Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

BATFE Rings in the New Year with More Executive Gun Control

Friday, January 9, 2015

BATFE Rings in the New Year with More Executive Gun Control

On January 2, BATFE issued its first ruling of 2015.  Identified as ATF Rul. 2015-1, it significantly expands the scope of activities that BATFE considers to be “manufacturing” for purposes of the Gun Control Act (GCA).  While BATFE claims this ruling is simply a “clarification” of their prior position taken in ATF Rul. 2010-10, 2015-1 is clearly an attempted expansion of the definition of manufacturing.

The GCA primarily regulates commercial actors in the firearm industry.  Only those “engaged in the business” of dealing, manufacturing, or importing firearms are required to have the applicable Federal Firearm License (FFL).  As applied to manufacturers, a person is “engaged in the business” of manufacturing firearms, and must therefore be licensed and serialize any firearm manufactured, when the person “devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of firearms manufactured.”  The GCA also makes an allowance for licensees who hold only “dealer” licenses to engage in common gunsmith activities including “repairing firearms or … making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms . . . .” 

In the ruling, BATFE goes through several contortions of the English language to reach conclusions that severely complicate the making of firearms for private (i.e., noncommercial) use.  Along the way, BATFE proposes two important thresholds in the manufacturing process.  First, when sufficient manufacturing is performed on a receiver blank, often referred to as an “80% receiver,” so that it legally becomes a “frame or receiver” of a firearm.  Unfortunately, the ruling does little to identify exactly when a receiver blank becomes a frame or receiver.  The second threshold is crossed when something that may already legally be a “frame or receiver” is made suitable, or more suitable, for use as a functional firearm.

According to the new ruling, “when a person performs machining or other manufacturing process on a blank to make a firearm ‘frame or receiver,’ or on an existing frame or receiver to make it suitable for use as part of a ‘weapon … which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,’ that person has performed a manufacturing operation other than what is contemplated by the GCA of dealer-gunsmiths ….”  It’s unclear how this new threshold approach will play out in practice.  If each step is carried out by a different subcontractor, the ruling would seem to require that each frame or receiver so “manufactured” would have to be serialized and marked by each subcontractor.

The logic in the ruling is stretched especially thin where it describes when the “sale or distribution” of a firearm necessary to trigger the manufacturer licensing requirement.  BATFE claims a sale or distribution includes situations in which a gunsmith receives a firearm from a manufacturer, performs a “manufacturing operation,” and then returns the firearm to the same customer.  The ruling states:

BATFE claims a sale or distribution includes situations in which a gunsmith receives a firearm from a manufacturer, performs a “manufacturing operation,” and then returns the firearm to the same customer.Although licensed gunsmiths return firearms to their customers after performing the contracted work, the GCA does not consider this to be a sale or distribution of the firearms manufactured. This is because the returned firearm has only been repaired or temporarily received for custom work – it has not been machined in a manner or otherwise created or made suitable for use as part of a weapon. However, when a licensed gunsmith takes in a frame or receiver to perform machining or other manufacturing process, that gunsmith “distributes” a firearm to the customer upon return because that manufacturing activity results in the making of a different “frame or receiver” and also a “weapon … which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile” – both defined separately as a “firearm” under the GCA.

Unfortunately for gunsmiths, the ruling gives no guidance to determine the difference between “custom work,” which seemingly is not considered manufacturing, and “machining,” which is manufacturing (at least when one of the identified thresholds is crossed) and would therefore require a gunsmith to comply with all of the GCA’s requirements for licensed manufacturers. 

While the GCA’s requirements for obtaining a manufacturer’s license may not appear substantially more difficult than obtaining a dealer-gunsmith license at first glance, there are numerous requirements beyond obtaining the additional license.  Not only must a manufacturer obtain a slightly more expensive manufacturer’s license, but manufacturers are required to serialize and mark every firearm or receiver they manufacturer and the markings must comply with specific requirements in federal law.  Manufacturers are also subject to additional record keeping requirements beyond those required of a licensed dealer.  Perhaps most importantly for dealer-gunsmiths, if merely working on a firearm means that a new firearm is manufactured, the GCA would prohibit return of the “new” firearm to the owner without a background check, and, in the case of an owner who lives in another state, the “new” firearm must first be transferred to a licensed dealer in the owner’s state of residence.  On top of the GCA requirements, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations require anyone who manufacturers firearms to complete a costly annual registration.  With all of these additional costs, some dealer-gunsmiths could be forced to abandon their current gunsmithing work.

