On December 10, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided Dayton, Nev.-based Polymer80. The company manufactures unfinished, often referred to as 80 percent, receivers and frames. There are also reports of BATFE confronting Polymer80 customers and confiscating certain unfinished frame kits. The move marks the first direct assault on unfinished frames and receivers since the news broke in November of collusion between BATFE and Biden's transition team to target these items by executive fiat.
On November 10, gun rights activist John Crump published a piece for Ammoland.com with details of a leaked BATFE conference call in which BATFE Acting Director Regina Lombardo and Associate Deputy Director Marvin Richardson participated. According to the article, “Acting Director Regina Lombardo told those in attendance that the anti-gun Biden transition team has reached out to the ATF to get the agency’s ‘top priorities.’” The item went on to note that “Lombardo told those on the call that her priorities would be pistol braces and 80% lower receivers.”
It appears BATFE couldn't wait for inauguration day to commence their attack on the firearms industry and gun owners.
Federal statute (18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3)) defines "firearm" in part as, "(A) 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; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon." In the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), “firearm frame or receiver” is further 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.”
A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is required to commercially manufacture or deal in firearms. Further, licensees must comply with background check and record-keeping requirements when selling firearms.
Most of what Polymer80 manufactures and sells are not "firearms." The company specializes in unfinished frames or receivers. The items require significant expertise, time, effort, and specialized tools in order to be used to assemble a working firearm, therefore they do not meet the definition of a "firearm" under federal statute or regulation. As such, these unfinished frames and receivers are not subject to the same federal gun controls attendant to "firearms."
BATFE has acknowledged this fact.
Polymer80 repeatedly sent its products to BATFE's Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch (FTISB) to ensure their products complied with federal law. On their website, Polymer80 hosts BATFE determination letters for several of its products.
In a 2017 determination letter for one of Polymer80's most popular products, the PF940C unfinished pistol frame, BATFE explained, "As a result of this FTISB evaluation, the submitted 'PF940C' is not sufficiently complete to be classified as the frame or receiver of a firearm and thus is not a 'firearm' as defined in the [Gun Control Act]."
Other Polymer80-BATFE determination letters concerning various unfinished frames or receivers date back to the Obama administration in 2015.
According to reports, BATFE raided Polymer80 due to its sale of what the company calls its "Buy Build Shoot" kits. These kits contain a Polymer80 unfinished pistol frame along with other parts necessary to complete a pistol. Despite its previous acknowledgement that the unfinished frame is not a firearm, BATFE has taken the position that when the unfinished frame is packaged with other non-firearm parts the entire package becomes a "firearm" for the purposes of federal law.
Of further concern is that BATFE seized customer records from Polymer80 during the raid and that the agency had previously obtained some customer records from third-party shipping service Stamps.com. Since the raid, there have been reports of BATFE confronting Polymer80 customers about their purchases.
Gun rights supporters should interpret BATFE's increasingly dubious interpretations of federal law and their resulting enforcement actions as indicative of the peril gun owners will face under a Biden administration and prepare for political action accordingly. NRA is continuing to monitor this developing situation and is taking action to confront this BATFE abuse.