by Travis Noonan
New York state Attorney General Letitia James just told 16 different websites to stop selling receiver blanks and gun-making kits to residents of New York. James’ office put out the letter with some excerpts that are pretty damning for the Second Amendment:
“Your website offers unfinished lower receivers that require simple milling in order to manufacture unregistered and un-serialized assault weapons, despite the fact that such manufacture and possession are illegal in New York. Assault weapons are illegal in New York, and the sale and/or advertisement of these products violates New York law. I hereby demand that you stop the sale and advertisement to residents of New York of unfinished lower receivers and firearms components that are intended for the assembly of assault weapons.”
Specifically, the cease-and-desist order targets the 80% lower, an unfinished aluminum or polymer firearm receiver that requires extra work – some cutting and drilling with power tools – to be made functional. These receiver blanks are combined with special build kits that include a prebuilt AR-15 upper receiver to make the weapon functional, as well as a lower parts kit, buffer, handguard, trigger, and everything required to assemble your rifle, pistol, or SBR.
Interestingly, the cease-and-desist order makes some claims that likely rest on shaky legal ground. A.G. James claims that receiver blanks are used to only build assault weapons. In fact, the tone and language of the letter seems to imply that any finished receiver blank should be considered an assault weapon. Yet even a finished 80% lower is simply a stripped lower receiver, a generic firearm with no features. It doesn’t have any of the parts described in the letter (“… at least one of several enumerated secondary characteristics, including a pistol grip or a stock that folds, telescopes, or bears a thumbhole”) that would allow any state or federal law to define the receiver, the firearm itself, as an assault weapon.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 has long held that building a gun at home without a license is perfectly legal. One doesn’t need an FFL, background check, or any paperwork. The ATF has clarified this very practice is legal, even when building an AR-15 using an 80% lower receiver. This cease-and-desist order is likely inspired by federal bill H. R. 7115, which attempts to ban gun-making kits and receiver blanks nationally. On its heels is yet another federal assault weapons ban introduced in February, H. R. 1296. The bill is currently short by seven co-sponsoring Democrats. A heavy legal battle is likely to ensue in New York and in the House, especially as we near election season proper. The situation in New York is breaking and developing. New information will be provided as companies and manufacturers respond to these over-zealous demands.