Friday, December 11, 2020

BATFE Going After 80% Receivers Again - Revised

The BATFE has apparently decided to start going into regulatory expansionism again, with a perceived change in administration coming to someone who's more likely to grow the Bureau's budgets again.  Back in October they started going after pistol braces in an apparent attempt to outlaw AR pistols - or start down that road.  According to TTAG (The Truth About Guns), on Thursday the 10th the BATFE raided Polymer80, one of the largest makers of 80% lowers and pistol frames.

According to the Wall Street Journal:
The raid target, Nevada-based Polymer80, is suspected of illegally manufacturing and distributing firearms, failing to pay taxes, shipping guns across state lines and failing to conduct background investigations, according to an application for a search warrant unsealed Thursday after the raid took place.

The probe focuses on Polymer80’s “Buy Build Shoot Kit,” which includes the parts to build a “ghost” handgun. The kit, which Polymer80 sells online, meets the definition of a firearm, ATF investigators determined according to the warrant application. That means it would have to be stamped with a serial number and couldn’t be sold to consumers who haven’t first passed a background check.
TTAG supplied this product photo of a “Buy Build Shoot Kit.” From what I know there isn't one gun in this photograph.  Nothing that requires a serial number or a background check.  It's no different than if you bought a bar of metal and some hunks of plastic.

Like everyone who sells these so-called 80% receivers (the percentage, though widely used, has no correspondence to reality), Polymer80 submitted their designs and products to the BATFE for a ruling on whether they met the criteria for not being a gun.  The Feds ruled that they're not guns, yet somehow the BATFE is saying when they sell a hunk of plastic that's not a gun with handful of small parts that aren't a gun in a common package, it becomes a gun.  Non-gun + non-gun = gun  
But the Buy Build Shoot Kits, which are advertised as having “all the necessary components to build a complete…pistol” weren’t submitted to the agency for approval, according to the application for the search warrant. These kits can be “assembled into fully functional firearms in a matter of minutes,” the warrant application says.
There was no reason to submit it to the agency for approval.  Nothing was a gun and nothing about what they were selling was new except being in one package.  Convenience makes it a gun?  This reminds me of the BATFE vs. Ares Armor case in 2014 in which the BATFE argued Ares Armor was illegally manufacturing guns.  What they were doing was making a plastic lower with a different color plastic in the fire control pocket, which would be removed when making it into a gun.  BATFE said the second plastic had to be added to a complete receiver which was turning a gun into "not a gun" and during the brief existence of the gun, it needed to be serialized and treated as a gun thereafter.  Ares Armor said their process documents proved that it was made all at once and a finished receiver was never present. 

As an aside, the absolute coolest trick in the world, and I've never heard anyone else ever talk about doing it, would be to mold this out of two grades of plastic. Wouldn't it just be the coolest thing you've ever seen if the body of the lower melted at say, 400 degrees, and the part that needed to be removed melted at 200? So that all you'd have to do to turn this 80% lower into a finished one would be to soak it in boiling water? I wonder if that could be done.

Of course, the BATFE is not a group to be all sophisticated about "dat legal shit."  They're much more interested in the "control" part of gun control.  I'm just surprised that they seem more than happy to open a can of worms that just a year ago they didn't want to get near.  Last October, the BATFE dropped charges of manufacturing guns against a guy who had set up a gun club so that any member could pay their $25 dues to join, put their lower receiver in a fixture he had designed, press "GO" on the CNC controller and let it turn an aluminum lower into a gun for them.  Considering that the BATFE had previously said if someone so much as marked where to drill a hole on an 80% lower that they had manufactured a gun, that seems like a pretty open and shut legal case, so why did they drop the case and let the guy go?

The judge in the case had given an opinion that completing a lower receiver still didn't turn it into a gun!  BATFE's laws don't do what they're intended to do, and if BATFE lost the case firearms law would collapse into a black hole of nothingness.  BATFE is terrified that they created a situation where there is no definition for which part of the AR-15 is the gun.  Their definition of a receiver is spread across both the upper and lower receiver in an AR-15. 

As I like to say, "don't worry; it's not that bad. It's worse." That ruling last October isn't the first. There was another case in 2016 in which BATFE dropped the case because the Judge read the law and said the guy wasn't manufacturing guns because a completed lower isn't a gun. To borrow a quote, BATFE is muy FUBAR.

As I said in my conclusion last October:
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?"
In this case, the polymer pistol isn't an AR, so I wonder if Polymer80 can argue the precedent set in 2016 and 2019, that nothing they're selling meets the federal legal definition of a gun? 

