Field-Stripping The “Ghost Gun Ban” Executive Order

In a highly politicized action, President Joe Biden has called for what amounts to a ghost gun ban that targets firearms parts such as 80% lower receiver kits. While second amendment advocates have been expecting a push for increased regulation of firearms, such as an assault rifle ban, “red flag laws”, and more intrusive background checks for decades, it is only recently that non-commercially manufactured firearms for private use have entered the spotlight due to the high ratings of infotainment fear-mongering. In February, amidst reports that a ghost gun ban was being considered, we shared an open letter to the President attempting to educate the administration about the homemade firearm community and our concerns. On April 7th, 2021, an executive action targeting homemade firearms was announced.

The Immediate Takeaway

While this potential executive order is a concern and your rights to purchase firearm parts and manufacture firearms at home are squarely in the crosshairs, purchasing a receiver blank or parts kit, non-commercial manufacture of firearms, and the possession of a non-serialized, legally manufactured weapon by an individual who is entitled to possess a firearm are not federal crimes. Further, this executive order does not directly change that fact. It should, however, raise alarm bells for anyone interested in preserving our second amendment rights. While not a ghost gun ban on its own, it does set a regulatory course that could reach much farther than the garages our customers enjoy their hobby in. 

What the Executive Order Says

While the official text of the order has not been released, the administration’s fact sheet announcing a host of firearms-related executive orders makes it plain.

The Justice Department, within 30 days, will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns.”

While short and vaguely worded, this statement should provide both concern for your second amendment rights and resolve to take action that protects those same rights.

Why the Ghost Gun Ban Attempt Isn’t A Law

One of the things that immediately jumps out is that this order in no way equates itself to legislation. While the president signs bills into law, Congress has to pass them first, and so far, neither an assault rifle ban nor a bill addressing non-commercial manufacturers of firearms has made it through both chambers of the legislature. Instead, this executive order instructs the Justice Department, which the ATF is a part of, to propose a rule that works within the existing body of law.

Executive agencies are given a large amount of leeway to interpret and enforce the laws passed by congress. While they can make policy decisions that affect how a law is interpreted, they can’t arbitrarily rewrite the law itself. Under federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 921(a) (3) (A), a firearm is “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive…”, a definition which even the ATF has stated would not apply to parts kits such as 80% lower receivers. Any rule change would have to work within that established legal definition.

Why You Should Be Worried

You may be wondering what the big deal is if this executive action can’t make the ghost gun ban a law. Just because a clear path to a ban isn’t apparent doesn’t mean that regulators can’t make life harder for manufacturers of parts kits, the retailers that sell them, the homemade firearms enthusiasts who make their own guns, or the law-abiding owners of non-commercially produced weapons. While the vague wording makes it hard to predict what proposed rule will be announced, we can safely predict that there will be an attempt at a rule change that affects your second-amendment rights. 

Why You Should Be Resolved

The federal government is a bureaucracy, and that means any change in course takes time to follow established procedures. While the executive order instructs the Justice Department to bring forward a proposed rule within 30 days, that simply begins the process of changing how non-commercially manufactured firearms are regulated. Without showing cause, any proposed rule must allow for a public commentary period before it can be issued as a final rule. Once finalized, without again showing cause, any rule has a waiting period before it can take effect. This gives concerned second amendment advocates an opportunity to make sure their voices are heard and their rights are respected. 

What to Keep an Eye On

As the process moves forward, it is sure to be challenged. Under our system of checks and balances, Congress has the authority to move forward with laws that can prevent executive overreach and protect your rights. Gun owners, states, manufacturers, and advocacy organizations will challenge any attempts at unlawful regulation in the courts, which recently have found other efforts to redefine what constitutes a firearm to be illegal, such as in the case of the previous administration’s bump stock ban

Actions You Can Take Right Now

Make sure any proposed rule change doesn’t go unchallenged. Contact your representatives in congress and register your opposition to any ghost gun ban, assault rifle ban, or infringement on your second amendment rights. Consider adding your voice to those of other advocates by supporting organizations like Gun Owners of America. Finally, stay up-to-date on the latest second amendment news by subscribing to our newsletter and visiting our blog regularly. 

Help us protect your rights while making a quality firearm for your personal protection or personal enjoyment. Order your 80% lowers and parts kits from JSD supply today.