In addition to limiting the machining work that gunsmiths can engage in, the ruling claims that an FFL not licensed as a manufacturer or an unlicensed machine shop may not allow unlicensed persons to “initiate or manipulate a CNC machine, or to use machinery, tools, or equipment under its dominion or control to perform manufacturing processes on blanks, unfinished frames or receivers, or incomplete weapons.”  This portion of the ruling appears to require any business that rents out its machinery or tooling to ensure that the tooling is not used in any part of the manufacturing of a firearm or of a firearm frame or receiver.  It’s unclear how BATFE reaches this result without completely rewriting the GCA’s definition of manufacturing, which BATFE does not have the authority to do by formal regulation, much less an informal “ruling.”     

Although BATFE may have intended this ruling to act as a “clarification,” the new guidelines raise far more questions than they answer.  In fact, the only thing truly “clarified” by this ruling is that the Obama administration will continue to bypass Congress with more executive gun control measures. 

TRENDING NOW
Justice Scalia Made Clear the Second Amendment and Heller Prohibit “Assault Weapon” Bans

News  

Second Amendment  

Gun Laws  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Justice Scalia Made Clear the Second Amendment and Heller Prohibit “Assault Weapon” Bans

On July 9, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) offered the following ham-handed statement in an attempted attack on President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh is a true Second Amendment radical. ...

Delaware: Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Sunday Deer Hunting

Hunting  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Delaware: Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Sunday Deer Hunting

On July 11th, Governor John Carney signed Senate Bill 198 into law to expand hunting opportunities in Delaware by eliminating the prohibition against hunting for deer on Sundays and allowing for the harvesting of deer on Sundays ...

NRA Files Comments in Support of Trump Administration’s Export Reform Effort

News  

Friday, July 13, 2018

NRA Files Comments in Support of Trump Administration’s Export Reform Effort

On Monday, the public comment period closed on a pair of rulemakings that could finally free American gun owners and small businesses from being trapped in a minefield of federal regulations designed for exporters of ...

California DOJ Withdraws Proposed Regulations Expanding Application of “Assault Weapon” Definitions

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

California DOJ Withdraws Proposed Regulations Expanding Application of “Assault Weapon” Definitions

On Monday, the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms (“CA DOJ”) officially withdrew the proposed regulations that would have expanded the improperly adopted “assault weapon” definitions, to apply in all circumstances. This withdrawal comes ...

Judge Brett Kavanaugh Has Earned NRA Members’ Support

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh Has Earned NRA Members’ Support

NRA members can feel confident throwing their enthusiastic support behind President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout his time on the bench, Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated deep respect ...

California: MASSIVE Data Breach and Significant Registration Problems with CA DOJ’s “Assault Weapon” Registration System

Saturday, July 7, 2018

California: MASSIVE Data Breach and Significant Registration Problems with CA DOJ’s “Assault Weapon” Registration System

Following the closure of the “assault weapon” registration period, NRA and CRPA received complaints from hundreds of individuals who were unable to register their firearms as required because CA DOJ’s online application system was unable ...

Mission Impossible: California Court Upholds Microstamping Law

News  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mission Impossible: California Court Upholds Microstamping Law

It is not surprising that gun control activists who harp endlessly about “common sense” gun restrictions and the need for ever more legislative reforms (here, here and here, for example) aren’t particularly interested in whether the various bans and ...

NRA Applauds Brett Kavanaugh's Nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court

News  

Monday, July 9, 2018

NRA Applauds Brett Kavanaugh's Nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court

Fairfax, Va. -The National Rifle Association (NRA) applauds the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the United States Supreme Court. 

Too Young or Too Old... To Own a Gun?

News  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Too Young or Too Old... To Own a Gun?

A common theme among anti-gun extremists is what we often refer to as the “Goldilocks” approach to limiting access to firearms by law-abiding citizens.  Rather than admit that the ultimate goal is to disarm all ...

Hawaii: Governor Signs Trigger Modification Ban Into Law

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hawaii: Governor Signs Trigger Modification Ban Into Law

On Monday, July 9th, Governor David Ige signed Senate Bill 2046, which makes it a crime to manufacture, import, sell, gift, lend, or possess certain trigger modifications. 

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.