As the federal law stands, individuals may legally manufacture certain types of firearms without needing to register as a firearms manufacturer. The caveat is that the individual who made the firearm may not be transfer or sale it.
Here’s the word from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (all of the fun stuff):
“Firearms may be lawfully made by persons who do not hold a manufacturer’s license under the GCA provided they are not for sale or distribution and the maker is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms.”
Of course as with any government regulation, there are few more rules, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll steer clear of the complexity.
While some non-sporting Americans may picture the home manufacturing of firearms as a gruff old man in his backyard with a kiln and hammer, pounding out some rudimentary rifle – the process isn’t too complex, especially if finishing an Ar-15.
Adventurous firearms enthusiasts who have a DIY streak can log on to a number of sites at this moment and purchase what’s called an “80% lower” – you can even get a five pack if you’re feeling lucky.
The 80% lower is the lower receiver of an AR-15 that’s literally 80% complete. To take it up to 100%, you need a bit of machining skill and the self-confidence not to mess it up.
The most important part of the lower receiver is that it is what the ATF considers the actual firearm. It’s the part that must be serialized . . . if produced by a firearm’s manufacturer.
For the handy guy or gal, with the right tools, AR-15’s and other firearm types such as 1911’s can be completed in a garage with no serial numbers or any other type of government-required marks – or tracking, hence the name “Ghost Gun.”
For others who struggle to change their own oil or have to call Roadside Assistance when a wiper-blade goes bad, the ability to finish your own AR-15 was still attainable if they had a bit of help from a gunsmith or CNC shop.
Well . . . up until the ATF published their first new rule of the year, ATF 2015-1.
The new rule specifically prohibits any company or individual with manufacturing capabilities and tools (including a 3d Printer) from giving a hand to the less handy want-to-be Ghost Gunners.
Here is the exact ruling from the ATF that prevents unlicensed gunsmiths from completing Ghost Guns for customers:
Held, any person (including any corporation or other legal entity) engaged in the business of performing machining, molding, casting, forging, printing (additive manufacturing) or other manufacturing process to create a firearm frame or receiver, or to make a frame or receiver suitable for use as part of a “weapon … which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” i.e., a “firearm,” must be licensed as a manufacturer under the GCA; identify (mark) any such firearm; and maintain required manufacturer’s records.
Taking it even further, the ATF put restrictions of companies that possess equipment that could be used to complete a Ghost Gun:
Held further, a business (including an association or society) may not avoid the
manufacturing license, marking, and recordkeeping requirements of the GCA by allowing persons to perform manufacturing processes on blanks or incomplete firearms (including frames or receivers) using machinery, tools, or equipment under its dominion and control where that business controls access to, and use of, such machinery, tools, or equipment.
The above is targeting “build parties” where a group of people get together, for instance in a machine shop, and with professional guidance complete a manufacturing process.
If your next-door-neighbor has a “Stand and Fight” bumper sticker on his F150 and a drill press in his garage, it appears he could still give you a hand without having his door kicked in at 3 am.
For those with the callus-free hands who don’t live next to Lt. Dan, an option still exists (for now) that makes finishing an 80% lower as simple as plugging in a box and hitting a button – it’s called the Ghost Gunner and will start shipping as soon as a few manufacturing issues are sorted out . . . unless the Fun Police types up another new rule.