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This is what happens when bureaucracies make it up as they go

ABC News:

A subtle design feature of the AR-15 rifle has raised a technical legal question that is derailing cases against people who are charged with illegally buying and selling the gun’s parts or building the weapon.

At issue is whether a key piece of one of America’s most popular firearms meets the definition of a gun that prosecutors have long relied on.

For decades, the federal government has treated a mechanism called the lower receiver as the essential piece of the semiautomatic rifle, which has been used in some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings. Prosecutors regularly bring charges based on that specific part.

But some defense attorneys have recently argued that the part alone does not meet the definition in the law. Federal law enforcement officials, who have long been concerned about the discrepancy, are increasingly worried that it could hinder some criminal prosecutions and undermine firearms regulations nationwide.

Basically, some part has to be serialized and that part varies by firearm. A whole lot more from J. KB.

6 Responses to “This is what happens when bureaucracies make it up as they go”

  1. Earl Harding Says:

    I’ve long wondered about this oddity. For an FN-FAL, the serialized part is the upper. For an AR-15, it’s the lower.

    For those that don’t know, the FAL upper has essentially the same function as an AR-15 upper. It carries the bolt and bolt locking mechanism, the barrel and gas system. Functionally identical to an AR-15 in principle, just a different way of doing it.

    This is likely going to end badly I’m sad to say. The best outcome is that the AR-15 upper becomes the serialized part, just like the FAL. This has minimal impact, other than each upper requiring a 4473.

    The worst possible outcome is that neither the upper, nor the lower meet the definition according to law, and the law gets re-written. This opens the door to all sorts of nasty legislation. I can be optimistic, but no way in hell to I see a re-written law resulting in a better situation for us.

    Just the way I see it folks….


  2. Joe Huffman Says:

    The question is, what happens with the tens of millions of uppers in private hands without serial numbers?

    And keep in mind the same sort of question can be asked about a Ruger 10/22. You can buy barrels over the counter/Internet with no questions asked.

    I’m betting that question will stall or even derail any attempt at new legislation which makes it the serialized part. And I can’t see the ATF deciding the lower is the really a gun with rewriting the law.

    So… I think the worst that will happen is that Congress rewrites the law to say a serial number is must be on something like “the major firearm component”.

    No matter what they say there will be manufacturers driving truck loads of “not firearms” through the loopholes. Add in the 3D printing and home machinists and the anti-gun people will be tied up trying to plug the loopholes and not have time for anything else.

  3. mikee Says:

    Make it the shoulder thingy that goes up.

  4. Ravenwood Says:

    I’ve always thought the ATF definitions are pretty clear. The part that houses the fire control group is required to be serialized and is what’s considered the firearm. That’s why AR-15 stripped lowers are considered firearms. That’s why the Sig P320 fire control group is considered the firearm. Everything else is just furniture.

    I think there’s something more nefarious. In Virginia they’re trying to ban gun parts and I believe that creating confusion between gun parts and the actual serialized firearm is a means to that end.

  5. Joe Huffman Says:

    The ATF regulations may be clear but they are not in alignment with the law. The law says one thing and the ATF another. In court the judge rightly ruled the regulation is overridden by the law and violation of the regulation but conforming with the law is not a crime.

  6. David Lange Says:

    The term ‘legal fuckery’ is probably apt, but it’s also a wonderful example of why good lawyers get paid so much, and also why precise writing is very, very important.

    It’s all for want of a comma. It’s the attack of the mutant Oxford comma.

    The CFR reads “hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism.”

    Note the lack of a comma after ‘bolt.’ This changes the meaning.

    What I’m sure the law’s authors meant was that the receivers houses the firing mechanisms, and at least one of the following: bolt, breechblock, or hammer.

    But, as written, to be the receiver, it must house (1) the hammer; (2) the bolt or breechblock; AND (3) the firing mechanism.

    Commas are important, ladies and germs.

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