ATF position on equipment use threatens private gun-making
In its first ruling of 2015, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has held that businesses may not allow individuals to use their equipment to further process incomplete firearm blanks, frames and receivers , attorney Joshua Prince reported Saturday. Such businesses may not assist or provide machinery access to unlicensed individuals without being licensed firearms manufacturers.
The ruling, signed by ATF Director B. Todd Jones on Friday, also holds that the businesses must “identify (mark) any such firearm and maintain manufacturing records,” and that Gun Control Act requirements may not be avoided by allowing persons to perform processes on machinery, tools and equipment a business controls access to. Excluded from the ruling are weapons and devices regulated by the National Firearms Act.
The effect of this ruling will be to close down operations in which persons who are legally entitled to manufacture their own firearms for personal use are permitted by a business to use its equipment, either with instruction or without.
Provided such firearms are not intended to be sold or distributed, marking and record-keeping requirements do not apply. By changing the rules, ATF has closed down a means by which people who lack the equipment themselves to finish off a part will be able to exercise their right to build a firearm, a practice many rely on, particularly when completing so-called “80 percent” precursor receivers.
That will not “end an era of 80% lowers,” Prince assesses, “but it will cause a substantial financial impact to the firearms and related industries ... Nothing in this Ruling suggests that an individual can no longer manufacture a personal firearm without needing to mark it but the individual must be able to complete the firearm with his/her/its own tools, which causes a plethora of concerns in such process.
“Can a company offer membership, whereby any member is entitled to utilize the company equipment for free, and the member complete his/her/its firearm on the company equipment since the business would not be engage in the business?” he asks. “Do machine shops now need to inquire of the individual as to what he/she/it is going to be utilizing the machinery for?”
The answers to those and more questions are unclear and may be learned by some the hard way. For now, it would appear ATF’s motivation is to shut down as many “lawful” avenues for individuals to exercise their rights without federal oversight as it can.