Joseph Roh had a small shop and would, at first, finish 80% lowers for people who were willing to pay about $1000 for the service. Presumably, people who'd pay $1000 for these lowers were people who couldn't pass the background checks to buy new guns from a shop. Roh eventually automated the process so anyone could complete the the lower receiver's machining by pressing a "GO" button - after they paid $25 to join his gun club so that he could say he wasn't selling to the general public.
Roh's shop - CNN photo. The green button is on the box on the upper right, at the top of column of buttons next to the light colored area.
Seems like an open and shut case. To the best of my knowledge, I can make a gun for myself, but if I do it for anyone else, that's manufacturing and I need a manufacturer's FFL. That's where a big turn in the story takes place.
The judge in the case had issued a tentative order that, in the eyes of prosecutors, threatened to upend the decades-old Gun Control Act and "seriously undermine the ATF's ability to trace and regulate firearms nationwide."The problem is that the BATFE's classification doesn't agree with Federal law on exactly what a receiver is, because the design of the AR splits those things between the upper and the lower receivers.
A case once touted by prosecutors as a crackdown on an illicit firearms factory was suddenly seen as having the potential to pave the way to unfettered access to one of the most demonized guns in America.
Federal authorities preferred to let Roh go free rather than have the ruling become final and potentially create case law that could have a crippling effect on the enforcement of gun laws, several sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Under the US Code of Federal Regulations, a firearm frame or receiver is defined as: "That part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel."The lower houses the hammer, and "firing mechanism" (the fire control group), but the bolt is located in the upper receiver. The lower doesn't have a breechblock.
US District Court Judge James V. Selna heard the case, after four years of wait, and deliberated on it for a year. Last April, he issued his ruling stating that Roh was not manufacturing guns because completing the lower receiver doesn't turn it into a gun.
Selna added that the combination of the federal law and regulation governing the manufacturing of receivers is "unconstitutionally vague" as applied in the case against Roh.Cam Edwards at Bearing Arms adds that this is the second time Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against people over the definition of a receiver and the second time a Federal judge has essentially nullified the law. In a word, the BATFE is terrified that they created a situation with no definition for which part of the AR-15 is the gun.
"No reasonable person would understand that a part constitutes a receiver where it lacks the components specified in the regulation," Selna wrote.
Therefore, the judge determined, "Roh did not violate the law by manufacturing receivers."
The judge's tentative order also found that the ATF's in-house classification process failed to comply with federal rule-making procedures.
The first case was back in 2016, and involved a convicted felon named Alejandro Jimenez who bought a lower receiver in an ATF sting operation. After a judge ruled that the receiver wasn’t an actual firearm under federal law, the case against Jimenez was dropped.Judge Selna did, however, find Roh guilty of selling firearms without a license, which carries a prison sentence. The prosecutors and defense worked out a bargain; Roh would not go to prison "as long as he keeps his mouth shut" about the BATFE's receiver rules being wrong. No, I made that part up.
Sources familiar with the agreement said prosecutors wanted to strike a deal in order to prevent Selna’s order from becoming permanent, drawing publicity, and creating case law that could hamper ATF enforcement efforts.So where does that leave the 80% lower world? For that matter, where does that leave the law? Hell if I know.
Roh accepted the deal to avoid a permanent conviction — and possible prison time — for dealing firearms without a license.
What the rulings seem to be saying is that the AR platform with its regulated lower and unregulated upper is inconsistent with Federal law. Since it's impossible to redesign the platform with millions of them already in peoples' hands, the solution is for congress to come up with a definition for the lower receiver that's workable. That's going to be a giant ball of fail; congress never writes laws that require technical details because none of them are qualified. On the other hand, if someone was to do things that the BATFE frowned on with some lower receivers, we have two cases that say they're going to quit before they get ruled against for all the marbles. In the words of Dirty Harry, "do you feel lucky?"
80% lowers and 0% forgings posed in my shop.