Tuesday, March 18, 2014

EPArmory, Aries Armor, BATFE Raid and 80% Lowers

I have been trying to make sense of the current chaos involving EPArmory 80% lowers, the BATFE, and Aries Armor.   Kilbreaux at the eparmory.com forum has some cogent analysis:

Of course I wonder just what IF anything the ATF can do in terms of retrieving receivers from customers.

First, a significant number of receivers had to be OTC, cash sales…no way to track those people down. For the CC internet customers, so they find out who they are…how do they prove the parts received were manufactured in such a manner as to be considered a firearm? Assuming they even know what they’re talking about and EP was making lowers “outside first” the problem the Feds have when it comes to rules of evidence and what happens in courts where lawyers tend to show up, and the thin film of “probable cause” that gets a warrant from a rubber stamp bench, carries no weight. How does the ATF prove any receivers sold prior to their visit were built incorrectly? Clearly EP Armory isn’t going to “confess” to building them outside-to-in…and in fact they even LOOK build “inside-to-out” by anyone who has any knowledge of plastics molding…the “flashing” around the polymer insert plug is from the receiver indicating the plug was already there when the outside part was injected. But the point is, the Feds position is tenuous…better for the purpose of making cautious people scared than for actually “proving” anything.

Add to this the fact that any lowers already milled out no longer contain ANY “incriminating evidence.” On a milled lower there is NO WAY to ascertain HOW it was molded. IF as was implied in EP’s Facebook post, they did in fact have a “Letter” from the ATF, even their own ad-hoc rule changing can’t be leveraged against the end customer.

I read a post on Calguns where some clown stated he’d bought an EP lower but never finished it as if to suggest this lets him off the hook, yet he is in fact, more “wrong” than right in his view because IF the ATF were to show up at his front door and demand to see the lower and it was presented in “as received” condition, then HE is in possession of an unregistered firearm! However, if (as Chris’s post above made me suddenly realize) the ATF show up at the front door demanding to see the lower and it’s already been machined out, the “evidence” as it were, that the receiver was improperly molded is GONE!

(It’s kind of like when the school takes your 13 y/o daughter down to the local abortion clinic without ever telling you because THEY CAN, and they CAN’T tell you, and she has an abortion. YOU can no longer push for prosecution of some punk because the EVIDENCE has been destroyed! (This is how it works in Kalifornia)

Well, the same thing applies here…regardless of what the ATF round during their raid, they cannot prove (only allege) that receivers not on the premises were manufactured improperly, and if they send out “surrender” letters to purchasers the LAST THING a purchaser wants to do is send them an as-delivered lower! Because IF…and that’s a MIGHTY tall if, the ATF does deem the EP lower improperly made, the surrender of one in that configuration would be a felony in and of itself…and by sending it directly to the ATF the purchaser has “confessed” through stupidity.

On the other hand, if the purchaser chooses to surrender a completed lower – interior milled out, and appropriately “demilled” by sawing in half, the ATF is NOT receiving a “unregistered firearm” in the mail and have absolutely NO WAY to prove the receiver was EVER in such a configuration as to be considered an unregistered firearm.

And as Chris stated above…as far as he’s concerned he has a legal firearm…I suspect that simple statement pretty much sums it all up…once completed the EP lower is no longer in as-manufactured configuration and without the ability to PROVE that EP Armory has always been manufacturing them in the wrong sequence, I don’t think the ATF has a whole lot of options other than the intimidation factor that will probably cause most who receive such demand letters to return what they have…but for those who are bragging about having never touched their lower with a tool, if they send it back that way – EVEN IF they saw the entire thing in half, what the ATF receives will STILL BE “evidence” of an unregistered firearm having been in the possession of the sender!

Well thought out analysis of the practical effects on an BATFE effort to "retrieve" any lowers that they think might have been manufactured improperly.   However, consider that in most of the United States, there is no requirement to register guns.   There is even a federal law that forbids gun registration.   Even in the documents that I have seen from the BATFE  involving Aries Armor, they claim that they only want the customer list to determine if any prohibited possessors came into possession of what they now claim is a firearm.   From scribd.com, paragraph 5, of the Declaration of Paul J. Ware, Division Counsel for the Los Angeles Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccos, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), concerning the Aries Armor case:

I further advised that I would do my best to expedite ATF's reconsideration of the determination that the receivers were firearms and if ATF determined they were not firearms, ATF would return the product to his client.  I also requested the records of any customers who had purchased EPS Arms receivers to ensure they were not distributed to persons prohibited by Federal law from possessing a firearm.  I also made it clear that we are limiting our request to only the EPS Arms receivers and records of sales of those receivers.

