UPDATE: Everytown is galvanizing their supporters to comment on the rule, according to a text message obtained by GunsAmerica. The anti-gun group is clearly concerned about the tens of thousands of negative comments, and they’re hoping their supporters can help balance the scales.
It’s easy to get discouraged by the federal government’s constant attacks against the Second Amendment. After the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives unilaterally redefined “machine gun” last year in order to ban bump stocks (at the behest of the Trump administration), many gun owners understandably gave up on trying to lobby against bureaucratic fiat.
But each case is different, and gun owners can’t give up. Remember: the ATF went forward with their bump stock ban, but they backed down under the Obama administration after proposing a ban on “green tip” armor piercing ammunition.
Now, the ATF has proposed a new rule that threatens Second Amendment rights, and we must once again band together to stop it.
Why the Rule is a Threat to All Gun Owners
Early last month, the ATF proposed a new rule to redefine the term “firearm” under federal law. Much of the media attention focused on how the rule would ban “ghost guns,” or 80% receiver kits that allow customers to build firearms at home. The rule does exactly that, and if you care about 80% receiver kits, you don’t need to read any further in this section.
But what if you don’t enjoy building your own un-serialized firearms? Why should you care about the ATF’s new rule?
First, it’s yet another instance of bureaucratic overreach. The people’s representatives in Congress should be the only body allowed to make such a sweeping ruling related to constitutional rights. If you’re concerned about non-elected bureaucrats unilaterally creating laws out of thin air, you should care about this rule.
Second, the rule affects much more than just 80% receiver kits. As I pointed out last month, the ATF wrote the rule to give themselves the maximum amount of control over what counts as a “firearm” (and is subject to strict federal regulation) and what doesn’t.
The rule add this language to the definition of “firearm”: “a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
What counts as “readily assembled”? The ATF is glad you asked: “A process that is fairly or reasonably efficient, quick, and easy, but not necessarily the most efficient, speedy, or easy process.”
What does that mean? It means whatever the ATF director wants it to mean. The rule states that the director will have discretion to judge whether a product is “identifiable” as a gun by consulting “any available instructions, guides, templates, jigs, equipment, tools, or marketing materials.” Joe Biden’s nominee for ATF director is an avowed anti-gun activist, and you can bet he’d want to expand the definition of “firearm” to include almost literally anything.
If you care about 80% receiver kits, bureaucratic overreach, constantly changing regulations, and empowering the ATF director with near-unlimited authority, you should care about the ATF’s new “frames and receivers” rule.
Why Our Comments Could Make a Difference
The ATF brass doesn’t care about gun owners or the Second Amendment. That much is obvious. But they’re required by law to consider all valid comments when proposing a new rule, so it’s critical we flood the agency with respectful, effective comments voicing our opposition.
The ATF has backed down before. The “green tip” rule is a great example, but even more recently the agency pulled its “arm brace” guidance after an overwhelming outcry from the gun industry and gun owners. They just reintroduced an updated version of the rule this week, but it shows that not even the ATF is immune to public backlash.
Here’s another reason to comment: good comments can help litigators fight the rule even after it’s been adopted. According to Harvard Law School, comments are crucial for future litigation: “Your comments help create the administrative record that a federal agency or decision-maker has to consider when finalizing a rule or regulation,” the law school points out.
In addition, if government agencies like the ATF fail to adequately consider public comments, a judge may invalidate the rule at a later date. In other words, if they move forward with the rule, they have to show that they’ve adequately addressed the concerns of the public. With each thoughtful, well-articulated comment advancing a new argument against the rule, that becomes more difficult.
Best Practices for Commenting
First thing’s first. No profanity. As tempting as it may be, profanity is one of the only things that will get your comment immediately disqualified, and the ATF is looking for any reason to discount as many comments as they can.
Your comment doesn’t have to be long, but it must forward a logical argument as to why the ATF is wrong to implement this new definition of “firearm.” As the Firearm Policy Coalition points out, “The more unique comments and different arguments the ATF receives, the more they will have to read and respond to (this is good)!”
Here are a few examples.
EFFECTIVE: “As an executive branch agency, the ATF should not be creating new laws, which is effectively what this rule does. I strongly oppose this rule’s new definition of ‘firearm.’ Such decisions should be left to the people’s representatives in Congress.”
EFFECTIVE: “This new definition of ‘firearm’ is vague, dangerous, and will sow confusion throughout the firearms industry. For example, there’s no way to know what the ATF means by ‘readily converted.’ If a 3D printer can make simple parts that turn a Nerf gun into a functioning firearm, do all Nerf guns fall under ATF control?” (Check this out if you’re wondering where this example comes from.)
EFFECTIVE: “I’m a law-abiding gun owner, but this new rule will make it impossible for me to know whether any given firearm or product is legal. I don’t want to go to jail just because a product that was legal is suddenly declared illegal based on an arbitrary decision by ATF leadership. I strongly oppose this new rule.”
EFFECTIVE: ” The vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens. This new definition could cause many of our law abiding citizens to be criminals. This new rule is ambiguous and gives the ATF too much power in determining what a firearm is. It should be clear and concise like it is right now. Leave the definition to Congress. I oppose this. “
NOT EFFECTIVE: “The ATF is a Commie apparatus doing the bidding of an illegitimate president, the baby-eating Joe Biden! F— you!”
If you’re an FFL, you should definitely comment. The ATF asks specifically for feedback from licensed dealers related to the “feasibility” of implementing the new definition.
How You Can Comment Right Now
There are a few different ways to comment, but if you’re reading this on a phone or computer (which you are), then you should comment via the online portal. This minimizes the chances that the ATF will be able to throw out your comment, and it ensures you’ll get your comment in before the August 19 deadline.
- Visit the comment page here.
- Click the blue “comment” button.
- Type your comment into the box.
- Say whether you’re an individual or organization, or want to make a comment anonymously.
- Enter the required information.
- Click submit.
As of June 10, over 33,000 people have submitted comments, and I haven’t been able to find a single one voicing support.