U.S gun sales are soaring and gun shops are struggling to keep up with demand. With rifles, handguns, shotguns, and just about every other firearm either in low stock or on backorder, more and more gun enthusiasts are turning toward the DIY parts market to get their hands on new rifles and pistols. Gun-making kits like these AR-15 build kits and Glock pistol kits have become wildly popular in recent years and especially since the Coronavirus shut down much of the country, much to the ire of anti-gun politicians. Such kits most often include a nearly fabricated firearm that requires additional cutting and drilling by the end user before being legally classified as a firearm. Kits have been designed for popular weapon platforms like the 1911, Sig Sauer P320, AR-10, Ruger 10/22, AR9, and most Glock series of handguns. Nicknamed “80% lowers” or “80% kits”, these not-quite-gun frames and receivers have been legal since the Gun Control Act was enacted in 1968. The GCA says any American who can otherwise legally possess a firearm may build a firearm at home for personal use, with no need to purchase parts from an FFL or conduct a background check prior to manufacturing.
But with the government’s NICS background check system woefully behind schedule and internet gun sales skyrocketing, Democrat Senators are once again pushing to ban these so-called “ghost gun” kits altogether. Led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), several Democrat lawmakers are pushing to require that all guns sold in the United States after January 1, 2022 be traceable by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. That means 80% gun kits, which do not require unique serial numbers for the finished gun nor a background check for the buyer, would require both. Under the new law, all 80% guns and their manufacturers and distributors would suddenly be subject to the same federal laws and regulations as Federal Firearm Licensee dealers.
This isn’t the first time Sen. Blumenthal made an attempt to ban gun-making kits. Now backed by Everytown For Gun Safety and the Giffords anti-gun organization, Blumenthal’s legislation is a second iteration of a bill the Connecticut lawmaker tried unsuccessfully to pass in 2018. Seeking to bolster support for the failed legislation, Everytown said the ghost gun is “the fastest-growing gun safety problem facing our country.” The organization, largely supported by failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, attempted to characterize law-abiding gun enthusiasts, claiming most who buy 80% kits are “domestic abusers, sex offenders, and white supremacists.” When asked to support their claim via email, Everytown was not cable to produce any citation or source to back up these statements. Across the aisle, only a single Republican, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, has signaled possible support for background checks on 80% gun kits. “I guess you can look at it that you’re buying an assembled gun or an unassembled gun,” Cornyn said. “To me, the same standard makes sense.”
Blumenthal’s gamble to ban 80% gun kits seems like a long shot. Other Democrats agree. Senator Chris Murphy, also a Connecticut Democrat, downplayed the chances for any action on the bill in 2020 in the Republican-controlled Senate. That could change quickly in 2021. The underlying issue with Blumenthal’s legislation is not only that is places more needless restrictions on gun owners. It also seeks to redefine what a firearm is. Such definitions have wide-reaching consequences on federal and state laws, and any redefining of a firearm could inadvertently cause other gun parts — like triggers, upper receivers, or parts of a frame — to be reclassified as firearms. This legislation presents risks to the gun industry as a whole. If enacted, it would restrict thousands of aftermarket gun parts and inhibit gun owners’ rights to legally buy, build, modify, and possess firearms as defined in the Gun Control Act.