Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is taking a victory lap today after announcing that Eagle Arms Productions, the state’s largest gun show promoter, is banning the sale of unfinished frames and receivers from all future gun shows. Shapiro held a news conference on Monday touting the change, which he says will prevent criminals from illegally obtaining firearms.
The news conference took place in the House district of freshman Democratic Rep. Amen Brown. The Lehigh County-based gun show owner Joel Koehler credited Brown for being instrumental in his decision to discontinue allowing vendors to sell the gun kits at his shows.
Shapiro is calling on other gun show promoters in the state to follow Koehler’s lead.
“Ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for criminals and fueling the gun violence epidemic,” Shapiro said. “These DIY gun kits should be subject to the same background checks and qualifications as fully functioning firearms to prevent criminals who are not legally able to purchase or possess guns from getting their hands on these deadly, untraceable weapons.”
There are a couple of problems with Shapiro’s assertion. First, under federal law firearms are defined as a finished frame or receiver, not unfinished gun parts. Anti-gun Democrats are trying to change that, however. California’s Department of Justice has teamed up with gun control groups to sue the ATF in an effort to force the agency to redefine what the agency considers a firearm, and those same gun control groups are also urging Joe Biden to push the agency to do the same.
The second problem with Shapiro’s claim is that it’s now possible to print most gun parts with a 3D printer. If criminals want to build a gun instead of stealing one or buying one on the black market, they can do so, even without the DIY gun kits that will no longer be available for sale at the gun shows run by Eagle Arms Productions.
Still, some Second Amendment supporters in Pennsylvania are surprisingly supportive of the decision.
Kim Stolfer, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of Firearms Owners Against Crime, said Koehler has every right to control what products are sold at his events and added, “Legitimate vendors at these events support what Eagle Arms is doing.”
He stated in his news release announcing Eagle Arms’ decision to his organization’s members, “Both Representative Amen Brown and Eagle Arms have collaborated on a decision that will save lives as well as protect the constitutional rights of all citizens without government intervention and restriction!”
It’s true that Koehler has the right to decide what items are able to be sold at the shows he runs, but let’s not pretend that Josh Shapiro is going to be satisfied with a gun show promoter voluntarily banning the DIY gun kits. Kim Stolfer says he’s gives credit to Rep. Amen Brown for trying to address the violence in his Philadelphia district (Brown has also proposed legislation that would increase the penalties for felons found in possession of a firearm), but he’s not on board with any law that would outright ban the practice of building your own gun.
“What he (Koehler) is saying is that particular sale is causing a problem in the community, and I don’t want that associated with my show and my name,” Stolfer said, referring to Koehler.
At the same time, Stolfer said he would rather not see the ghost guns outlawed. He said some home hobbyists get a sense of satisfaction out of putting their own gun together.
Under state and federal laws those homemade guns are not permitted to be sold to anyone else. Stolfer also said the gun kits can cost up to several hundred dollars less on certain DIY models since high demand over the past year has pushed up the prices on many guns.
“Citizens’ rights should not be predicated on what people like that [who are exploiting the laws] do.” Instead, Stolfer said the onus is on police and prosecutors and judges to more carefully enforce laws against the bad guys who are committing crimes with guns.
“We already have the laws to take these people and put ‘em in jail,” Stolfer said.
There are many legitimate reasons why people would want to build their own firearms. As Stolfer pointed out, there may be a cost benefit, but there’s also a privacy benefit. Some gun owners may want to build and own a firearm without the federal government getting involved, and it’s their right to do so.
I understand the rationale of Rep. Brown as well, and I’ve applauded him for his bill upping the criminal penalties for being a felon in possession of a firearm, but to me the push to ban DIY gun kits (even voluntarily) is a step in the wrong direction. I fear that Koehler’s decision will not only put more pressure on other gun show promoters and gun store owners to also ban the sale of unfinished frames and receivers, but will add more weight to the argument of anti-gun politicians that the sales of these items should be forbidden by law, not just by dealer’s choice. I truly hope that Koehler’s decision to exercise his freedom to choose what items are sold at his gun shows doesn’t result in less freedom for the rest of us.
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