EDITED 12/12 1200 EST to add:

Today's Ammoland Shooting Sports News adds some context to this story.  This is wider than just a raid on Polymer80. 
This week ATF has shown up at multiple shooting-sports-related companies and retailer's door to demanded customer information about those American citizens who legally purchased 80% pistol frames.
They make the point that BATFE has demanded that Polymer80 turn over lists of buyers of the BATFE's targeted Buy Build Shoot kits, to do background checks on buyers to find prohibited persons.  Again, the problem with the kits appears to be convenience, and BATFE is essentially saying that anything a company sells that is based on the incomplete receiver concept needs to be submitted for their review.  Just as anything using the pistol brace concept needs to be submitted for their review. 

Rob Pincus of the Personal Defense Network has a worthwhile video here - there are two, the top one is nearly six minutes long, but worth the time.

Ammoland also points out that the BATE also "paid a visit" to Brownells to ensure they were not selling the convenient Buy Build Shoot kits, and found they were not (which they could have determined by visiting their online store and searching for them). 
“The ATF did visit our facility on Thursday, December 10, 2020,” said Ryan Repp, Brownells VP of Marketing. “It’s my understanding they inquired about our sales of the Polymer 80 ‘Buy, Build, Shoot’ kit. Brownells has not and does not sell that kit. Polymer 80 continues to be a great partner for Brownells. We proudly sell their 80% products and other parts.”

The ATF did raid or show up at other companies that sell other kits that include 80% part kits, barrels, and slides that are not Polymer80. AmmoLand News sources inside the ATF say that the agency is now considering 80% kits with all the parts needed to finish a pistol as a firearm. None of the companies had any warning on the change to ATF’s regulations before actual agents showed up making attempts to retrieve customer information.

The ATF is interested in the customer records, and this seems to be a nationwide crackdown. The agency’s intent on acquiring customer's personal records and run criminal background against the list to see if any felons have purchased the 80% frame. The ATF is making a de facto 80% gun registration. [I would add bold for emphasis, but it would take up the entire second two paragraphs: SiG]
This is a fast-developing situation.  I'll try to keep updates coming as I read about them.


  1. I hesitate to take the position of a 'downer' but relying on any rule of law as having "a Constitutional basis" would seem to be somewhat moot. Maybe it's simply better to poll the oligarchs who run the country now, to see what they think, and call that 'law'.

  2. Doesn't the kit cost more than a real Glock? Who pays 590$ for a inferior pistol kit, that you could easily remove too much plastic and ruin it? Maybe do it yourselfer's? People who don't want to be on the de facto gun registration with form 4473 transaction record? The 80% crowd is evidence of how much people value freedom from the government. There's a lot of folks who detest the ATF. They are the face of what's to come with democrats controlling things.

  3. It's no coincidence that these regulatory actions are occurring after the election. I's almost as if they had these actions on tap when for when "their" president got elected. Don't expect the courts or congress to do anything about this.

  4. Just hang back and wait until Summer. After the first 100 days of the new president's term, you will be able to defend against 2A infringements, quarantines, modesty clothing, krystalnacht, censorship, internal passports, forced vaccinations, and the end of cash and privacy in one integrated action.

    We've seen this movie, and we know what comes next: A political party leader becomes the de-facto head of both the executive and legislative branch.

    Sure could use some 200MHz encrypted portable radios.

    1. We ought to do a poll on who thinks Joe survives his first 100 days. I think Peloski all but said that maneuvering before the election about the 25th amendment was for Joe.

    2. We ought to do a poll on who thinks Joe survives his first 100 days. I think Peloski all but said that maneuvering before the election about the 25th amendment was for Joe.

      Alive, or in power? Last cycle, Bernie seemed to accept being bought off with a house or two.

      The high-population-density areas in America look like the Nazi movie in Germany. However, the low-population-density areas in America have no historical counterpart in Germany or I think anywhere in Europe; nor the relatively high military strength of the individual with computers, radios, rifles, automation, and drones now that fighting back doesn't require a man
      training for his whole life as a fighter.
      What worthwhile things do cities produce besides medical care and art?

      200MHz encrypted portable radios, sold as kits of a mostly-stuffed board with the teeny surface mount components already soldered on in China. Heathkit-quality instruction booklet. The naughty crypto stuff supplied by a separate group from the Swedish Pirate Party while you wring your hands. You, personally, could be the new Heathkit. Wouldn't that be a nice retirement income?

    3. Basement Biden hasn't even taken office and he's already laying the groundwork to step down and turn the keys over to Kamala the Kommie. He may be demented but in his occasional lucid periods he knows that he WILL be killed if he doesn't hand over power. So he is already prepping the US for his resignation.

  5. I've read that TPTB are considering using the Biden laptop brouhaha to impeach Biden, rather than using the 25th to remove him, to make the Dems look good to the citizens. I doubt improving their image is possible. however, it would show the other clowns that they are all subject to the DeepState deciding they were excess to requirements.