Pennsylvania is Definitely Afraid of Ghosts

Image via Ghostbusters... duh

On Monday the Attorney General of PA, Josh Shapiro, declared in a ‘legal opinion’ that 80% Firearm frames and receivers are also firearms, despite the ATF saying for years that they aren’t. The ATF covers the commerce of completed firearms and frames, 80% receivers are not firearms.

But because of the fact that they are intended to become firearms the AG has said they are. This is the problem with definitions and controls, they must be specific. And once specified an item either is or isn’t under the definition. AG’s and other enforcement legal entities who keep moving definition coverages without legislation are abusing and cheapening the force of the law.

“These are the paint-by-numbers of firearms,” Shapiro said.

Now, the determination is targeted at prohibited persons. So a felon in possession of an 80% part would be treated as a felon in possession of a firearm, whether the frame is completed or not.

Is there a logic to this? Yes, but there is also drastic enforcement problem. Can you infer that a felon in possession of an 80% frame is going to manufacturer it into its illegal (for them) completion? Probably. Logically. But the law is rightfully sketchy about inferred action vs. actual action, there are other legal hurdles, like a prohibition on felons possessing ammunition that will give similar legal teeth to a prosecution against an individual. Yes, this is the type of crime that will be prosecuted among other offenses and not as a stand alone violation of the law. It’s going to be the dealer with 2-kilos of booger sugar and an 80%… like the distributor level of illegal drugs wouldn’t already put them away.

Ultimately this is enabling a niche legal tool with limited utility.

Complete firearms, criminals acts with firearms, and criminal mischief and violence are already able to be thrown into the prosecutor’s map plot for a conviction, so how useful is adding 80% frames going to be? Compare this to the legal challenges that could very easily arise and tank cases against individuals because these items are not firearms per the ATF and GCA of 1968.

I see this as a move that endangers more than it helps because it offers ways to challenge the ‘opinion’ with, other more poignant opinions… like those of the ATF.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.