While guns produced by the process of 3-D printing have drawn the most interest of late, it is likely that for the near future, homemade firearms produced through lower tech, more traditional methods will make a great deal more difference in any efforts by we the people to acquire effective firepower--and acquire it anonymously--in defiance of government decrees. Perhaps the most important of those lower tech methods is the perfectly legal commerce in "80% complete" receivers (generally for AR-15 type rifles)--which, unlike "complete" receivers, are not legally considered to be "guns," and can thus be sold without any legal hoops like vendor licenses, serial numbers, and background checks--that the buyer then finishes into a complete and functioning firearm.
The growing trend came to the attention of the Washington Post's reliably anti-gun Sari Horwitz Tuesday, and she clearly does not like it:
The sale of unfinished receivers, also called “blanks” or “80 percent lower receivers,” is one of the most daunting challenges for law enforcement officials tasked with enforcing firearms regulations. There are no sales records of unfinished receivers, as there are for ordinary gun sales, which means the ATF cannot check with stores for information about buyers when a gun is used in a crime. And because the receivers bear no serial numbers or other markings that would indicate where they were manufactured, guns made with them can’t be traced back to their owners if they are found at a crime scene.
That's obviously far too close to shall not be infringed for Horwitz's tastes. To a large--and probably growing--number of Americans, though, Horwitz has just come up with a pretty good summary of just what is so cool about acquiring one's life and liberty preserving firepower by that method. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the article was a quote from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about how pervasive this trend has become--in California, of all places:
Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives view the spread of the receivers as an effort to get around strict gun-control laws, particularly in California. They also acknowledge that they have no idea how many of the components have been made and sold.
“That is the million-dollar question,” said Joseph M. Riehl, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s San Francisco office. “We know for sure there are tens of thousands, just in California.”
Hmm--"tens of thousand, just in California"? That's a pretty significant number, and in a state not exactly known for its embrace of the gun culture. On the other hand, of course, California's most oppressive in the nation gun laws--and the state's obvious willingness to go from house to house confiscating guns, provides a pretty powerful incentive to arm oneself anonymously.
The article goes on to quote BATFE officials as saying that "gun enthusiasts are effectively exploiting a loophole in the law designed to regulate firearms." That, of course, would be the infamous "people can make stuff loophole."
Those who are frightened at the notion of a large and growing number of Americans acquiring "assault weapons"--and doing so, indeed, in a manner that cannot be controlled or even effectively monitored by the government, are entirely right to see this as a very disturbing development. The entire regime of "gun control" laws, from "assault weapon" bans to "universal background checks," is largely undermined when a person of any background can simply fabricate precisely the types of arms the "gun control" jihadists want banned.
That explains the BATFE's growing desperation to "do something" about this, illustrated by their recent apparent insistence that merely providing the tooling and helpful instruction for finishing an incomplete receiver for a fee requires a Federal Firearm License (FFL), and presumably a background check on the buyer/maker. This is clearly an illegitimate overreach, since the establishment providing that service is neither manufacturing nor selling guns. In fact, since the BATFE insists that an FFL-holder must be in the business of selling and/or manufacturing guns in order to be eligible for the license in the first place, it's a pretty nifty forcible citizen disarmament catch-22.
The Washington Post and other, similarly anti-gun newspapers can squawk all they want, the BATFE can invent all kinds of new "rules," without even the benefit of unconstitutional laws to justify those rules, and legislators can come up with new, creative[ly stupid] laws to try to impose some kind of government control over home-manufactured guns, but Americans are still going to be well armed, by whatever means necessary.