New Biden Administration Firearm Rule Clarified

posted on April 26, 2022

The Biden administration announced on April 11 the finalization of a new firearm rule that is somewhat confusing in nature, to say the least.

While the rule, ATF 2021R-05, is largely similar to what was proposed last May, some confusion remains about what the rule does, as it changes a number of core definitions, including that of “firearm.”

To begin, there are several things the rule does, including effectively banning certain parts, often referred to as “80% receivers,” that “assist individuals in making their own firearms. Under the rule, even receivers that clearly cannot yet function as part of a firearm would be treated legally as a ‘firearm’ under federal law,” as the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) reported.

The new rule also changes a number of definitions in federal law that will affect which part of a new firearm design is considered the “frame or receiver.”

It also will require licensed dealers who come into possession of an un-serialized “firearm” to place a serial number on the item within seven days. As of now, only licensed importers and manufacturers are required to mark firearms they import or manufacture. (How a gun dealer might do this is unclear.)

In addition to the troubling and confusing definitions, the rule will require the indefinite retention of firearm transaction records by licensed dealers, which currently can be destroyed after 20 years.

Now that we’ve discussed what the rule does, it’s important to also note what it does not do. First, it does not require that AR-15 upper receivers be treated as “firearms.” It also does not ban the home manufacture of firearms as the ATF “admits they do not have the authority to ban home firearm manufacturing.”

When the rule was first proposed last year, the NRA said in its submitted comments: “Large portions of the proposed rule are in violation of the APA (Administrative Procedure Act), unconstitutionally vague, or simply unworkable for the firearms industry. For these reasons, ATF should abandon this clearly unlawful proposed rule. ATF has identified a real problem with its current definition of ‘frame or receiver,’ but the proposed rule is not the solution for that problem.”

According to NRA-ILA, a copy of the announced finalized rule appeared on the ATF’s website, but, as this was being written, it had yet to be posted to the Federal Register. “Until it is posted, it is not technically finalized. It will take effect 120 days from the date it is posted in the register.”

All of this comes as the Biden administration also nominated Steve Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Dettelbach is yet another anti-Second Amendment nominee. Thankfully, Biden’s previous nominee, David Chipman, was defeated.

We’ll keep you updated on the status of Dettelbach’s nomination and any other actions this administration takes moving forward.




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