Criminals Show Disregard for the Law, Court Rules for First and Second Amendment By Joseph Albanese

LAPD’s Hollywood unit recently confiscated a number of home-built firearms from gang members, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

In case you’re not familiar, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regulations state that a receiver must be more than 80 percent complete to be considered a firearm. Anything less and it’s just a hunk of raw material in their eyes. The line has to be somewhere.

Anyone interested in purchasing a firearm needs to fill out a federal firearms transfer record, ATF Form 4473, undergo and pass an investigation through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and comply with any and all local regulations. But those interested in crafting their own firearms are not subject these regulatory hurdles, though the home-brewed firearms are only lawful to posses by those who can legally purchase guns.

A number of companies have taken note of this, and have created receivers that require just enough milling and finishing to fall outside the purview of the BATFE. A Google search reveals about 172,000,000 results when ’80 percent lower’ is punched into the search bar.

The entire first page is dedicated to different suppliers, with a range of partially completed AR-15 lower receivers. There are a number of Glock-clones that can be purchased and completed as well.

The purchaser finishes the machining on these receivers and adds all of the other parts, such as the barrel and trigger group, to construct a functional firearm. These are sometimes known as “Ghost Guns” because they do not require a serial number and are considered “untraceable.”

The article in the LA Times states that 45 firearms, home-manufactured AR-style weapons and semiautomatic pistols, were confiscated during a six-month undercover operation that netted 47 felony charges against 10 gang members.

Bill McMullan, special agent in charge of BATFE’s LA Field Division, told the LA Times that, “Criminals are making their own weapons because they cannot buy them legally … or they are paying other people to make those guns for them to get around the gun laws.”

In somewhat related news, 3D printed gun pioneer Cody Wilson just won his lawsuit against the Department of Justice, according to an article in Wired. In 2013, the Department of State went after Wilson after he uploaded code for his Liberator 3D printed single-shot pistol, named for the FP-45 Liberator, a crude single-shot pistol mass produced by the US during World War II for distribution to resistance forces. The State Department said he was in violation of International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR), in much the same way he would be if he exported firearms or night vision equipment.

The court ruled that the gun-printing code was protected speech under the First Amendment. As such, it was his to disseminate as he pleased. “I consider it a truly grand thing, It will be an irrevocable part of political life that guns are downloadable, and we helped to do that,” Wilson told Wired in an interview. He plans to load his website,, with plans for a variety of firearms in the future, including code for guns that he and his staff have created from commercial models.