Gun control groups are kind of generic when you really think about it. At least, it seems that way from this side of the debate. You’ve got a dozen groups like Giffords, Brady, Moms Demand Action (and really, there are adult films to be made with that title. I’m just sayin’), March For Our Lives, and many more, but there’s little that really differentiates them from anyone else beyond their origins.
But it seems Everytown For Gun Safety has decided how best to brand itself. They’re going to be the bat-guano crazy gun control group, apparently.
You see, they’re going after the ATF for not regulating something that is, frankly, impossible to regulate.
Ghost guns are the Wild West of gun policy because they aren’t subject to federal background checks, and the components don’t have serial numbers, making them next to impossible to trace back to their owner when they’re recovered at crime scenes.
The ATF used to regulate “ghost guns,” because they held that receivers, a core firearm component that comes in the kits, were subject to the same rules as any other type of gun. But in 2006, as the online marketplace for the kits boomed, the ATF changed course. Now, 13 years later, ghost guns are showing up at crime scenes across the country and posing a major challenge to law enforcement.
This, of course, is false.
You see, prior to 2006, you could buy an 80 percent receiver over the internet and not be subject to background checks or having to have it shipped to an FFL, but anything beyond 80 percent required all of that. Much as it is now. While there have been changes with regard to ATF and their enforcement of things since 2006, let’s not pretend that now complete receivers are shipped to people’s homes.
Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control advocacy group founded by 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg, wants to know why ATF won’t crack down on ghost guns, since they had regulated them in the past. On Thursday, Everytown filed a petition with ATF asking it to “correct its own failure to regulate untraceable ghost guns.”
ATF did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
Ghost guns are typically sold in kits online, costing between $250 to $500, with parts that can be easily assembled into a fully-functioning firearm — meaning anyone can build their own high-powered AR-style rifle, and the government will never know about it.
Initially a niche hobby enjoyed by firearm enthusiasts, these kits have become attractive to criminals or criminal enterprises because of the untraceability. According to ATF, 30% of firearms recovered at crime scenes in California in an unspecified period are ghost guns.
Here’s the problem, something that Everytown doesn’t get–probably because their founder still apparently thinks semi-automatic really means full-auto–is that there’s a very good reason the ATF isn’t trying to regulate kits that have nothing to do with the occupant of the White House.
You see, at the end of the day, contrary to what Vice had to offer, it’s still all about the receiver.
All of the other parts in a kit are parts that are necessary for repair purposes of other lawfully-owned firearms. The lower receiver itself is what constitutes a firearm. However, there has to be a hard and fast line as to what constitutes a receiver, and it can’t be too vague. After all, people have turned old shovels into AK receivers. You can’t regulate all sheet metal, now can you?
As a result, they needed to determine a line in the sand. They went with 80 percent. That means an 81 percent receiver is considered a firearm but an 80 percent receiver isn’t. That demarcation matters. However, let’s also be real, it’s rather arbitrary. It’s enough that you can’t just drill a hole and slap it on a firearm, but it’s also not a bare lump of metal. They could have chosen 75 percent, just as easily.
What Everytown needs to understand is that the ATF isn’t going to regulate spare parts. The only part they have the resources to regulate is the gun itself, and they’ve decided that’s the receiver (or lower receiver, where applicable). So they’ve set a line where, beyond a certain point, it’s a gun. Until then, they simply can’t regulate it.
If that line were anywhere else, people would simply adjust and keep on doing what they’ve been doing.
At the end of the day, there’s really not anything the ATF actually can do to stop people building guns, anyway. As I’ve noted, all the other parts are also sold as spare parts or upgrades on other rifles. All that constitutes a gun is the receiver and you can build one of those without an 80 percent receiver if you know what you’re doing. AK-pattern guns can be built out of sheet metal. AR-pattern guns can be milled out of blocks of aluminum. None of those can or will be regulated.
So what is it that Everytown thinks the ATF can do?
Are criminals building guns? Apparently. However, trying to add more regulations for them to bypass isn’t going to change a thing except annoy the rest of us.
Then again, that’s all any of them have ever done.