The gun related media has been set ablaze. No that’s not a bad pun about it being fire season in California. And oddly enough it has nothing to do with the tyrannical, unconstitutional laws signed by the governor this past week. Instead it was CNN of all sources that brought to light something that was going on in the deep dark recesses of the federal government that got everyone all spun up.
What I am referring to, is the the astonishing piece of journalism by CNN’s Scott Glover. You can read the original story here (and I STRONGLY encourage you to do so regardless of how you feel about firearms ownership). What Mr. Glover exposes to the American public is what the ATF and other federal agencies have been trying to keep secret for decades: they have been illegally re-writing the laws.
As the report explains, federal law regarding what is defined as a firearm requires the receiver to have among other things a bolt or breech lock. Based on the design of the AR platform (a split receiver design) neither half of the receiver group has all the features as defined by law to make it a firearm. This means that the requirements the ATF has been enforcing on anyone who manufactures/sells/buys an AR lower receiver by itself have been unjustly, and illegally enforced since the US Constitution clearly give the power to make/replace/change laws to the legislative branch, not the executive branch that the ATF falls under. So to recap, buying a complete AR15 is buying a firearm by law; buying a completed AR15 lower by itself is not.
What is perhaps more astonishing is the efforts that the ATF has gone to try and hide this clear overreach of constitutional authority. In order to hide the fact that the ATF was acting outside its authority, it not only once but twice decided to not prosecute a someone for violating their unlawful regulations. Of course what is more appalling is they did this after 2 different judges in 2 separate cases issued a preliminary ruling claiming the ATF had gotten the regulations for AR style firearms wrong. So to avoid creating legal precedence they instead decided to drop the charges, and try to hide their dirty deeds.
To be fair, I personally feel that firearm frames/receivers should be treated as the legal definition of a firearm. I have no issues with them being subject to background checks before transfer. I am however 1000% against a federal law enforcement agency ignoring the separation of powers clause in the Constitution to do whatever they want and make up new laws instead of simply enforcing the ones on the books. The AR15 has been around since the 1940’s. That means the ATF has been breaking the law since at least then. The law does need to be updated, but as of right now, AR15 lowers are not legally guns.