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Old April 23, 2013, 02:59 PM   #1
speedrrracer
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Finishing an 80% lower at a "build party" now illegal in California?

The only thing I can find for sure is this claim:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...58&postcount=1

that Jason Davis says the ATF sent him a letter saying "build parties" are illegal.

I have met Jason, and keep his card in my wallet in case of (legal) emergency. He's extremely knowledgeable in firearms law, esp the vagaries of CA firearms law, and is on the forefront of the 2A fight both in CA and nationally. I would not hesitate to take his word as gospel on this or any other firearms-related issue.

Just wanted to spread this out there, in case any of you are CA residents planning to attend a build party in the near future (they are wildly popular at the moment, for obvious reasons).

If you're not a CA resident, you now have reason #47,228,204 to be thankful
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Old April 23, 2013, 03:04 PM   #2
JimDandy
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For those of us not up on all y'all's hippie California peacenik surfer lingo, what's a "build party"
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Old April 23, 2013, 03:46 PM   #3
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^People getting together at a machine shop or other place that rents time on the CNC machines, to complete 80% lowers.

For clarification, it was the ATF and not the CADOJ? If you can get the reasoning, that would be worthy to know since it would effectively apply to anyone building their own firearms from 80% frames/receivers.
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:14 PM   #4
JimDandy
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And why is that illegal?
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:20 PM   #5
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The part that I don't understand is this: If finishing an 80% lower is legal for one person, why would it be illegal for a group of people to do the same thing?
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:25 PM   #6
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From the link, I suspect the reasoning is, because the machine is preprogrammed, part of the "work" has been done by a 3rd party, which is not allowed.
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:30 PM   #7
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Ah-ha! Thanks, sigcurious.
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
From the link, I suspect the reasoning is, because the machine is preprogrammed, part of the "work" has been done by a 3rd party, which is not allowed
Realizing I sound like the next ad campain from Capital One now that the little girl has moved on from No, Why?

What does it matter? If it's legal to take it from 80% (What does this mean by the way) to 100% with a drill press and a jig, who cares if it was a CNC machine instead? Other than the guy who doesn't have a drill press, and now needs to hold a drill press and jig party?

For that matter would one of THOSE be legal? Every heads over to Jimbo Billy Bob's house, and uses John Q Public's press, each taking a turn?
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimDandy
. . . ., who cares if it was a CNC machine instead? . . . .
Apparently, BATFE cares.

ETA: . . . or CADOJ.
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Old April 23, 2013, 04:52 PM   #10
JimDandy
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According to the link, it appears it's BATFE. Though they specified the business part... so theoretically if Jimbo Billy Bob had a CNC machine in his garage, this may be different than John Q Public's Quality CNC Rentals.

Of course, you'd have to make a metric crap-ton of CNC'ed lowers and magazines for yourself to justify buying a CNC machine for your garage.
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Old April 23, 2013, 05:03 PM   #11
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So...why couldn't they "preprogram" the mill and simply let customers enter their own specifications? Should be a fairly simple process to load a program, no?

Last edited by csmsss; April 23, 2013 at 05:15 PM.
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Old April 23, 2013, 05:06 PM   #12
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The impression I got, which could be totally off base, was the fact that they were paying to use the machine, the machine was an asset generating revenue in a firearms creation, making them a firearms manufacturing business.
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Old April 23, 2013, 05:18 PM   #13
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Quote:
The impression I got, which could be totally off base, was the fact that they were paying to use the machine, the machine was an asset generating revenue in a firearms creation, making them a firearms manufacturing business.
Does that mean if I were to rent out a machine shop and somehow manufactured my own vehicle, that the owner of the machine shop was in the carmaking business? Not ridiculing you, but I think the logic is comparable.

From what little I could tell, it appears that the objection is that the CNC machine is preprogrammed, and therefore the "party" was essentially nothing more than drones putting a billet into a milling machine, then pressing a stop/start button. If the owner of the mill doesn't preprogram any of the CNC programming into it, then how can he be held responsible for what customers do with it? After all, it is legal to manufacture a firearm for your own use.
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Old April 23, 2013, 05:19 PM   #14
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Isn't this exactly what got Cavalry Arms in trouble with the BATFE? My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to recall that they were using their CNC machines on weekdays to build receivers for sale, and on Saturdays they were hosting "build parties" at which people could bring in their 80% receivers, mount 'em up to the CNC machine, and press the button.

I have to admit, even I don't see that as doing it yourself.

I considered doing an 80% 1911 receiver. I knew a former Seabee who ran a small machine shop in the next town, who would have let me come in and use his Bridgeport. Unfortunately, his health problems caught up with him and he closed up the shop before I got to moving ahead with the project. At this point, the source I had for 80% receivers has stopped offering them, and the shop where I was going to do the work has closed. I guess I'm stuck buying complete firearms. If I knew someone who had a CNC machine already programmed for 1911 receivers, I wouldn't feel comfortable using it. I'd feel like I was cheating ... probably because I would be cheating.

