große Lüge: Firearms are “grossly unregulated”

We’ve discussed the große Lüge of victim disarming gun people controllers. Another lie on the list is this one:

NRA Unveils Drivable Gun That Doesn’t Require Registration Or A License To Operate
Again, NFA items not the point (just as tanks and ICBMs aren’t). Firearms are grossly under-regulated in the United States by comparison with other nations who (surprise!) have far less problems with gun violence.

“Gulliver” appears to be the author of that failed attempt at satire. “Gulliver” also appears to have bought the big lie.

Let’s see how “under-/unregulated firearms are. I’ve done this in abbreviated form in the past, but this will be a little more detailed.

[“Gun Culture” types can stop here; you know this, more than likely. This column is for the less-informed like “Gulliver,” whoever s/he/ze/zyr/&tpen/@/it may be.]

Manufacturing
Naturally, a firearms manufacturer has to comply with all the same rules that any other manufacturer faces: OSHA, EPA, labor law, finance… it’s a long list, which is why we have to import a lot of stuff; regulatory compliance makes it too expensive to actually make a lot of stuff in America these days.

Moving on, we have firearms specific laws and regulations. First, you need a Federal Firearms License to build guns for sale. Usually that will be a Type 7 FFL. Maybe.

Let’s say you had a potentially great idea for a system that disperses fire retardant chemicals over an area. You think it’s just the thing for suppressing forest or grass fires on the perimeter. Fire departments and ranchers will love it. Your system is a 40 millimeter “grenade” full of said chemicals, fired from a light weight polymer launcher.

Whoops. 40mm makes that a “destructive device.” Now you need a Type 10 FFL. And you’ll mostly be able to sell it to governments; tougher for volunteer fire departments of ranchers. Manufacturing the rounds for the launcher also requires a Type 9 FFL, so it’s no good contracting out just the launcher while you assemble the ammunition.

So you scale it back to 37mm. It’s less effective than 40, but better than nothing.

Or maybe you say the heck with it, and move on to a different product. Howa bout a short self defense shotgun with a 14 inch barrel? If you put a standard shoulder stock on it, it becomes a short-barrel shotgun, and buyers will need a market-limiting tax stamp. If you put a pistol grip on the same exact action, it’s magically not. You aren’t sure why, since smoothbore pistols are “Any Other Weapons” (AOW) and require tax stamps. But the ATF made a ruling. (Ghu save the buyer if he puts a shoulder stock on it without getting a tax stamp.)

That’s too complicated, so you decide to enter the light weight polymer defensive pistol market. You have a fantastic design that makes even the slide nonmetallic. This will be easy to to carry on a daily basis.

But is it too light? Federal law bans the production of nonmetallic “undetectable” firearms, even if the dense polymer shows up in x-rays. If your metal barrel is underweight, you have to build in a chunk of nonremovable metal, raising the weight of your previously light weight sidearm.

The heck with it, let’s just make a cute little pistol out of metal, that looks like a cell phone. Except that might be an AOW, too; so you’d better submit a sample to the ATF and get a ruling.

One these is a pistol, and one is an AOW cell phone gun. Which is yours?

Hmm… how ’bout a simple little pen shaped gun (made of metal, of course). You’d best submit your design to the ATF again.

One of these is a pistol, and one is an AOW pen gun. Which did you submit to the ATF?

 

Argh! All right. Conventional pistol, with the action simplified to make it cheap to machine.

Wait. You didn’t make that an open bolt design, did you? That’s a machinegun. I know it’s just a semiautomatic-only, but new open-bolts are automatically machineguns now, under firearms regulations.

Good Bog, you’re trapped in a regulatory maze, and you haven’t even built anything yet!

OK, screw it. You’ll build a simple autoloader pistol. Reverse engineer a Raven with enough differences not run afoul of any patents, and better quality. Good to go.