From the documents, it is fairly clear that Mr. Ware is writing about EPArmory receivers.   I am not sure how the nomenclature was mixed up.  Mr. Ware is a Division Counsel, so he does not speak for upper BATFE management.  Still, what he writes is interesting.

It is not illegal to possess a firearm that never had a serial number.  It is illegal to remove or deface an existing serial number.  There are multiple millions of legal firearms in the United States without serial numbers, and from the popularity of making your own guns, it appears to me that the number is constantly growing.  There are millions, perhaps tens of millions of private sales that occur each year that make serial number tracing of no practical value.

 This is one of the reasons that those opposed to an armed population push so hard for universal gun registration.   One of the significant points of that effort is to make it illegal to own a firearm that is not registered.   There are only a very few places where that is the case now, and California is on that path.  It is another instance of moving from a society where everything that is not prohibited is allowed, to one where everything that is not allowed is prohibited.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch 


Anonymous said...

There are a host of other worries that present themselves as well, rather that what people may or may not have done with receivers that are still in their possession.

For example, what if the person disposed of the lower in a way that would be prohibited for a real gun, such as selling or giving to another person without background checks in a jurisdiction that prohibited it? What if a person re-sold it online, perhaps to someone in a different state? What if a dealer re-sold one without a background check?

Moreso than people who merely milled (or did not mill) the receivers and still have them in their possession, could people who acted on the assumption that these were NOT firearms have placed themselves into greater jeopardy?

There are all sorts of other scenarios that could cause problems for people should the ATF decide to pursue.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps "Mr. Ware" would have served the interests of the public better had if first requested a proper evaluation of a sample EP80 lower. One need only apply the barest minimum of focused thought to realize the truth of how EP80 lowers are manufactured. It would be considerably more difficult and time consuming to mold the receiver with fire control pocket considering the way the internal ribs project outward as well as the small lip that forms around the periphery of the upper edge. Also, there are small cylindrical depressions inside the fire control pocket located opposite the protruding pins on the outside at the pin locations. In order to mold the receiver first a "male" insert would need to have the appropriate projections that, once molded, would make removal without destroying the surrounding polymer impossible. EVEN IF the insert plug were completely smooth-sided, once molded into place, considerable force would be required to yank it out simply to replace it with a polymer plug.
Conversely, molding the fire control plug in a two-piece mold is quite easy, after which it can be secured by the projecting flange (what else is it there for) inside the mold for the receiver proper. After the receiver material is injected around it, the fire control plug is impossible to remove by any means OTHER than drilling, grinding, milling, or machining away.
Considering the PURPOSE of manufacture is to garner a profit by making a "legal" 80% AR blank, and considering the greater simplicity and ease of fabrication by molding the plug first, receiver second, AND considering the fact that everybody and his little sister by now knows all about the little nit-picky "rule" of what would constitute a firearm versus a plastic paper weight, WHICH is the more likely? That EP Armory make a conscious decision to build a highly cost-competitive polymer part in a manner decidedly more difficult just to....to do what? This defies all logic and certainly fails the "reasonable man" hypothesis of law.
What is worse still is the considerable number of ignorant, opinionated, biased, outright liars that abound on every firearms forum who, through their vitriolic and completely false comments, probably did more to cause the BATF to question the fabrication technique of the EP80 than anything.
One hopes that if there is any such thing even approaching "fairness" left in the world, the FTB of the BATF will spend about 30 seconds examining an EP80 lower, then determine it IS in fact as legal as every other monobloc "paperweight" on the market. Such an action would go a long way toward brighten the image of an agency universally regarded as anti-American people.

Dean Weingarten said...

The only way that we will ensure "fairness" at the BATFE is to show massive public disapproval of anything less.

The BATFE has done numerous illegal and unethical things for decades, with *no one*, except whistle-blowers, being punished. I am hoping that the courts *might* keep them from simply rewriting the rules on a whim, but it has not happened in the past.