Last edited by Aguila Blanca; April 23, 2013 at 05:26 PM.
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Old April 23, 2013, 06:10 PM   #15
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I think the issue here is that at these build parties, someone else has already programmed in the final 20%. All the end user has to do is press a button or two. In the end, it's not an 80% receiver finished by an end user, it's an 80% receiver, finished the final 20% by someone who owns and programs the CNC machine, and lets someone else drop their 80% receiver in it and press "Go."

Now if you had a jig and drill press party, it'd be a different story I think. Even if the equipment were owned by someone else, and they were showing you how to do it, you would still be doing the final 20% of the work.

The issue is that the final 20% of the work has been done by someone else, not the end user. The issue isn't that the space/equipement/etc has been rented out.
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Old April 23, 2013, 06:30 PM   #16
musher
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Interesting interpretation.

Doesn't seem like too big a stretch to apply this reasoning to the "3d print your own receiver" person who makes a printable file available for download.

Can we expect to see these folks get slammed for manufacturing w/o a license?

After all, you don't even need to load a receiver blank. Just print the file.
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Old April 23, 2013, 07:16 PM   #17
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Quote:
"ATF does claim that you need an FFL (manufacturing license) to engage in the 80 to 100 percent business operations - even if others are pushing the buttons and performing all the steps on your machine at your facility".
This is quoted from the link. It certainly implies to me that the salient point is the "business operations" - "even if others are pushing the buttons and performing all the steps"
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Old April 23, 2013, 07:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
This is quoted from the link. It certainly implies to me that the salient point is the "business operations" - "even if others are pushing the buttons and performing all the steps"
I realize this is BATF we're talking about, and that even when they're wrong, they're right, but I think they are misreading the law. If I rent a piece of equipment, load a piece of software or instructional code of my own sourcing, and run the program, how could the entity which rented the tool to me be held responsible for what I did with it? For all they know, I used it to make a chess set.

I think the issue really is that the company with the equipment has already got the program to finish the receiver in place, ready to go, and that basically a user is just an automaton pressing a button. I see a major distinction between the two, and would be somewhat optimistic in court if I ran my business this way and BATF came after me (and I had a hefty legal defense fund).
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Old April 24, 2013, 06:15 AM   #19
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There is also a difference between renting a machine and setting it up in your garage or basement, machining your receivers for personal use then sending the machine back versus going to a machine shop and using their equipment on the business premises. In the first case the business is a rental company and in the second it is a machining business.
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Old April 24, 2013, 08:30 AM   #20
csmsss
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Quote:
There is also a difference between renting a machine and setting it up in your garage or basement, machining your receivers for personal use then sending the machine back versus going to a machine shop and using their equipment on the business premises. In the first case the business is a rental company and in the second it is a machining business.
Have you ever seen one of these CNC mills? There's no way on earth you would be able to set it up on your own premises unless you already have the facilities a commercial shop would need.
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Old April 24, 2013, 08:38 AM   #21
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I think CNC machining has changed the whole landscape. If the final 20% of the work is done on a lathe and a Bridgeport, even if the machine has a digital read-out someone has to set the piece in the vise, crank the table up or down to the correct location, turn a wheel to set the depth of cut ... and read the blueprint to figure out what needs to be cut and by how much. If you want to do two receivers, you go through all the steps twice. If you want to do ten receivers, you go through all the steps ten times.

With CNC, all that is taken care of by whoever writes the program. There is no real "setup" -- just mounting the piece in the appropriate orientation in the machine, and pushing the button. So perhaps it comes down to who writes the program. If the major time expenditure to finish an 80% receiver by CNC is writing the program, then if I write the program, maybe I am doing 20 percent of the work. If Joe's AR-15 Shop wrote the program and all I'm doing is pushing a button, I don't see how I can claim I'm doing much of anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by csmsss
Have you ever seen one of these CNC mills? There's no way on earth you would be able to set it up on your own premises unless you already have the facilities a commercial shop would need.
The newest CNC machine at Caspian Arms is larger than my single-car garage. Not exactly do-it-yourself grade equipment.
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Old April 24, 2013, 09:09 AM   #22
Brian Pfleuger
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It would seem like you'd just need to learn to play their "game".

A group of guys get together, including the CNC programmer, and buy a bunch of 80% lowers. Each guy owns a percentage of every gun, including the programmer.

All the work is done and each person sells their ownership in all but one lower for 1 cent. The programmer, who may or may not actually want to own one, can sells his portion for a bit more.

How would that be illegal?
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Old April 24, 2013, 09:19 AM   #23
JimDandy
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How would that be illegal?
It may depend on the ownership of the CNC machine, and any revenue generated from its rental/use. In my drill press example, I didn't have anyone collecting rent on the Press.
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Old April 24, 2013, 09:51 AM   #24
Brian Pfleuger
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Then you include him too.
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Old April 24, 2013, 09:53 AM   #25
JimDandy
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him who? I would imagine if the guy who owned the CNC machine shared it with everyone free of charge, that would get you a lot closer to "playing their game"
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