A group of 18 attorneys general from 17 mostly blue states and the District of Columbia on Monday asked the Biden Administration to act on unfinished gun frames and receivers. 

The AGs wrote a five-page letter to recently installed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland this week, asking the Justice Department to "close the loophole in the ATF’s interpretation of the federal Gun Control Act" that allows law-abiding citizens to create their own firearms from so-called 80-percent receivers. The AGs said the firearms made from such kits – sometimes referred to as "ghost guns" by gun control advocates – can be used for nefarious purposes, enough of a cause as any to lower the boom on the practice. 

“This loophole flies in the face of commonsense gun safety laws,” said Connecticut Attorney General Tong in a statement from his office on the letter. “Here in Connecticut, we have some of the strongest gun safety laws on the books — we banned ghost guns in 2019 — but these statutes can only go so far if we can’t close these dangerous federal loopholes. The ATF interpretation of the Gun Control Act is wrong and a threat to public safety and national security."

Under longstanding ATF guidelines going back to at least 2006, so-called "80-percent" unfinished pistol frames and rifle receivers aren't subject to government oversight so long as they are made by individuals who can otherwise legally possess a firearm and don't cross into National Firearms Act territory (e.g., machine guns, SBRs, suppressors). The push by the AGs is aimed at changing that tradition. 

The letter calls on Garland to issue a new interpretation of the Gun Control Act that will include "80-percent receivers" in the category of firearms that require background checks of the same type as for fully finished guns. The biggest problem with that, however, is the ATF has never issued guidance as to exactly what an 80-percent lower or unfinished frame is, only what it is not. Such an effort could have the absurd effect of attempting to regulate raw materials such as the semi-shaped blocks of aluminum or plastic that make up 80-percent kits. 

Tong is joined by the attorneys general of Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.


The trade group for the American firearms industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, argues that the war on "ghost guns" is nothing but a boogeyman and will have no impact on crime. 

"If the argument is that criminals won’t follow the existing laws and regulations, there is no evidence they will abide by new laws," notes the group. "By definition, criminals don’t have respect for the law. According to a government survey of prison inmates, over 90 percent of inmates obtained their firearms from an illegal or black-market source or from friends and family. Enacting further laws at the state or federal level to make the possession of an illegal firearm more illegal will not deter criminal behavior."

Multi-pronged 'ghost busting'

Earlier this month,  a group of Senators on Capitol Hill – all Democrats who have long backed various gun bans – penned a similar request to President Biden. The lawmakers, led by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, urged Biden to "take executive action to keep unserialized and untraceable firearms known as 'ghost guns' off our streets."

In addition to the letters, two cases filed in California and New York – backed by anti-gun groups – are currently suing the federal government to force the ATF into similar action against "ghost guns."

Banner photo: Pixabay.

revolver barrel loading graphic