CNN posted a bombshell on Friday night — a federal judge very nearly ruled that AR lowers are unregulated items, and the only thing that stopped him is that prosecutors dropped the case when it became clear what the ruling was going to be.
A guy in Los Angeles, Joseph Roh, started a business selling people membership in a club, the main benefit of which was that you could go into his shop, he'd have a CNC rig ready to start milling on an 80% lower, you'd hit the big green button, and boom, there's your lower. Then Roh would use your now-complete lower to build out a complete AR for you.
Because Roh didn't have an FFL, the ATF charged him with a number of crimes around this, one of which, because of the finishing of 80% lowers, was the crime of manufacturing firearms without a license. Federal law defines a frame or receiver — legally, that's the gun — as "that part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel."
The defense argued that an AR-15 lower doesn't meet that definition. The first, very minor problem for the ATF was that the defense was correct. The second, much bigger problem was that the judge in the case agreed that the defense was correct. From CNN's piece:
"'No reasonable person would understand that a part constitutes a receiver where it lacks the components specified in the regulation,' Selna wrote.
"'Therefore, the judge determined, 'Roh did not violate the law by manufacturing receivers.'"
Uh oh. And it turns out this isn't the first time this has happened. The article notes that in 2016, the ATF had to drop a case where it had caught a convicted felon buying an AR lower in a sting operation, after the judge ruled that AR lowers do not meet the legal definition of a receiver.
As far as we can tell, this is the first time this issue has come to public attention. It'll be interesting to see what kinds of lawsuit possibilities it opens up. No doubt a bunch of 2A lawyers have spent the weekend sharpening their claws. Way too early to know where this lands or even what happens next (nothing? serialized uppers? a nationwide repeat of California Freedom Week?), but it'll be an interesting one to watch.
Check out the piece — credit where it's due, CNN did a commendable job on this one — at https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/us/ar-15-guns-law-atf-invs/index.html
This week's links
97.2% of ERPOs called in in King County, WA (Seattle's county) are called in by police
These laws are billed as helping friends and family do something. But how these laws get used once they're on the books turns out to be quite different.
A guy in Montana stopped a grizzly attack on his friend by shooting the bear in the butt with a Glock 43 loaded with Tula FMJs
Shot placement? ❌
Optimal ammo choice? ❌
Optimal gun choice? ❌
Meme potential? ✅
Hey, if it works, it works.
The late Tom Petty's guns got stolen out of a storage locker
Don't do me like that.