*Updated 5/21/21: The ATF comment page for 2021R-05 is now live on the Federal Register. Comment now!
On May 7th, the DOJ released the official new proposed rules, per Biden’s 30 day deadline, on what the ATF would aim to do in terms of redefining 80 percent lower receivers and several other firearm parts. Previously, a leaked copy of this PDF document was made public online only a few weeks ago on April 20th and is very similar to the official copy as it’s only eight pages shorter than what was most recently published. Today, we’ll be summarizing what we’ve found to be most pertinent in the 115 pages of asinine tyranny.
They’re Calling Us “PMF’s” Now
First section provides a lot of definitions and context with legal precedence in past cases that ruled on what parts were considered as firearms by various courts. The ATF is essentially making the point that the legal definitions currently in place for firearms and firearm parts are outdated; as the definitions were set in place 50 years ago when revolvers, break-open shotguns were more prevalent in civilian ownership (single-framed firearms).
Now that split/multi piece receiver firearms are much more popular with both military and civilian usage, the ATF blames the proliferation of striker fired handguns due to the popularity of Glocks which started in the mid-1980s. None of this is false, but the ATF’s point here feels kind of moot and out of context. They provide several past cases and suggest that if those courts’ decisions, such as United States v. Rowold or United States v. Jimenez, 191 F. Supp. 3d 1038, 1041 (N.D. Cal 2016) (“[A] receiver must have the housing for three elements; hammer, bolt, or breechblock, and firing mechanism”) were broadly followed on a federal level then technically “up to 90 percent of all firearms now in the United States would not have any frame or receiver subject to regulation” simply because many handguns are now striker-fired and don’t include a hammer. This is simply not the case because striker-fired handguns are clearly still subject to ATF regulations and millions of buyers across the country fill out 4473 forms to legally purchase these guns in stores every year. Not to mention, the technology was first invented in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
They’re also now calling 80 percent builds as “PMF’s” or, “privately made firearms.” From what we can tell this is a brand new term and previously the closest thing to it was simply a “homemade firearm.” The official language reads as “a firearm, including a frame or receiver, assembled or otherwise produced by a person other than a licensed manufacturer, and without a serial number or other identifying marking laced by a licensed manufacturer at the time the firearm was produced.” Give it a three-letter acronym though, and for sure it sounds way more menacing. They don’t call them the alphabet boys for no reason!
In all honesty, the term was most likely coined for convenience purpose in shortening the length of the 115 page document. However, since the document’s release, the term has been seen used publicly and widely in Senate hearings and by high ranking law enforcement officials nationwide. It’s very likely that “PMF” is going to be the newest term to be conflated into a politically charged term through the mainstream media.
New Proposed Rules and Redefinitions of Parts
It’s best and more easily understood to see all these new legal definitions simply as desired laws that the anti-gunners would love to see passed into effect. If these new legal definitions are applied to firearm parts that previously were not as strictly regulated, they create new rules that directly affect us, the manufacturer, you, the consumer and all of us as Americans by lump sum:
- Updating the definition of a firearm. – From what we can tell so far, lone 80% receivers are not mentioned specifically. It would appear that the build kits are what is being targeted but the language focuses on basically “anything that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
- Updating the definition of “frame or receiver.” – Any externally visible structure that is designed to provide housing or integrate any fire control component which includes, the hammer, bolt, bolt carrier, breechblock, cylinder, trigger mechanism, firing pin, or slide rails. This is an extremely broad definition which is concerning because there could easily be future changes that further expand this definition — making this an ever growing list.
- Updating markings required on silencers – Silencers and parts that make up silencers such as baffles, baffling materials, or the expansion chamber would need to be serialized even though silencers are already regulated by the National Firearms Act… However, for parts that make up a silencer and are all part of a complete device that was made by the original manufacturer; they would not require individual markings.
- Updating what requires serialization – The legalese and long verbiage also alludes that upper receivers will need to be serialized as well and would also be considered as firearms.
