Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro decided to unilaterally reclassify what a gun is and isn’t. The idea was to go after less than 80 percent complete lower receivers used by backyard gun builders to complete their own AR-15s or AK-47s, among other options. The decision was controversial, to say the least.
Now, a gun-rights group in the state is stepping up to challenge the AG.
The Firearms Policy Coalition filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police on Friday requesting an emergency injunction just days after the state’s attorney general issued a legal opinion reclassifying certain unfinished weapons parts as firearms under state law.
“Rule by executive fiat was rejected by the Thirteen American Colonies, including Pennsylvania, when they declared independence from England, and we reject such lawlessness today,” Adam Kraut, the coalition’s director of legal policy, said in a press release. “The Attorney General’s revisionist legal opinion adds an entire class of inanimate objects to the definition of ‘firearm’ under Pennsylvania law that the General Assembly never considered, nor intended.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s legal opinion on Monday informed the State Police that the state’s Uniform Firearms Act embraces a definition of “firearm” which is expansive enough to encompass 80 percent receivers.
Citing a prior Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, Shapiro noted that a part would be “designed” to fire a projectile if it was “intended” or “planned” to do so, regardless of whether it was fire-ready at the time.
In his lawsuit on Friday, Kraut observed that the federal Gun Control Act has a nearly identical definition, which allows parts “designed” to fire projectiles to be considered firearms. However, he argued, the ATF has consistently interpreted this definition to exclude 80 percent receivers.
Obviously, I’m with Kraut on this one.
Frankly, I don’t think Shapiro’s argument is going to hold much water in the long run and believe the courts will give him the smackdown he so richly deserves. However, I also have to think about what happens if they don’t.
Well, then someone starts selling 79 percent complete receivers.
Look, when you can build an AK-47 out of a shovel, you’re not going to be able to regulate away someone building a firearm in their backyard. An AR-15 lower can be built by anyone with access to a CNC machine and a block of aluminum. Hell, Ghost Gunner builds CNC machines for making lower receivers out of bare metal. You’re not about to stop people from building guns.
But what Shapiro’s ruling did was declare an entire classification of non-firearms guns, thus making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to build these weapons, but not impossible.
By extension, though, it doesn’t make it impossible for criminals to build these weapons. In fact, it does even less to criminals who can still cross state lines to buy the 80 percent complete lowers and build firearms for illegal purposes. Why it’s almost like gun control doesn’t do a damn thing except interfere with law-abiding citizens.
Shocking, I know, and I didn’t even start on 3D printers.
Anyway, I wish Kraut and his group the very best of luck. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better than this.