Denver, CO – November 24, 2020 — Mountain States Legal Foundation’s newly established Center to Keep and Bear Arms (CKBA) won’t be confining itself to precedent-setting cases in the Rocky Mountain region—its first two case announcements prove just that. The Center to Keep and Bear Arms’ fight to defend gun rights is national in scope, reaching from coast to coast, and from sea to shining sea.
Just a week after moving to intervene on behalf of its clients in Syracuse v. ATF, CKBA today announced it is moving for intervention in a very similar case on the other side of the country, California v. ATF. Both cases have potentially profound implications not just for how the federal government defines a “firearm” but whether Americans will continue to be able to rely on their ingenuity and self-sufficiency, or will be forced to be subjected to inappropriate, unconstitutional government control.
On September 29, 2020, the state of California and Giffords Law Center sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), claiming the ATF has violated the Administrative Procedure Act by employing an objective test based on the actual manufacturing process involved to determine if an item is considered a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The objects at issue in this case are often colloquially referred to as “receiver blanks,” “frame blanks,” “partially-manufactured frames,” “partially-manufactured receivers,” “80% frames,” “80% receivers,” “unfinished frames,” or “unfinished receivers.” While these objects vary widely, what they all have in common is that they are not “firearms” as defined by the Gun Control Act, nor can they be readily converted into firearms. Instead, just like a raw block of aluminum in the hands of a machinist, individuals can fully manufacture firearms from these non-firearm objects using their own experience, know-how, and machining equipment. Because they are not firearms, the ATF and the federal government lack any authority to regulate them as such.
But gun-control activists want to substitute their own interpretation for that of the ATF’s. Because these objects are not firearms, they lack the serial numbers that are affixed to an actual, mass-produced firearm’s frame or receiver, and can be sent directly to purchasers. Critics deceitfully and derogatorily dub them “ghost guns” in an attempt to sway public passions and pressure the federal government into a regulatory overreaction.
Mountain States Legal Foundation is intervening in California v. ATF on behalf of its clients, Zachary Fort, Frederick Barton, 80% Arms, and Firearms Policy Coalition, in an effort to preserve the natural right and traditional freedom of self-sufficient Americans to legally build firearms for personal use free from undue (and unconstitutional) government interference, surveillance, and regulatory control.
“These two cases, first in New York and now in California, are about defending the ingenuity and self-sufficiency of Americans in the face of the culture of control and dependency that is taking over our Republic—from coast to coast,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, Director of Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms. “The clear effort of the gun control movement, from east to west, is to impose their views upon the entirety of the United States, forcing the federal government to take complete control and quashing American’s ability to rely on their own skills and expertise. We will not stand by while California and New York fight to infringe upon the natural rights of all Americans.”
“Since our nation’s founding, Americans have self-manufactured their own firearms at home,” said MSLF client Zachary Fort. “The ability to exercise one’s rights privately, without government intrusion, is a cornerstone of a free society. To arbitrarily change the definition of a firearm, to include non-firearm objects, would be a gross overreach of government and could expose Americans to criminal liability.”
“The ATF and DOJ will not adequately represent the interests of FPC and our law-abiding members and supporters across the country, and so we must move here to protect the People and their rights from what could be a radical expansion of gun control with massive criminal consequences for people who have been relying on the text of the statutes and ATF’s guidance,” said attorney Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “For decades, the ATF has enforced a bright-line delineation as to when an object becomes a ‘firearm’ under the Gun Control Act. The plaintiffs in this State of California and Giffords lawsuit seek to pervert that longstanding definition, enforcement practice, and public reliance interest to comport with their warped view of what a firearm is. Just as we did in the City of Syracuse matter, FPC is taking action to protect the rights and liberty of millions of Americans.”
Petitioners want to force the ATF to regulate raw materials of all kinds—materials that may possibly be used to manufacture a firearm in the future—simply because individuals, through their own knowledge, skill, and ingenuity, can manufacture them into firearms for personal use. This would allow California to impose a national definition of what constitutes a “firearm” on every city and state in the U.S.
Forcing a change to ATF’s definition of what constitutes a firearm would undoubtedly chill Americans’ exercise of their natural, unalienable, fundamental right to keep and bear arms, including individual manufacture of arms for personal use.