- Serializing 80 percent lower receivers – As builders complete their 80 percent lower receiver or frame, a period of 7 days is given to engrave a serialized number. FFL’s are allowed to offer engraving services and would be required to engrave a serial number within 7 days of receiving a privately made firearm.
- For FFL’s – Whether you are a retailer or a manufacturer with a 07/02 SOT designation, if you are selling 80 percent lower receivers or other firearm parts deemed in the future by the ATF as fully functioning firearms… it appears you would have to begin selling these products along with 4473 forms and background checks just as you would in a brick and mortar gun shop.
- Gunsmithing – In their newly defined terms, gunsmiths would be people or companies who work on guns and parts that are not necessarily FFL holders and, or not in direct employment of original manufacturers. In order for these gunsmiths to continue their businesses legally, the ATF would require a one-time fee of about $181k.
The new proposed rules begin in the second section on page 20 and goes on until page 78.
New Rules For Record Keeping
These can be found from pages 50 to 57 and briefly on page 63.
At this time, FFL’s are required to maintain 4473 forms and other records for 20 years. In the ATF’s proposed rule they want that record to be kept indefinitely. Funny that the ATF would want more paperwork to look after considering one of the floors at the agency’s gun-tracing center caved in under the weight of paper in 2019 (we’re aware that they have an out-dated electronic system in use as well).
There are two Executive Orders (12866 and 13563) noted from pages 57- 74. Order 12866 is regarding “Regulatory Planning and Review” which comes out to a flimsy cost benefit analysis with incomplete sets of data. See the figure below:
The ATF literally admits themselves here that they don’t know how many manufacturers, FFLs and individual owners they would be affecting with these overstepping and broad new measures. How then, did they reach the conclusion that the total cost to industry, the public and government was less than $1.3 million? We’d really like to know.
Executive Order 13132 is like an oxymoron. It states that the ATF’s proposed rule would not have direct effects on States or the relationship between the Federal Government and the States… “unless there is a direct and positive conflict between them such that they cannot be reconciled or consistently stand together.”
In layman’s terms, if a state declared itself a 2A Sanctuary and told the Feds to take a hike, well then this Executive Order is here to say “hey, you’re in direct violation of this ATF ruling.” But, if states want to go ahead and require their own versions of marking and serialized engravings for firearm parts and “ghost guns” then this won’t affect them at all! Wow. Our eyes were rolling back into our skulls as we reviewed this.
Other Considered Alternatives
Can be found on pages 64 – 65. These were actually pretty funny.
Alt 1- No change. Don’t do anything and keep everything the way it currently is (we support this).
Alt 2- Use a set of rules that were submitted in a petition from the Everytown for Gun Safety organization. Their focus was on proposing new definitions based on parts that house trigger groups but the ATF decided it was too loose of a definition that didn’t capture enough “firearms.”
Alt 3- Grandfather all existing firearms and receivers. We love this idea, but even the ATF is aware that it would then be difficult to enforce any following regulations because owners could simply claim they own grandfathered parts or firearms. The ATF was specifically concerned that manufacturers would continue to produce non-compliant frames or receivers and market them as grandfathered items.
Alt 4- Require serialization of all partially complete firearms or receivers. This would be very costly — is backwards thinking and would require existing owners to retroactively serialize their firearms’ components even if they were initially purchased legally; impossible to enforce.
If you’d like to see only the main points, pages 58 to 66 summarize the entirety of the new proposed rule pretty well.
From page 80 to 106 the document provides an appendix of gathered term definitions and includes figures of various firearms to explain what the receiver or frame of a firearm may look like.
Pages 107 to 115 summarize some more meanings of terms and reiterate what changes would be made to the “new proposed rules.”
It all feels incredibly misleading. What they’re doing here is marrying historical context with the ATF’s false narrative that they’re propagating. If you watched the recent Senate hearing on ghost guns historian Ashley Hlebinsky destroyed the anti-gunner narrative and provided much context of how the ATF’s new proposed rule and definitions disregards historical context that predates the legal precedents that were referenced in their new proposed rule.