Details about Thursday’s raid on Dayton, Nevada-based gun company Polymer80 are still trickling out through court documents and unnamed sources, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the reasons for the raid itself.
According to CNN, the ATF “recently determined that Polymer80’s kits meet the definition of a firearm under the law, even if they are not yet assembled.” Those kits, sold by Polymer80 under the brand “Buy Build Shoot” contain unfinished receivers and frames that the ATF had previously approved for sale by the company, along with the other components necessary to build out a complete handgun.
The ATF purchased multiple kits from the company’s website, and an agent used one to build a functioning firearm in about three hours, according to the affidavit. A confidential informant working with the agency — a convicted felon with past experience with guns — was able to so in 21 minutes, the document states.Following that scenario, a senior ATF agent determined that the kits fit the definition of a firearm which is described, in part, as a weapon “which will or is designed or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
The ATF is treading into some uncharted legal waters here. As firearms attorney Ryan Cleckner has noted, there is no case law that addresses when an object may be considered may be considered to be “readily converted” into a frame or receiver, though there are several cases dealing with whether or not a semi-automatic firearm can readily be converted into a machine gun.
It’s also important to note that from a legal perspective, the ATF considers a finished frame or receiver as a “firearm,” even if it doesn’t have a slide, barrel, or firing pin. It shouldn’t matter what other gun parts are sold with Polymer80’s kit, because the only thing that really matters is how readily the 80% finished frame or receiver can be converted to a fully finished one. Since Polymer80 was already approved by the ATF to sell their 80% frames and receivers, I’m having a very hard time understanding why this raid took place now. Was there any determination letter sent by the ATF revoking their approval for the unfinished frames and receivers or did they just show up on Thursday morning with a warrant in hand?
My suspicion is that this was meant as a shot across the bow, so to speak, from an agency that feels emboldened by the likelihood of Joe Biden taking control of the ATF in a few weeks. There’s a narrative that’s already being pushed by outlets like CNN that the ATF is helping to craft; “ghost guns” are the new gun of choice for criminals, and therefore the crackdown must commence in earnest.
First, there was a home-invasion-style robbery in April 2019 that resulted in a triple homicide.Three months ago, a pair of sheriff’s deputies were shot while sitting in their patrol car.And just last month, a 29-year-old man was fatally shot outside his home, allegedly by members of a street gang.The three seemingly unconnected attacks in Southern California have one thing in common, according to federal authorities: So-called ghost guns recovered by police during their investigations all trace back to the same company in Nevada…ATF officials, based on data from the agency’s National Tracing Center, estimate that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered in the US last year, including about 2,700 in California. Polymer80 guns were used in “hundreds of crimes throughout the United States,” and about 15 of the company’s weapons were recovered during homicide investigations in California, the document states.
Before we go any further, just a reminder that it’s still illegal for a prohibited person to possess a home-built firearm, just like it for them to possess a gun that was purchased illegally or stolen. So, laws are being broken when a felon turns an 80% frame into a handgun, but the crime is committed by the felon, not the company that manufactured the ATF-approved unfinished frame itself.
The CNN report tells us that ATF officials estimate that 10,000 “ghost guns” were recovered in the U.S. last year, but it doesn’t tell us how many guns total the agency recovered and what percentage of those were home-built firearms. As it turns out, the ATF recovered 269,250 guns in 2019. If 10,000 of them were so-called ghost guns, then that means that less than five percent of all guns recovered last year were believed to be home-built.
We also have no idea how many of those were stolen from legal gun owners, or even used by a legal gun owner in the commission of a crime. Some of them were undoubtably just “found firearms” that haven’t been connected to a crime at all.
CNN doesn’t explain any of that, however, and it certainly never informs its audience that more than 95% of all guns recovered by the ATF were originally sold at retail as fully functioning firearms. We’re just supposed to hear the figures and jump to the conclusion that Polymer80 has done bad things and that “something” must be done about those awful ghost guns. The narrative has been set, and the crackdown is just beginning.