The window for the public to comment on a quiet but potentially massive rule change on what constitutes a firearm "frame" or "receiver" under federal law is closing. 

In May, President Biden's Department of Justice unveiled the biggest change to fundamental American gun laws since 1968 with a 115-page proposal subtly posted on a Friday afternoon. The 90-day public comment period ends Aug.19. 

As of Thursday, the proposed rulemaking only had 105,000 public comments, most negative. 


Not just about 'Ghost Guns'

The rule is complex and filled with minute tweaks, with the ATF's ambiguous summary running to 1,600 words alone, and its analysis clocking in at 67 pages. Besides establishing a de facto ban on so-called 80-percent frames and receivers in the way they are in circulation today, it could also stand to regulate “split/multi-receiver" and "modular firearms" such as the AR-15 and P320 in ways that could require AR uppers and pistol slide assemblies to be a serialized firearm. 

This would effectively end the days of uppers or unfinished frames/receivers shipped directly to the door of otherwise law-abiding Americans, treating them instead as Title I firearms that would have to transfer through a licensed dealer with a Form 4473 with a NICS (and/or state) background check.

The main and recurring theme of the proposal is firearms tracing, with the word "trace" woven into the primary document over 80 times. The rule would also scrap the current 20-year storage mandate of firearm records by licensed gun dealers requiring storage indefinitely.

The proposed rulemaking was hailed by national anti-gun groups, who have pressured the ATF, Congress, and the White House to make it harder for Americans to produce homemade firearms, a right that pre-dates the country's founding. Going further, such groups ignore the fact that criminals can still easily make zip guns from common household items in the face of such proposed new regulations. 

Constitutional law expert David Kopel speaks with author Mark Tallman at length on the history of homemade guns, below: 


How to comment

Below are ATF’s instructions for submitting comments:

You may submit comments, identified by docket number ATF 2021R-05, by any of the following methods—

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: Andrew Lange, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Ave. NE, Mail Stop 6N-518, Washington, DC 20226; ATTN: ATF 2021R-05.
Fax: (202) 648-9741.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number (ATF 2021R-05) for this notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM” or “proposed rule”). All properly completed comments received will be posted without change to the Federal eRulemaking portal,, including any personal information provided.

The NRA notes that, when making a comment, "Please be sure to stay professional, explain the arbitrary nature of these rule changes, and make your comments personalized so that the ATF knows how you, as an American gun owner, are impacted."


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