just joking, but really, if they reclassify, do you see all the implications as outlined in this letter?
An open letter to ATF
John R. Spencer, Chief
Firearms Technology Branch
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Dear Chief Spencer,
For some time, I’ve been hearing rumblings from sources in the firearms industry that your branch is going to classify .50 BMG upper conversions for AR-15 rifles as firearms, a departure from the past practice established by your office of considering them parts. I have since been informed this was confirmed by your office in a telephone conversation with a national firearms publication. Because this could have such profound and far-reaching effects, not only within the firearms industry, but also among private owners who have been in compliance with currently written regulations, I’m seeking to document if this is true.
If not, I’m sorry to bother you and take you away from your busy and demanding schedule. My intent is either to confirm what I’ve been hearing or put it to bed. Please let me know so that I can share a denial with interested gun owners.
If it is true, here are some additional questions I’d like to get for-the-record answers to:
As per Federal Firearms Act. 15 U.S.C. Chapter 18, a firearm for intents and purposes of this inquiry is “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; the frame or receiver of any such weapon,” and a firearm frame or receiver is “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.”
Historically, based on rulings established by ATF, the regulated part of the AR-15 classified as a firearm and requiring a serial number and attendant compliance with possession and transfer laws has been the lower receiver—which is curious, because that part houses the trigger assembly. The upper receiver has been considered a part, and no such restrictions have applied. The result has been a market with American companies putting forth the investment to fill demand in accordance with existing regulations, and because a conversion part offers a more affordable alternative than expensive .50 BMG rifles, untold thousands of Americans have purchased these parts in good faith and in compliance with the law.
Will that change? When?
Under the statutory definition, how can a firearm contain more than one frame or receiver?
If you do make this change, what other conclusion can be drawn other than ATF regulated the wrong part as a "frame or receiver" of the AR-type firearm for over 40 years?
If the upper conversion part is determined to be a firearm, what will happen to existing stock and currently-owned parts?
What impact will this have on past determinations and legal cases based on the lower receiver being the “firearm”?
How would it be determined if an unserialized part is old or new? Would the automatic assumption be that a part without the number is “grandfathered,” or would the possessor assume risks if they can’t prove when they received the part?
Would those who manufactured, distributed, transferred and purchased such parts without going through a Federal Firearms Licensee and the attendant paperwork and background check —prior to such a ruling—be in violation and subject to criminal penalties and confiscation?
Will this new approach by your office apply to any other firearms and calibers? If not, why not—what in the code makes this part and this caliber different?
To your knowledge, is this part of President Obama’s promised “under the radar” gun control, where representatives accountable to the people are bypassed and blanket bans are created out of administrative fiats? I guess what I’m asking here is, whose idea was this? Yours? Did someone higher up in the administration, either at ATF or from the Department of Justice, ask you to make this happen? If so, who? Would I need to complete a Freedom of Information Act request to try to get an answer to that?
How are Americans supposed to proceed without clear and defined standards, and know that property they lawfully invest in will not suddenly be declared contraband and criminal to possess—by mutable and arbitrary edicts from a regulatory agency that appears to be either making things up as it goes along or following an agenda not shared with the public?
Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated.