Elections Matter: Pennsylvania Attorney General “Re-defines” Firearms

posted on February 18, 2020
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Looking for an indication of how important a single race for a single elected position can be for gun owners? Look no further than Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro. In 2016, Donald Trump narrowly carried the Keystone State, but—thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s generous support of gun-hating candidates—Shapiro prevailed in his race to become attorney general. Let’s see what this has meant for Pennsylvanians:

Circumventing the legislative process, Shapiro issued a December 2019 opinion in which he (re)defined unfinished receivers as “firearms.” Shapiro’s tortured opinion flies in stark contrast to the prevailing classification of unfinished receivers, which aren’t “firearms” at all. These hunks of polymer, steel and aluminum are unfinished items incapable of firing bullets. Without additional work, inoperative frames and receivers have about as much in common with “firearms” as a shovel; it’s like calling a piece of lead ore a bullet because it one day (with sufficient time, energy and expertise) could be made into a bullet.

So why did Shapiro re-define “firearms” as he did? Because, once he calls something a “firearm,” Shapiro believed he could start restricting our rights. To advance his absurd agenda, Shapiro relied on an exceptionally weak argument: He claimed that unfinished receivers are “designed” to expel a projectile via an explosive action. It doesn’t take a law degree to figure out how backward this thinking is. Unfinished receivers are explicitly designed so that they are unable to function as an operable receiver without further work and sufficient mechanical expertise. In other words, by their very nature, they are not firearms.

Gun-control organizations (and this attorney general) like to argue that the ability to make firearms for personal use is a “loophole” in federal law. This anti-gun narrative is not only false, but inconsistent with American history. Who do they think made many of the firearms that helped win America’s independence? Law-abiding Americans with a passion for firearms and working with their hands often purchase unfinished firearm receivers to craft their own guns for personal use. Unfinished materials used for this pastime take significant additional manufacturing to complete, are purchased for various reasons and advance a legitimate interest in the American tradition of firearm customization. Why should Pennsylvania’s firearm enthusiasts and craftsmen have to suffer infringements because a Bloomberg-funded bureaucrat like Shapiro decided to re-define “firearms” for them?

Predictably, Shapiro’s press office and the media have portrayed his opinion as a way to improve “public safety.” If anything, Shapiro’s interpretation as Pennsylvania’s attorney general encumbers the use of lawful frames and receivers that could lawfully defend the safety of other Pennsylvanians. There is nothing safe about limiting law-abiding Americans’ options for self-defense.

Undeterred, Shapiro is swinging for the most widespread restriction on our rights as possible. His “theory” of treating non-functioning blocks of polymer, steel or aluminum as “firearms” is the equivalent of calling a pile of aluminum tubes a bicycle or even considering a hickory or ash tree a baseball bat.

It’s worth remembering that Pennsylvanians elected both Shapiro and President Trump in the same election because the distinction highlights the consequences of each vote for our right to keep and bear arms. Contrary to Shapiro’s Obama-esque passion for governmental infringement, President Trump has spent most of his first term undoing Obama-era rules and appointing federal judges who will defend the Second Amendment for generations to come. I was present when President Trump ended U.S. involvement in the terrible U.N. Arms Trade Treaty at our Annual Meetings last year. Perhaps our brothers and sisters in Pennsylvania have learned their lesson: if you want to continue enjoying freedom, don’t elect a Bloomberg-backed politician like Shapiro to be your attorney general.

I’ll close with this: I just received word of a victory in NRA-backed litigation to keep 77 million acres in Alaska open to predator hunting. Here again, this victory is made possible by electing a pro-Second Amendment president of the United States. When you add this accomplishment to the long list of nearly 200 judges President Trump and pro-freedom members of the U.S. Senate have confirmed, you can see it for yourself: elections matter.

I’m asking all NRA members, gun owners and all other Second Amendment supporters to get involved. Elect more pro-gun candidates at every level of government this year. There is no position too big or small to occupy in defense of our liberty. If you wish to fight alongside good people in support of America’s most fundamental freedom, I invite you join me alongside the largest, most powerful grassroots army by signing up at nraila.org/volunteer.

Together, we’ll make the difference this November.



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