So you start building guns. Which have to be marked: manufacturer, serial number, caliber. You’re CNC milling these, so you do the marking during initial milling to minimize the process.

Bad move. Every firearm you make — and it’s a firearm once marked — has to be logged in the books for ATF inspection. Yes, inspections. If you make one and it fails quality control testing, and you destroy it, you have to log that, and prove you destroyed it.

So you mark it afterwards. No, no, no! You can’t do that. If firearms are not marked, that’s illegal, too. You’ll just have to guess at what point in production the serial numbers are required. Good luck complying with that rule.

Umm… you did do the marking in the approved font, in the regulated size, and to the specified depth? Right?

But somehow you manage. Your firearms are ready to ship. You exchange FFL paperwork with distributors across the country (under firearms laws and regulations, you can’t ship to end buyers). And away you go!

Wait a minute there, bud. You didn’t design that pistol for a round which the ATF considers armor-piercing (this week), did you? Back to the drawing board.

So it’s finally ready for prime time. Keep your fingers crossed.

State Laws and Regulations
First, you need assorted state (and possibly local) licenses to operate. Not just any old manufacturer licensing; that and licensing specific to firearms. There be additional zoning laws to keep firearms manufacturing out of areas where other manufacturing is allowed. Forget being within miles of a one room schoolhouse in the country.

You can’t just start shipping out federally legal guns to anywhere. Some states will require you to submit samples for evaluation and approval. Massachusetts wants to be sure they’re “safe” and don’t look too much like weapons they banned that complied with their rules but also looked too much like guns they don’t like.

California will do the same and more. Is the gun too small? Too big? Will it pass drop testing? Did you remember to submit a sample of every single variation you make? That means if you offer the pistol with black plastic grip panels and pink plastic grip panels, you have to submit two complete pistols in both colors. We’re aren’t sure how color makes a difference, but we aren’t smoking what the California legislature smokes.

Whoops! Your pistol doesn’t microstamp pistol-identifying data on the case of each round fired, in two places. Yes, we know the technology doesn’t yet exist to do that, but California apparently has really good weed.

So you just scratch off some large potential markets and just ship a firearm that complies with physical reality to the sane parts of the country. Or…

You could say the hell with manufacturing. Eliminate the need for FFLs and all that garbage. You go back to your plastic pistol design and tweak the 3D printing files so the design complies with all federal laws (minimum metal content, and such), and sell those on the Internet. You can draw on the Defense Distributed Ghost Gunner market; they have the mill, you can supply really cool printer files, right?

You’re going to prison for violating ITAR arms export laws and regulations. Yep, more of those “grossly under regulated” laws and regs.

At this point, maybe you’re thinking that firearms manufacturing is too tough and you’ll just say the hell with it and make something safe. Like shoelaces.

Sorry, that might a machinegun, too. Better get an FFL anyway, just in case the ATF changes the rules again.

Back to just selling legal pistols in the safe parts of the US.

The Retail World

So — complying with all federal and state laws and regulations — you sell a shipment of Super-Concealed Thug Slayer pistols to a distributor. Distributor checks laws and regs and sells some to a fully compliant retail FFL (yes, another federal firearms license). The retailer follows all laws and regs and logs the guns into his bound book for ATF inspection.

The FFL dealer also has state and local laws and regulations to deal with. Some zoning laws keep him out of cities altogether. If someone builds a church a thousand feet away, he might be forced to relocate or close. He’ll be required to install security systems beyond that required for banks or jewelry stores. He’ll be required to pull all his merchandise off the shelves and lock them in a safe in a back room after hours, even if the cases are unbreakable and the store has roll-down blast-proof shutters. He might be required to install anti-vehicle barricades to prevent thieves driving a stolen car through his store front.

The dealer is required to be a mindreader or precognitive, capable of determining whether a customer who meets all legal requirements is really a straw-purchaser, or might commit mass murder years down the road, or if the ATF overrides a NICS denial to allow an unlawful sale so they can pretend to “entrap” someone. He’ll be required to provide unlicensed mental health counseling for potentially suicidal customers; he’ll be required to be an unlicensed psychologist to make that diagnosis.

