One of the top priorities for gun control activists at the moment is to re-define “firearm” in federal law to include unfinished and uncompleted frames and receivers, which consumers can purchase to build their own firearms. The process is perfectly legal under federal law, but anti-gun politicians and gun control groups are hoping to change that.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra teamed up with the gun control organization Giffords last year to sue the ATF in attempt to force them to change the definition of a firearm, and now the city of Los Angeles is partnering with Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety in suing Nevada gun maker Polymer80 over it’s DIY gunmaking kits.
“Untraceable ghost guns are now the emerging guns of choice across the nation,” Feuer said. “Nobody who could buy a serialized gun and pass a background check would ever need a ghost gun. Yet we allege Polymer80 has made it easy for anyone, including felons, to buy and build weapons that pose a major public safety threat.”
The lawsuit, filed along with the gun control advocacy group Everytown Law in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges those kits are being sold in violation of federal and California gun laws. It comes on the heels of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raiding the company based on suspicion that it was illegally manufacturing and distributing firearms. That investigation focuses on the company’s “Buy Build Shoot” kit, which consumers can purchase online, then assemble at home a fully functioning weapon, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The ATF did raid Polymer80 back in December, alleging that the company’s “Buy Build Shoot” kits constitute a firearm under federal law, even though the kits don’t contain a working firearm or completed handgun frames. Since the raid, no criminal charges have been filed against the company or any of its employees, but that’s not stopping Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer from going after the company for alleged violations of state and federal laws.
According to the lawsuit, Polymer80 sells kits to make weapons including AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and Glock-style semiautomatic handguns. Polymer80’s shipping records between 2019 and Oct. 13, 2020, showed it moved nearly 52,000 items, including nearly 1,500 Buy Build Shoot kits. California was the top destination for those kits, with 202 shipped. According to the ATF, some of those kits were delivered to addresses in California where known felons, who are not eligible to possess firearms, resided.
In Los Angeles, Moore said, ghost guns are a “significant influencer” in the surge of gun crime because they give criminals who aren’t allowed access to firearms the ability to get weapons.
“These are the weapons being used on other Angelenos,” he said. “They are being used by individuals with no right or ability to legally possess a firearm.”
Moore said the department is now checking all seized ghost guns to determine their makers.
Moore said more than 17 murders or attempted murders have been tied to ghost guns in the city last year. He said he could not say whether those were Polymer80 weapons.
The chief added that gang members “are bragging and flouting they can readily acquire these weapons.” Moore said it is not that gang members necessarily buy them directly, but that there is a “supply chain” assembling these parts in garages and machine shops and they are then sold on the streets.
It’s not illegal under federal law to build your own unserialized firearm, but it’s absolutely against the law to then turn around and sell it. In other words, the city should be cracking down on the “supply chain” of illegally sold firearms, not a company that’s selling unfinished firearm parts.
Home-built guns may very well be becoming increasingly popular among criminals, but that alone isn’t enough reason to justify banning law-abiding Americans from building their own gun. I’m reminded of the war on so-called Saturday Night Specials in the 1970s and 1980s. The inexpensive and simple handguns were also seen as a tool for criminals, and a number of states enacted bans, including Maryland. In the two years after the ban took effect, however, homicides in the state actually went up, not down, which suggests that even if criminals were no longer able to obtain that particular type of firearm, they still had no trouble illegally acquiring a gun on the illicit market.
The same holds true for today’s so-called ghost guns. Even if every manufacturer of unfinished frames and receivers were shut down today by the ATF, criminals could simply print their own working firearm with a 3D printer that costs just a few hundred bucks. Of course, they could also turn to the existing black market, or to family and friends, which is the most common way that prohibited persons get ahold of guns they’re not allowed to own.
Attempting to ban our way to safety is a fool’s errand, but that’s the entire crux of the gun control movement. Rather than focusing their efforts on reducing demand for firearms among violent criminals by ensuring swift and certain consequences, Feuer and his anti-gun allies are doubling down on a strategy of stopping crime by restricting the rights of the law-abiding.