On May 7th, 2021, the BATFE released a set of new proposed rules regarding Privately Made Firearms, or ‘PMFs’. This came after weeks of positioning by leaders in the executive and legislative branches, and the resulting policy includes a myriad of new regulations and definitions that impact American gun rights.

Because these rules are regulatory expansion by the executive branch, there won’t be a Senate or House vote. This is a decision made by the leadership of the ATF and Department of Justice to change their enforcement of existing laws, and an expansive overreach of regulatory authority by the ATF.

The Department of Justice has invited Americans to provide their feedback on the proposed rule changes, and we’re eager to provide it. Below, we’ve provided a high-level summary of some changes made under 2021R-05. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find additional information on how to send your feedback to the ATF—and why it’s important that every gun-owner make their voice heard.

Summary of Changes - Click the links to see details

Change 1: 2021R-05 Redefines ‘Frame’ and ‘Receiver’: AR15 upper receivers, drop-in trigger packs, pistol slides, and a wide variety of other categories might be regulated as receivers and will need to be serialized. You will have to complete an FFL transfer to purchase one of these components.

Change 2: 2021R-05 Adds New Regulations for 80% Kits: Require the serialization of any kit that could be ‘readily’ convertible into a complete firearm (80% Kits). Based on 8 factors that can be subjective. The change will be costly to the firearms industry and may eliminate the product from the market.

Change 3: 2021R-05 Creates New Regulation for Suppressor Kits: New definitions for “complete muffler or silencer device” and apply a ‘readily convertible’ standard for incomplete products, potentially changing the classification of solvent ‘trap kits’ and preventing the purchase of unregistered ‘solvent trap’ kits without violating the NFA.

Change 4: 2021R-05 Changes Guidelines for Private Letter Rulings: A manufacturer would have to submit complete product information before they can pursue a private letter ruling. Since manufacturers will not be able to confirm the legality of new products until they have already made a considerable investment, it may disincentivize product innovation before it is ever born.

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One of the biggest changes under 2021R-05 is a redefining of a ‘frame’ or ‘receiver’.

These definitions are important because a frame or receiver is the core component of any firearm. Frames and Receivers are subject to most of the same federal regulations as complete firearms, meaning that you must complete and pass a background check to purchase one from a gun store. Likewise, you cannot purchase a frame or receiver online and ship to your home address—you have to complete a full FFL transfer process.

The exact definition of a frame or receiver can be challenging, since some rifles like the AR15 have split receiver components, but federal regulators are still obligated to seek legal consistency. With 2021R-05, the new definition of a receiver has changed:

A part of a firearm that, when the complete weapon is assembled, is visible from the exterior and provides housing or a structure designed to hold or integrate one or more fire control components.... Any such part identified with a serial number shall be presumed, absent an official determination by the Director or other reliable evidence to the contrary, to be a frame or receiver. For purposes of this definition, the term “fire control component” means a component necessary for the firearm to initiate, complete, or continue the firing sequence, including any of the following: hammer, bolt, bolt carrier, breechblock, cylinder, trigger mechanism, firing pin, striker, or slide rails.

This new definition will completely change the face of the gun market. With this definition, absent the “determination by the Director”, AR15 upper receivers, drop-in trigger packs, pistol slides, and a wide variety of other categories might be regulated as receivers. If that occurs, every item will need to be serialized, and you will have to complete an FFL transfer whenever you purchase one of these components.

The central purpose of 2021R-05 is to regulate 80% kits, which are unfinished frames and receivers that customers complete with their own tooling. Since these frames and receivers are not complete firearms, they are not serialized, so you can purchase an 80% receiver without completing ATF Form 4473.

2021R-05 tightens regulations on 80% kits by requiring the serialization of any kit that could be ‘readily’ convertible into a complete firearm. The ATF provides 8 factors as part of their consideration: time, ease, expertise, equipment, availability, expense, scope, and feasibility.

