Mountain States Legal Foundation’s newly-established Center to Keep and Bear Arms jumped right into the fray, by moving to intervene in Syracuse v. ATF on behalf of its clients. This case will have profound implications for how the federal government defines firearms as well as Americans’ liberty to self-manufacture firearms for personal use.  

Several progressive-run US cities and anti-gun groups earlier this year sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), claiming the ATF violated the Administrative Procedure Act by employing an objective test based on the actual manufacturing process involved to determine if an item is considered a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. 

The objects at issue are often colloquially referred to as “receiver blanks,” “frame blanks,” “partially-manufactured frames,” “partially-manufactured receivers,” “80% frames,” “80% receivers,” “unfinished frames,” or “unfinished receivers.” While these objects vary widely, what they all have in common is that they are not “firearms” as defined by the Gun Control Act, nor can they be readily converted into firearms.

Instead, just like a raw block of aluminum in the hands of a machinist, individuals can fully manufacture firearms from these non-firearm objects using their own experience, know-how, and machining equipment. Because they are not firearms, the ATF and the federal government lack any authority to regulate them as such.   

But these cities and gun control activists want to force the ATF to regulate raw materials of all kinds—materials that may possibly be used to manufacture a firearm in the future—simply because individuals, through their own knowledge, skill, and ingenuity, can manufacture them into firearms for personal use.

MSLF is intervening on behalf of our clients, Zachary Fort, Frederick Barton, 80% Arms, and Firearms Policy Coalition, in an effort to preserve the natural right and traditional freedom of self-sufficient Americans to legally build firearms for personal use, free from undue (and unconstitutional) government interference, surveillance, and regulatory control. 

“This case is about defending the ingenuity and self-sufficiency of Americans in the face of the culture of control and dependency that is taking over our Republic,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, Director of Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms. “The cities and gun control activists in this litigation are trying to force their own definition of a ‘firearm’ on the entirety of the United States, thereby instituting federal government control and quashing American’s ability to rely on their own skills and expertise.”

Adam Kraut, Director of Legal Strategy for Firearms Policy Coalition, believes intervention is necessary because the ATF represents its own interests, not those of grassroots gun owners. “For decades, the ATF has enforced a bright-line delineation as to when an object becomes a ‘firearm’ under the Gun Control Act. The plaintiffs in this case seek to pervert that longstanding definition,” Kraut explaned.

“Since our nation’s founding, Americans have self-manufactured their own firearms at home,” adds Zachary Fort, one of the citizens MSLF represents. “The ability to exercise one’s rights privately, without government intrusion, is a cornerstone of a free society. To arbitrarily change the definition of a firearm, to include non-firearm objects, would be a gross overreach of government and could expose Americans to criminal liability.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms is intervening on behalf of our clients in this case in order to ensure that the court hears the voices of everyday Americans, especially those actively exercising the rights that the  cities and gun control activists want to eradicate.


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