ATF has published a new public safety Advisory to the firearms industry and public to provide information regarding its investigative priorities related to possible willful efforts to violate Gun Control Act (GCA) requirements implemented by Final Rule 2021R-05F, “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms.”
Since the Final Rule became effective on August 24, 2022, ATF has noted some suppliers of partially complete frames/receivers appear to be structuring transactions or coordinating with other persons/entities to sell, distribute, or otherwise “make available,” in independent or separate transactions, the compatible templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, and guides needed to complete the partially complete frames/receivers to the same individuals. Such activity fails to comply with GCA requirements.
Stated in 2021R-05F, partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frames or receivers that are sold, distributed, or possessed with associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that allow them to readily be converted to a functional state, are “frames” or “receivers” and also “firearms” regulated under the GCA.
When determining whether a partially complete, disassembled or non-functional frame or receiver is a “firearm” under the GCA, ATF applies the term “readily” and examines how efficiently, quickly, and easily a clearly identifiable component part of a weapon can be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to house or provide a structure for the applicable fire control component.
Such analysis must include consideration of any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that are, directly or indirectly, sold, distributed, or possessed, or marketed with the item or kit, or otherwise made available. This is because such materials may affect how “readily” the part may be converted.
Since the effective date of the Final Rule, ATF has issued approximately 40 private letters classifying different partially complete, stand-alone AR receivers. Based on the agency’s individual consideration and examination of each item submitted, ATF has classified approximately half of those standalone parts as “receivers” and “firearms,” and half as not being “receivers” or “firearms.”
ATF will prioritize investigative review as such conduct may be indicative of a willful GCA violation:
- Structuring Firearms Transactions
Structuring firearms transactions occurs when a supplier purposely sets up ostensibly separate transactions or methods of operating with the willful intent to violate GCA requirements with respect to licensing, serialization, recordkeeping, running background checks, or other provisions. This can include conduct such as selling, distributing, marketing, or otherwise making available to the same customers partially complete frames or receivers separately from their associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials by shipping them in different boxes, on different days, or through straw purchasers.
- Structuring Firearms Businesses
Structuring ownership of a firearms business occurs when a supplier sets up multiple corporations, businesses, or other entities, or individual straw business owners, to sell, distribute, or otherwise make available to the same customers partially complete frames or receivers separately from their associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials, with the willful intent to violate the GCA’s requirements with respect to licensing, serialization, recordkeeping, and running background checks, or other provisions.
Finally, when two suppliers agree to work/coordinate to willfully violate the GCA or defraud the U.S., and to take acts in furtherance of that willful agreement, both suppliers may be found to be improperly structuring firearms transactions or businesses. Such acts could include selling or distributing parts kits or disassembled firearms, including frames or receivers, through shell companies, related businesses, straw purchasers, or coconspirators.
No supplier, regardless of whether they are engaged in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in frames or receivers, firearm parts kits, or complete disassembled weapons may arrange or structure transactions or ownership of business entities with the willful intent to violate the GCA, including the GCA’s licensing, serialization, recordkeeping, and background check requirements.
The GCA and its implementing regulations, including the Final Rule, are critical public safety measures, and people must abide by them. For that reason, any intentional violations of such measures are an enforcement priority for ATF and, where appropriate, may be referred for potential enforcement actions.