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Old December 3, 2014, 10:07 AM   #31
carguychris
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Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 7,523
OK, so why have I heard that I can't mail stripped serial-numbered rifle receivers, like AR lowers?
This issue is confusing because the postal regulations do not directly address a stripped receiver from a rifle or shotgun.

The key thing to understand is the term "firearm capable of being concealed on the person" as it's used in the postal regulations. From Publication 52, with my emphasis underlined:
Quote:
432.2 Handguns

Handguns and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person are nonmailable unless mailed between the parties listed in this section, after the filing of an affidavit or statement described in 432.22 or 432.24, and are subject to the following...
[The "parties listed in this section" are licensed firearms manufacturers, dealers, or importers, or certain military and government agencies, as discussed previously.]

Let's look a little closer at the definitions:
Quote:
431.2 Handguns

Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person (for example, short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles) are defined as handguns. The following definitions apply:
  1. Handgun (including pistols and revolvers) means any firearm which has a short stock, and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand and subject to 431.1, or a combination of parts from which a handgun can be assembled.
  2. Other firearms capable of being concealed on the person include, but are not limited to, short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles.
  3. Short-barreled shotgun means a shotgun that has one or more barrels less than 18 inches long. The term short-barreled rifle means a rifle that has one or more barrels that are less than 16 inches long. These definitions include any weapon made from a shotgun or rifle, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise, if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches. A short-barreled shotgun or rifle of greater dimension may be regarded as nonmailable when it has characteristics to allow concealment on the person.
Any "firearm capable of being concealed on the person" is considered equivalent to a handgun, including short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles. However, the definition is NOT limited to these types; the "catch-all" clause in 431.2.b ["...include, but are not limited to..."] says that OTHER types of concealable firearms are included too.

To clarify what IS mailable by a non-licensee, we need to examine what is NOT considered to be a "firearm capable of being concealed on the person":
Quote:
431.4 Rifles and Shotguns

A rifle is a shoulder weapon having a barrel that is 16 inches or more in length. A shotgun is a shoulder weapon having a barrel that is 18 inches or more in length. Rifles and shotguns have an overall length of 26 inches or greater and cannot be concealed on a person.
A rifle or shotgun is a "shoulder weapon" that "cannot be concealed on a person". Each is described as "having a barrel" of a certain length.
Quote:
432.3 Rifles and Shotguns

Except under 431.2, unloaded rifles and shotguns are mailable.
Clear enough.

In summary:
  • Receiver (or frame) + Shoulder Stock + Barrel[s] 16 Inches or Longer + Overall Length 26 Inches or Greater + Cannot be Concealed on a Person = Mailable Rifle
  • Receiver (or frame) + Shoulder Stock + Barrel[s] 18 Inches or Longer + Overall Length 26 Inches or Greater + Cannot be Concealed on a Person = Mailable Shotgun
If ALL of these elements are not in the package, and/or the overall length requirement is not met, the gun may be considered a "firearm capable of being concealed on the person" under the catch-all clause in 431.2.b. Thus, a stripped AR lower receiver is implicitly nonmailable, unless it's accompanied by all the other bits needed to make a mailable rifle.

While we're discussing this, what about a pistol grip (aka pistol-grip-only or PGO) shotgun, i.e. a two-handed shotgun without a buttstock?
A pistol grip shotgun is not a shoulder weapon, and additionally, some models have a barrel under 18 inches in length and/or an overall length under 26 inches. Thus, such a weapon would clearly NOT qualify as a mailable shotgun.

Whoa, hold on here, the Postal Service has it all mixed up. A handgun is NOT the same thing as a short-barreled rifle, because you don't need an NFA tax stamp for a handgun. The ATF has explicitly said that a pistol grip shotgun is neither a short-barreled shotgun nor a handgun, and the ATF does not classify a stripped AR-15 receiver that has never been previously assembled into a firearm as either a handgun or a long gun. Both a stripped rifle receiver and a pistol grip shotgun are an "Other Firearm", and it says so in the instructions on the Form 4473.
That's what the ATF says, but remember, the mails are NOT regulated by the ATF- they're regulated by the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS doesn't care what the ATF regulations say- they care what THEIR OWN regulations say (and vice versa).

This issue is easier to understand if you mentally set aside everything you know about ATF firearms regulations and examine the postal regulations at face value.

It doesn't make any sense to call a stripped receiver a "firearm capable of being concealed on the person" when there is no barrel in the package. An AR lower is just a metal shell! It can't fire a projectile by itself!
No, it really doesn't make sense in that respect, but you have to go with what the regulations say.

A post-1898 frame or receiver is broadly considered to be a firearm under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44 [specifically ยง 921(a)(3)(B)].

Any firearm that does NOT meet the definition of Rifle or Shotgun under Pub.52 431.4 is either implicitly or explicitly a "firearm capable of being concealed on the person" under 431.2, and is thus nonmailable by parties other than those listed in Pub.52 431.21 thru 431.25.

[IANAL disclaimers apply.]
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Last edited by carguychris; December 4, 2014 at 07:25 PM. Reason: OK, I broke my promise. :/
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