By now you’ve probably heard about the ATF raid on Polymer 80, which wound up with them not only seizing records concerning one of their full build kits, but also in agents seizing unbuilt kits from customers who purchased them in good faith.
A bit of background though before we continue. The ATF holds that a receiver or frame that is 80 % complete or less is not subject to regulation as a firearm. The ATF determines for a given type of frame what constitutes an 80 percent receiver. In some cases, as with the common 80 percent AR-15 lower, many different companies make them. However, most 80 percent frames are unique to a manufacturer and require an approval letter where the ATF certifies that the frame is in fact an 80 percent non firearm.
Polymer 80 does in fact sell frames that are legally not a firearm. However, like all things involving the ATF reality doesn’t always mesh with their fantasy world. Let’s take a closer look at why the ATF has their undies in a bunch over something they already signed off on (because they never change their minds, right?)
Just What Constitutes a Firearm?
8 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) defines a firearm as “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.”
Now, it’s clear that “readily be converted” is important to what is going on. The ATF only targeted Polymer 80’s “Buy Build Shoot kit which contains everything from full build parts, to a jig and even the drill bits needed to finish the 80 percent frame. Now one might rationally question what “readily converted” means when one still has to use power tools to perform various machining tasks and possibly still hand fit some parts. I suspect the fact that has such a low barrier to entry and can be done in a few minutes with inexpensive tools was the “logic” that some ATF agent looking for something to do that week came up with.
Regardless, we can see that offering a complete kit and jig, plus bits for drilling, and everything needed to assemble the firearm in a kit any average person could assemble into a working gun in an hour or so give or take was sufficient to make the ATF get excited over being able to stomp on gun owners again.
What Does This Mean For FFL’s?
If you are an FFL, you are probably thinking this is unfortunate and probably even government overreach, but it doesn’t really effect you. Because after all, you sell functional guns, not incomplete kits. Well, a lot of FFL’s also sell gun parts and even 80 percent frames of various sorts. Parts have a good profit margin, and 80 percent AR lowers will readily sell for much more than a regular lower, simply because people will pay a premium for what they perceive to be privacy or “sticking it to the man” or whatever other reason they accept the higher cost for unfinished goods.
What this means if you wind up selling the right combination of parts and maybe a jig to somebody, the ATF might decide you too have just sold a firearm. FFL’s who sell 80 percent lowers should not sell complete build kits with them at the same time for the time being, just in case the ATF gets even more stupid about this whole thing. Selling an 80 percent frame is fine. Selling parts kits are fine. Selling them together is starting to push into risky territory right now. Selling them with jigs and tools may just be inviting trouble.
It Gets Worse
The ATF is even seizing Polymer 80 build kits from people who have bought them. Note, there are no reports of only frames being seized, but customers who have purchased full build kits are being targeted. Firearms Policy Coalition is vigorously pursuing legal action in this matter, and has started by asking people who have been visited by the ATF to contact them.
With the ATF seizing records and kits from people who bought these guns in good faith, we can expect attempts to prosecute or persecute Polymer 80 and their customers. We can also expect sellers of gun parts and build kits to face further scrutiny. Some think this is tied to Biden’s threats to try and regulate the sale of previously unregulated parts, but it is too early to tell if this is preemptive action in that area, or the ATF just doing ATF things because they are bored this week.
One thing is for sure though, if you sell any combination of parts and 80 percent frames or lowers that might look like it’s “readily converted” it’s probably a good idea to sell that stuff in separate transactions so as to minimize risk to yourself and your business.
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