Author Topic: Is AR-15 lower receiver a "firearm"? Feds avoiding court case that might say no  (Read 97 times)

Offline Mr. Bill

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This is from CNN, so it's not sympathetic towards firearms.  But it looks like they got the technical and legal info correct.

10/11/19: He sold illegal AR-15s. Feds agreed to let him go free to avoid hurting gun control efforts

Quote
...Federal authorities preferred to let [Joseph] Roh go free rather than have the ruling become final and potentially create case law that could have a crippling effect on the enforcement of gun laws, several sources familiar with the matter told CNN. ...

Under federal law, the one regulated individual part of a firearm is what's known as the frame or receiver — a piece that, among other things, provides a housing for the hammer and firing mechanism of a gun.

Though incapable of firing a round, the part is considered a gun in its own right and is subject to the same restrictions as a fully intact firearm. Manufacturers must stamp it with a serial number and licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks on prospective buyers. The restrictions are intended, in part, to keep felons and other people prohibited from possessing firearms from acquiring them piece by piece.

AR-15s, however, do not have a single receiver that meets that definition. They have both an upper and lower receiver — two parts as opposed to the single part described in the law.

At issue in Roh's case was whether the law could fairly be interpreted to apply to just the lower receiver of the AR-15, as the ATF has been doing for decades. ...

"Are you here to ... make yourself a rifle right now?" [Roh] asked the [undercover ATF] agents during the encounter in January 2014. ...

"Go ahead and press the green button," Roh told the undercover agent. ... "That basically means that you did it — believe it or not."

A member of Roh's staff then oversaw the process of machining and drilling that converted an unfinished lower receiver — an innocuous chunk of metal before the process began — into a finished receiver the ATF considered a firearm under the law.

Roh then added barrels, stocks, bolts, triggers and other parts to make them fully-functioning weapons. ...

Roh was charged in October 2014 with manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license. ...

Under the US Code of Federal Regulations, a firearm frame or receiver is defined as: "That part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel."

The lower receiver in Roh's case does not have a bolt or breechblock and is not threaded to receive the barrel, [defense attorney]  Nicolaysen noted.

He called the decision to classify it as a firearm nonetheless, the result of "secret, in-house decision-making."

Nicolaysen accused the ATF of abusing its authority by pursuing Roh based on his alleged violation of a policy "that masquerades as law." ...

Though the trial lasted less than a week, [Judge] Selna deliberated for more than year. In April, he issued a tentative order in which he determined that the ATF had improperly classified the AR-15 lower receivers in Roh's case as firearms. ...

Selna added that the combination of the federal law and regulation governing the manufacturing of receivers is "unconstitutionally vague" as applied in the case against Roh.

"No reasonable person would understand that a part constitutes a receiver where it lacks the components specified in the regulation," Selna wrote.

Therefore, the judge determined, "Roh did not violate the law by manufacturing receivers."...

Selna did find that Roh was guilty of selling completed firearms without a license, subjecting him to a possible prison sentence.

Following Selna's tentative order, the prosecution and defense agreed to a deal in which Roh would plead guilty to the charge against him, but would be allowed to withdraw that plea if he stayed out of trouble for a year. Prosecutors would then dismiss the case. If Roh abides by the deal, he will have no criminal conviction and serve no time behind bars.

Sources familiar with the agreement said prosecutors wanted to strike a deal in order to prevent Selna's order from becoming permanent, drawing publicity, and creating case law that could hamper ATF enforcement efforts.

Roh accepted the deal to avoid a permanent conviction — and possible prison time — for dealing firearms without a license. ...