacement modular subpart must be marked by its manufacturer with the same original serial number and associated licensee information, and the original part must be destroyed prior to such placement.”
This means that essentially both the upper receiver and the lower receiver of an AR-15 must be given the same serial number. Because both parts make up the whole receiver. Adding a part with a different or no serial number would be a violation of the ruling. In order to change an upper, you would have to get a new upper with the same serial number and destroy the first one so as to stay compliant with the ruling.
“This final rule bans the business of manufacturing the most accessible ghost guns, such as unserialized ‘buy build shoot’ kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home,” in a statement made by the White House.
When it comes to serial numbers, “[T]he final rule allows licensed or unlicensed engravers to mark firearms on licensees’ behalf (with the requesting licensee’s information) provided: (1) The identification takes place under the direct supervision of the requesting licensee without the engraver taking the firearm into inventory; and (2) the markings otherwise meet the identification requirements.” This means that gunsmiths are permitted to mark firearms. Licensed manufacturers will not be permitted to give an 80% lower built firearm a regulation serial number if it has already been given one by its original owner and has not been sold to anyone else.
There are many aspects of the final ruling that are unclear or do not make much sense. The flaws should invite much challenge in the legal atmosphere when the ruling is taken into effect. Gun lobbyists and other industry reps have been trying to arm the public with knowledge on the impending ruling, as it spits in the face of the constitution. The ruling adds in a new definition in order to make the distinction between licensed manufacturers and private manufacturers. Privately Made Firearm (PMF) is the new term for a homemade firearm. The ruling requires that any and all PMFs must be serialized or accompanied in the serialization by a licensed individual with the authority to mark guns.
ATF Ruling 2021r-05f will also change the way licensees store their records. Where before, licensees were permitted to discard transaction records after 10 years or until the business closes. Now, FFLS will be required to keep their records until they go out of business, with designated, ATF approved storage for records of 20 years or more. This is immensely concerning as some legislators in congress have been actively trying to combat the looming threat of a de facto gun registry, with a report earlier in the year stating that the ATF has been able to accumulate over 1 billion firearms transaction records. According to the Firearm Owners Protection Act, a registry is illegal on the federal level, but the National Tracing Center has freely kept records since the introduction of the background check system. In the past 30 years it has managed to accumulate over 1 billion records, amounting to even more guns than the records they are on.
Currently, the gun lobby is seeking support from the general public. It is likely that this ruling will be challenged at the very least in the near future, but it is still up to the public to maintain a sense of resilience in the coming times, as we face one of the most anti gun administrations in the US. The ruling will be made effective on August 24, 2022.