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Page AR-15 » Build It Yourself
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Posted: 4/26/2003 10:15:53 AM EDT

I had a scary conversation with my favorite local FFL recently.  I wanted to order a stripped lower and build myself nice plinker.  He wouldn't sell me a lower, "I don't do those anymore", he said.


Becuase, according to him, if you build an AR (or any gun) yourself from parts, you are considered legally to be the manufacturer of that gun.  And as the manufacturer, if the gun ever blows up on someone or is used in a crime, you will be in the chain of liability when the multi=million dollar lawsuit is filed.

This scares the crap out of me.  Sure, the probability of someone using a gun you built yourself to commit a crime is small... but what if?  What if it was stolen?  Or of you died and your family sold it off?  

Does anyone know the legal facts about this situation?  

If you build it yourself, must you never sell it?

My FFL dealer's advice was, buy a complete gun, then swap whatever parts out you want, and sell the surplus.

Link Posted: 4/26/2003 11:36:46 AM EDT
My advice is find a new FFL.
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 11:50:23 AM EDT
can a lower blow up?... I don't see how

I guess the back of the lower could break, but my guess is that the stock, buffer, spring, and bolt would land on the ground in front of you.
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 12:00:07 PM EDT
I agree....find a new FFL.
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 12:03:18 PM EDT
The manufacturer of the gun has to be the one that built the lower.  If you put it together from a lower that was built by someone else, you're not the manufacruter.
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 8:02:16 PM EDT
Gonna differ on this. ANYTIME you modify or build ANYTHING, you become, at least in part, the manufacturer. I face this every day in my business either by decisions we make in the shop, or changes in our products our customers make. As I/we aren't big fans of having the EPA shut our doors, we keep out business to REAL near the letter of the law.

I don't understand HIS choice, but you do have to keep in mind YOUR liability as manufacturer.
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 9:07:58 PM EDT
First ,find a new FFL. Second, don't engrave you'r name on the reciever. Third, stop freakin out ! Thats what the ANTI-GUN's want you to do !!!
Link Posted: 4/26/2003 9:48:25 PM EDT
In this case the term "manufacturer" is defined by the ATF, and they define it as the person who creates the receiver for sale or distribution.

But he just wants to sell you a whole rifle. Time to find a new FFL.
Link Posted: 4/27/2003 5:10:22 PM EDT
If you assemble an AR from a lower and a parts kit, you are the manufacturer.

But... if you do a trigger job on your hunting rifle, later sell it, and it blows up, you'd be liable as well.

Don't worry about it, or don't sell your 'homebuilts'.

If you want to do it, you'll have to get another FFL, though - since your current one says he won't do it anymore.
Link Posted: 4/27/2003 6:58:37 PM EDT
In this case the term "manufacturer" is defined by the ATF, and they define it as the person who creates the receiver for sale or distribution.

But he just wants to sell you a whole rifle. Time to find a new FFL.
View Quote

He nailed this one.

Whoever you got the lower from is the manufacturer.
Link Posted: 4/28/2003 5:08:18 PM EDT
In this case the term "manufacturer" is defined by the ATF, and they define it as the person who creates the receiver for sale or distribution.

But he just wants to sell you a whole rifle. Time to find a new FFL.
View Quote

He nailed this one.

Whoever you got the lower from is the manufacturer.
View Quote

Nope - ATF specifically defines the act of assembling into a complete firearm, a lower receiver which has never before been assembled and a parts kit, as manufacturing under the law - specifically because no excise tax was paid by the "original manufacturer" on a stripped or otherwise incomplete lower sold in interstate commerce.
Link Posted: 4/28/2003 5:15:09 PM EDT
I stand corrected (I think). [:)]

I figured you didn't 'manufacture' the rifle since the lower is the 'gun'.

