Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s December legal opinion — which classifies 80% lower receivers as firearms — is blocked today via preliminary injunction. Judge P. Kevin Brobson of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court issues the decision to grant a preliminary injunction in favor of freedom via 17-page memorandum opinion. Read the full text here.
What’s an 80% Lower?
An 80% lower receiver is a block of aluminum that is — you guessed it — 80% complete in the firearm manufacturing process. The ATF does not consider blocks of metal that are only 80% on their way to becoming firearms to be firearms. Accordingly, they don’t need to be registered, reported, or serialized. This makes such items popular for hobbyists, who can order them online and ship them straight to their home. From there, the block of metal can be machined using a jig and router. And, presumably, can then be turned into a functional firearm. These firearms are referred to as “ghost guns” by politicians, because they have not been transferred via the government’s legal framework.
Such parts are sometimes called “precursor” parts. Precursor parts are the subject of bitter debate with the anti-gun lobby. Anyone can obtain them — hobbyist OR criminal. But ultimately, we’re talking about a block of aluminum that isn’t ready to accept any firearm components. Making such an item illegal is almost impossible. It’s an inanimate object that requires considerable effort to be made into a firearm. Making an 80% lower illegal is on par with making hand tools and workshops illegal. It’s silly, and an overreach. And Judge Brobson agreed today.
Shut up, Josh.
The decision follows AG Josh Shapiro’s December legal opinion that 80% lowers are to be classified as firearms in Pennsylvania. Shapiro claims that 80% lowers, “are receivers and, therefore, they are firearms. Pure and simple”. Pennsylvania State Police are to be responsible for enforcing the new provision.
Judge Brobson disagrees with Shapiro’s opinion, and worries the policy, “creates the potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement”. He goes on to state the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, “does not favor such vague laws”.
This injunction means that Pennsylvania State Police will not be able to enforce Shapiro’s policy that 80% lowers are firearms. Keep in mind that this is not a settled case. The injunction hinges on the fact that Shapiro’s opinion, and the existing statutes surrounding firearms and receivers, are vague or incomplete.
Today is a Win for Freedom. It’s Not Over, Though.
It’s entirely possible Shapiro and the anti-gun crowd will ultimately come out ahead in court. Today’s win is promising. And for the foreseeable future, 80% lowers are not to be legally classified as firearms in Pennsylvania.