While this rule change does not require non-FFL individuals to serialize their existing 80% receivers, it will require any FFL to serialize their frame or receiver if they come into possession of it, even if it’s for simple repairs.

Critics of the 2021R-05 argue that the ATF does not clearly define any of these factors. There is no bright line for what is ‘readily’ convertible and what is not, leaving both customers and businesses at risk of federal prosecution without knowing the full context of the law.
Since the 8 factors are weighed in combination, it is difficult to build a complete legal precedent that will provide Americans with a sense of clarity or security. Likewise, critics note that the serialization process will be highly costly, especially to small gun stores that will need to engrave their current 80% receivers or forfeit their unmarked inventory.

2021R-05 also creates new rules for serializing suppressor parts. Additionally, the proposed rule potentially targets ‘solvent trap kits’ and other products intended for private manufacture.

These changes are very similar to the changes made regarding 80% receivers. They provide new definitions for “complete muffler or silencer device”, and apply a ‘readily convertible’ standard for incomplete products, like ‘solvent trap’ kits. Under these rules, individuals would potentially not be able to purchase a ‘solvent trap’ kit without violating the NFA.

In addition, the ATF has created new rules for marking and serialization of different suppressor components and parts.

When a manufacturer is uncertain about a potential product’s legality, they will often contact the ATF’s Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (“FATD”) to seek guidance before continuing their development. These private letters help shape our understanding of the regulatory ramifications of a given product when navigating the broad and often unclear definitions applicable to firearms technology, and they play a critical role in how businesses bring their products to market.

2021R-05 includes new guidance on FATD letter rulings with these guidelines:

The Director may issue a determination to a person whether an item is a firearm or armor piercing ammunition as defined in this part upon receipt of a written request or form prescribed by the Director. Each such voluntary request or form submitted shall be executed under the penalties of perjury with a complete and accurate description of the item, the name and address of the manufacturer or importer thereof, and a sample of such item for examination along with any instructions, guides, templates, jigs, equipment, tools, or marketing materials that are made available to the purchaser or recipient of the item. The Director shall not issue a determination regarding a firearm accessory or attachment unless it is installed on the firearm(s) in the configuration for which it is designed and intended to be used. Upon completion of the examination, the Director may return the sample to the person who made the request unless a determination is made that return of the sample would be or place the person in violation of law. A determination made by the Director under this paragraph shall not be deemed by any person to be applicable to or authoritative with respect to any other sample, design, model, or configuration.

Following these guidelines, a manufacturer would have to submit complete product information before they can pursue a private letter ruling. Critics have noted that this change will disincentivize product innovation, as manufacturers will not be able to confirm the legality of new products until they’ve already made a considerable investment. This will have an immeasurable chilling effect on innovation and creativity industry wide.

How to Submit Feedback on 2021R-05

2021R-05 is a substantial change in ATF administrative regulations, and the summary above only covers the top layer. If you’d like to read a full summary of the rule change or the actual proposed rule text, please visit the ATF’s main site at https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/definition-frame-or-receiver/summary..

We’re asking all of our followers to provide their feedback on 2021R-05 by sending their comments to the Department of Justice. These comments are an important representation of America’s reaction, and though 2021R-05 isn’t up for vote, a powerful response can affect the enactment of the proposed rule set. Already, tens-of-thousands of Americans have commented on these rules, and now it’s your turn to make your voice heard.

In addition, the ATF has created new rules for marking and serialization of different suppressor components and parts.

To place a comment, visit https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/definition-frame-or-receiver/submit-comment and follow the provided instructions. Please read these instructions carefully, as moderators will discard comments that don’t meet their guidelines.

That said, here are some things to consider including in your feedback on 2021R-05:

1. How will this rule affect you personally, including financial impact?
2. How will this rule affect business, including your own or those in your community?
3. How will this rule affect your local (or regional) community, local or state governments (including Tribes), including financial impacts on such entities?

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