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ATF requiring license for renting out tooling, offering instruction?

What's next--requiring a federal license for cigarette rolling machines and homebrew recipes?
What's next--requiring a federal license for cigarette rolling machines and homebrew recipes?
Photo © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Last Monday, we looked at the previous Friday's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raid on EP Armory, in Bakersfield, California. EP Armory is best known for the "80%" AR-15 lower receivers it sells, especially (and most directly related to the current situation) their Kevlar-reinforced polymer models, that by virtue of using differently colored material to distinguish what needs to be removed by drilling and/or milling from that which is to be left behind, makes the operation pretty straightforward, even without using jigs to guide the process.

Another California business concern, Ares Armor (discussed here last Friday), was also raided by the ATF this past weekend at its locations in Oceanside and National City (both in California), when the temporary restraining order Ares had managed to have served against the ATF proved to be very temporary. Ares is a retailer, and stocks the polymer 80% receivers made by EP Armory.

These raids have been extensively and expertly covered by National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea (Court restrains ATF from seizing Ares Armor inventory and customer records, ATF accuses Ares Armor of illegal gun sales in response to restraining order and Warrant application shows Ares Armor referenced in wider investigation) and Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman (California gun parts supplier fights ATF over customer’s names, Allegations fly in California gun parts case and California’s Ares Armor raided, owner vows to stay in business).

As discussed here Friday, the BATFE's aggressive persecution (and no--"prosecution" would not be a more appropriate term for it) of EP Armory appears to be based on a (willful?) misunderstanding of how their 80% complete lower receivers are made. The BATFE appears to be under the impression that EP first casts the frame of the lower receiver, and then adds the portion that must be milled and/or drilled away in a later operation, meaning that in the meantime, the part was (briefly) a complete lower receiver (legally speaking), and (again, legally speaking) would remain so under the law, despite the new material being added rendering the "gun" useless until it was removed. Quoting the temporary restraining order complaint filed by Ares Armor:

The BATFE has raided EP Armory based on incorrect information about EP Armory's manufacturing process. The determination letter written by the BATFE incorrectly classified the EP Armory product as a firearm based on faulty information. The BATFE was under the impression that EP Armory was making a firearm and then reverting back to the 80% stage by filling in the fire-control cavity. At no point during the manufacturing process by EP Armory is a weapon made and then reverted. The solid fire-control cavity is built first and the rest of the 80% casting is made around this "core" specifically so that their product at no time could be considered to be a firearm.

As if that were not enough, the BATFE appears to be using a different "novel" argument in an attempt to portray Ares' business practice as "illegal" in a distinctly separate sense--not only because (according to the BATFE's apparently badly flawed "logic" in arguing that EP Armory's "80%" receivers are actually complete receivers, subject to all relevant laws restricting trade in actual firearms), but because the services offered by Ares would, even without the claim that EP's 80% receivers are supposedly actually complete receivers.

As National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea explains:

Also included in the release were links to the indictment and the search warrant package, the latter providing evidence of an investigative connection on page 86, where an April 12, 2013 letter from Debra S. Satowiak, Chief, Firearms and Explosives Industry Division, to Jason Davis, attorney for Ares Armor Metal Works, LLC, advised that a Federal Firearms License is required for “a business premises at which, for a fee, it makes available a computer numeric control (CNC) machine, tools, equipment, and instructions to persons who bring in castings or raw materials for the purpose of creating firearms.”

Get that? Without manufacturing or selling anything that can be considered a firearm under the law, one must, according to the BATFE, still be licensed as a gun dealer before offering access to the tools, and providing instruction in the process of completing an 80% receiver. There is, of course, precisely nothing in any federal statute that would impose such a requirement--the BATFE is making it up from whole cloth.

According to the BATFE, one must request (and pay for) the federal government's permission to provide a bit of basic assistance to those who would arm themselves through their own labor. It becomes more and more difficult to escape the conclusion that the idea here is to eventually outlaw any process by which we the people can obtain firearms that are not on record somewhere. And if the law itself falls short of that, their extralegal interpretation is intended to pick up the slack.

That conclusion is chilling--and should be intolerable.

Update: Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman has more, in "Ares Armor operating; store camera caught first moments of Saturday raid."

Update 2: National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea also has more, in "ATF files opposition motion to TRO in Ares Armor case."

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