Joe Citizen walks into the Isher Weapons Shop and likes your gun. He presents state-issued photo ID, fills out a multi-page form swearing that he is allowed by the feds to purchase a firearm. As required, he informs the feds of his race. In some states, Joe will also present his license to merely own a firearm (more PPYI, fingerprinting, photos, taxes and fees, probably training). The dealer calls the FBI to complete a prior restraint on the would-be buyer’s constitutional rights requiring him to preemptively prove his innocence.

If the buyer is lucky, the FBI will approve the sale. If he isn’t lucky, they might make him wait a few days for approval/denial. If the FBI doesn’t respond in three days, the dealer has the option of completing or killing the sale. If the buyer is really unlucky, the FBI will declare him a prohibited person and deny the sale.

Joe Citizen, being a law-abiding type, can’t understand why the sale was denied. Assuming he isn’t in one of the states that requires the dealer to report him to the police (whereupon he’s arrested, charged, jailed, etc.), he files an appeal of the denial. Maybe he knows that virtually all NICS denials are false positives, and it’ll all get straightened out. Some day. Maybe. Because there’s a backlog of tens of thousands of unprocessed appeals.

But we’ll back up; Joe was legal and got his new defense pistol. He takes it home and locks it in a safe (per state “safe storage” laws, with ammunition locked away in a separate safe). Because he has not yet also gone through the PPYI check, fingerprinting, photographing, mandatory training by state-approved/licensed instructors, and paid the taxes and fees for a separate carry license for that specific firearm in his state (even though he’s already licensed for the Super-Concealed Thug Slayer with blue grip panels. Bog save him if he lives in Hawaii, where his license is only good in one county and he’ll have to try to repeat the process in every county to which he might travel.

Well, perhaps. In some states, there’s a mandatory waiting period before he can take his new pistol home. He still has to pay for, but he must wait. Even though the point of the federal NICS “instant background PPYI check” was to eliminate waiting periods. He must wait to prevent him from doing anything impulsive with that gun. He must wait even if he already owns a dozen guns with which he could act impulsively. Because of grossly under-regulated guns.

The “End User”

But finally Joe takes it home. After registering it, depending on state. Hopefully with ammunition he purchased after yet another round of PPYI checks, in some states.

And that night, some goblin breaks in, murders Joe, gets into the safe, and steals that Super-Concealed Thug Slayer you built and sold. Goblin steals a Ford Escort, uses it to plow down a bunch of pedestrians, then uses your product to finish off the survivors.

What’s that got to do with you? It’s your fault. Not Ford’s fault, even though Goblin used a Ford. Not the Ford dealer. Not the Ford’s owner. But it is Joe’s fault for negligently storing the gun in a safe that the Goblin could get into after Joe negligently let himself be murdered. Thanks goodness you excluded California sales, or Joe’s estate might be prosecuted for dead Joe failing to report the stolen firearm.

It’s the dealer’s fault for following all local, state, and federal laws. Ditto for the negligent distributor. And most especially you, Mr. Manufacturer, for making and marketing a weapon to kill people.

“But the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects me if I followed all the rules and someone else misused my product,” you cry. “Why not sue Ford?”

Possibly they’ll get around to it, though it seems unlikely. But you engaged in “negligent marketing.” By obeying the grossly under-regulating state and federal laws and regulations that damned near kept you out of the market in the first place.

Welcome to the wonderful world of unregulated firearms. Next week, we’ll talk about the laws, regulations, and rules surrounding ammunition for those unregulated guns. If my head doesn’t explode; I may need a Federal Explosives License from the ATF for that.


Carl is an unpaid TZP volunteer. If you found this post useful, please consider dropping something in his tip jar.

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