The headline at The Wall Street Journal posted about two hours ago says much. Probably the most well known manufacturer of DIY 80% parts was raided by the ATF.
Of course, WSJ makes a point to keep using the fearmongering buzzword “Ghost Gun” but theatric semantics aside this was a fight that was probably going to land eventually.
For anyone who has been social distancing since long before 2020, “Poly80’s” are frames that can be finished with some hand work and a jig into complete frame and then install standardized firearm parts within, Glock being the most popular. 80% AR-15’s are also in circulation but since Polymers are easier to work with than aluminum and handguns are more popular than rifles, the P80 kits are the hottest product in the category.
Federal agents on Thursday raided one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of ghost-gun parts, a sign that federal law enforcement is cracking down on kits that allow people to make weapons at home.
The raid target, Nevada-based Polymer80, is suspected of illegally manufacturing and distributing firearms, failing to pay taxes, shipping guns across state lines and failing to conduct background investigations, according to an application for a search warrant unsealed Thursday after the raid took place.
The probe focuses on Polymer80’s “Buy Build Shoot Kit,” which includes the parts to build a “ghost” handgun. The kit, which Polymer80 sells online, meets the definition of a firearm, ATF investigators determined according to the warrant application. That means it would have to be stamped with a serial number and couldn’t be sold to consumers who haven’t first passed a background check.
So now, after all this time on the market, the P80 BBS kit is a firearm. Despite the fact that it isn’t, by ATF’s own rules it isn’t. It cannot be readily assembled into a firearm upon arrival, the frame has to be finished with tools by the purchaser. Building a personal firearm without serializing it is legal.
Just because someone found a way to engineer this into an easy industry doesn’t make it against the law. But, here is my guess.
Polymer80’s, like SB Braces, are deliberately engineered solutions that take advantage of federal laws and definitions as they stand. It isn’t the fault of the consumer or manufacturer that the law is poorly written, devices are poorly defined, or that arbitrary rules can be engineered within to deliver the product someone wants.
What I find most interesting is the target of the probe. Always consider the target, just like the Honey Badger case.
The Polymer80 Buy Build Shoot Kit is not the only variation on the theme the Poly80 makes. But it is the most complete, even coming with the bits needed to complete the tool work on the P80 frame to assemble. I believe it is this completeness, that everything is provided in single kit, that is being measured against the “80%” definition by the ATF to say that these are firearms.
Will that hold up in court? We will see. Engineers using rules in ways the rule makers didn’t anticipate, so the rule enforcers who didn’t make the rules have to bend them and come up with creative coverages, so that the engineers who followed the rules have to change their gizmo to fit the new meaning of the old rule…
But not unexpected, this was a fight that was coming to a courtroom sooner or later. Whether it was because federally something shifted and a law got passed or the more likely scenario we are currently seeing. The ATF saying an unfinished frame without a serial number is a firearm when before it was not and they are demanding serial numbers and back taxes.
We will keep you updated as we know more. Most noteworthy, no charges have been filed yet, making this almost certain a battle of definitions.