Targeting Ghost Guns: DOJ Proposes Amendment for 80 Percent Lowers

The term “ghost gun” has been used by politicians and the mainstream media for years as a broad label for firearms lacking a manufacturer-engraved serial number. Now the ghost gun debate and coming legal battle have been heating up due to a proposed rule change the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) listed in the Federal Register on May 21, 2021.

Ghost Guns and the Biden Administration

It’s no secret the Biden administration has gun control on its mind. The President’s campaign website contains extensive gun control proposals, making the proposed rule change less than surprising. The proposed rule change was originally leaked from the DOJ in a slightly shorter version than the document currently in the Federal Register. Regarding the initial information leak, the Daily Caller said, “The draft of the 107-page document obtained by The Reload … sketches the [ATF’s] proposed changes to federal regulation that will outlaw homemade firearms by unlicensed manufacturers.”

In the final document’s summary, the purpose of the proposed amendment is outlined as providing “new regulatory definitions of ‘firearm frame and receiver’ and ‘frame or receiver,’” among other terms. The summary paragraph also mentions “amending ATF’s definitions of ‘firearm’ and ‘gunsmith’ to clarify the meaning of those terms, and to provide definitions of terms such as ‘complete weapon,’ ‘complete muffler or silencer device,’ ‘privately made firearm,’ and ‘readily’ for purposes of clarity given advancements in firearms technology.”

On April 8, 2021, President Biden gave a speech in the White House Rose Garden expressing his concerns about ghost guns: “I want to rein in the proliferation of so-called ‘ghost guns.’ These are guns that are homemade, built from a kit that includes the directions on how to finish the firearm. You can go buy the kit. They have no serial numbers, so when they show up at a crime scene, they can’t be traced.”

Biden stated that “anyone from a criminal to a terrorist can buy this kit and, in as little as 30 minutes, put together a weapon.”

The idea that anyone can build a firearm—whether it’s a pistol or a long gun—from an 80 percent lower and assorted parts in 30 minutes is misleading. It’s also inaccurate to make a blanket statement implying or outright claiming criminals and terrorists are buying those parts in staggering numbers. Statistically, criminals are far more likely to attempt to file off serial numbers or to use stolen firearms in the commission of crimes. The instances of self-built firearms being used in crimes are exceedingly rare compared to crimes committed using serialized, stolen firearms.

Can You Still Build a Firearm?

If the proposed changes that were recently listed in the Federal Register become law, they will affect not only non serialized components in the market, but also anyone interested in building a firearm. That’s because the document includes (but is not limited to) changing the definition of who would be considered a gunsmith, requiring new, more in-depth serialization of suppressors, and altering the definition of products they refer to as “armor-piercing ammunition.” It even affects recordkeeping and retention for any person with a federal firearms license (“FFL”). This proposal may revolve around the idea of restricting so-called ghost guns, but it also involves numerous other issues that should concern all gun owners.

Under this proposed rule, which Biden directed the DOJ to create, 80 percent component kits without serial numbers will be illegal as they are currently being sold. The ATF will enforce those changes in various ways, including requiring those parts to be serialized and sold through FFLs, accompanied with an FBI NICS background check prior to the transfer. In fact, “privately made firearms” will be redefined in such a way as to make it time- and cost-prohibitive for the average gun owner to build their own firearms. As for sellers of receivers and frames lacking serial numbers, they will be required to obtain federal licensing and to serialize parts as outlined in the proposed law, following the specifications as to size, depth, and placement of engravings.

For the law-abiding gun owner, building an AR or pistol using an 80% lower receiver is about the pride of the end product and the knowledge and enjoyment gained by installing the myriad springs, pins, and parts with their own hands. It’s a fantastic skill to hone and one that promotes the ability to diagnose issues with firearms in general, and it makes gun owners more competent shooters and encourages respect of the platforms.

80 Percent Lowers & What YOU Can Do

The proposed changes were listed in the Federal Register on May 21, 2021, which means they are open for public comments. With the review period now underway for 90 days from the date the proposal was listed on the register, you, the law-abiding gun owner, can and should make your voice heard.