The ATF is trying to flip-flop on its own definition of a firearm and has targeted makers, sellers, and buyers of 80% products like those made by Polymer 80 and similar companies. By now you’ve probably heard about the ATF raid on Polymer 80. This resulted in the ATF 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. Polymer80 does, in fact, sell frames that are legally not considered to be firearms. 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?)
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 Polymer80’s “Buy Build Shoot” kit which contains everything: full build parts, a jig, and even the drill bits needed to finish the 80% 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 the process 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.
Are Polymer80 Products Legal?
As it stands right now, yes, Polymer80 products are absolutely legal under federal law. This extends to all 80% gun products, and not just the Polymer80 brand. That said, state and local laws can differ from federal laws, and it’s a good idea to check with your specific laws to be sure you’re in full compliance and not doing anything illegal.
Can I Still Buy Polymer80?
Absolutely yes, you can still buy Polymer80 products. The company is still making parts and they are readily available from a variety of online, in-store, and gun show retailers.
Do I Need to Serialize My Polymer80?
Yes and no, depending on where you live. Some states require that you serialize an 80% frame even if you complete it yourself. Other states (most, in fact) do not have this requirement. So again, check with your specific state and local laws to be sure.
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 affect you. Because after all, you sell functional guns, not incomplete kits. Well, a lot of FFLs also sell gun parts and even 80% frames of various sorts. Parts have a good profit margin, and 80% 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 is that if you wind up selling the right combination of parts and maybe a jig to somebody, the ATF might decide that you too have just sold a firearm. Right now, our advice is that FFLs who sell 80% lowers should not sell complete build kits with them at the same time right now, just in case the ATF gets even more stupid about this whole thing. Selling an 80% frame is fine. Selling parts kits is 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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