Edit: then wouldn't you be the manufacturer if you got a gun, less a necessary compenent, say the firing pin, and then just dropped that in?
Link Posted: 4/28/2003 5:27:32 PM EDT
Only an FFL holder can "manufacture" a gun.
Link Posted: 4/28/2003 7:33:19 PM EDT
This really needs to be moved to the legal section, for we are really discussing the legal definition of "manufacturer" of firearms at this point. So we really should be looking at the law, instead of arguing over personal definitions.
No one has cited it yet, so:

[url=http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/921.html]18 USC 921 Definitions[/url]
Sec. 921. - Definitions
(a) (3) The term ''firearm'' means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon;
{the law continues to define various "firearms" such as rifles(7), SBR's (6), shotguns(5), pistols (29), semiautomatic rifles(28) and semiautomatic assault rifles(30)}

(10) The term ''manufacturer'' means any person engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms or ammunition for purposes of sale or distribution; and the term ''licensed manufacturer'' means any such person licensed under the provisions of this chapter.
(21) The term ''engaged in the business'' means - (A) as applied to a manufacturer of firearms, a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to manufacturing firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the sale or distribution of the firearms manufactured;
(22) The term ''with the principal objective of livelihood and profit'' means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominantly one of obtaining livelihood and pecuniary gain, as opposed to other intents, such as improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection: Provided, That proof of profit shall not be required as to a person who engages in the regular and repetitive purchase and disposition of firearms for criminal purposes or terrorism.

That said, the manufacturer is the one who actually made the lower receiver, serial numbered it and put their name on it (both are requirements of manufacturers under 27 CFR Sec. 178.92  [url=http://squid.law.cornell.edu:90/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=27&PART=178&SECTION=92&TYPE=TEXT]How must licensed manufacturers and licensed importers identify firearms[/url].  
You don't need a license to be a manufacturer-- hence the market for 80% castings.  You just can't "engage in the business of manufacturing ("sell") the castings once you complete them without satifying the definitions above.
See [url=]18 USC 922 Unlawful Acts[/url]
Sec. 922. - Unlawful acts
(a) It shall be unlawful - (1) for any person -
(A) except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or in the course of such business to ship, transport, or receive any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce;

ASSEMBLY of semiautomatic firearms is restricted only in the use of certain types and numbers of imported parts
See [url=http://squid.law.cornell.edu:90/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=27&PART=178&SECTION=39&TYPE=TEXT]27 CFR 178.39[/url]
and in conjunction with the 1994 Crime Bill limits on post-ban semiautomatic assault weapons found at 18 USC 921(a)(30), linked above.

These are the legal facts.
Your FFL dealer was not correct.

For liability, there has to be negligence and proximate cause, or strict liability.
Neither of which attaches to a firearms sale by someone other than a dealer(for negligent sale in some states) or manufacturer. Especially on a private sale "as is/ no warrantee". States may differ on the strict liability, but I think its preempted by federal law, and a new, tougher law protecting manufacturers is in the loop-- see postings here on the General Discussion board.

Sorry for the long post, but the law really needed to be discussed.

My $.01 (50% discount for board members)

Cheers, Otto
Link Posted: 4/28/2003 8:09:21 PM EDT
Thanks Otto, good information.

All that being said, what do you all think, about selling guns that you have built from parts?  

Are you worried that if it was misused in the future, or blew up and blinded someone, that you might be dragged into court, since the serial number can be traced to you through the manufacturer-ffl-you chain?  You may not be strictly liable, in a product liability sense, but you could be named in a lawsuit none-the-less.

"Are you a licensed gunsmith, Mr. Smith, that you felt you could assemble a deadly puppy killing assault weapon, which blew up and blinded my client, Mr. E. Deeotte?"

I have thought of a way around this problem, which is sure to work: don't sell complete rifles.  If you are done with a gun that you built, sell the lower stripped, and the upper separately.  No gun, no problem, right?

Link Posted: 4/28/2003 9:09:57 PM EDT
If you are worried about it regarding an assembly of yours, "don't sell complete rifles" sounds good to me.

I haven't thought about it much, for I only buy weapons, and haven't thought of selling any that I've assembled or modified.

Glad the above helped,
Cheers, Otto
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 5:20:09 AM EDT
If you are done with a gun that you built, sell the lower stripped, and the upper separately. No gun, no problem, right?
View Quote

I think (but I'm not a lawyer) that if you  disassembled the rifle back down to the same condition that you bought it (as a kit), and sold it as a kit, you wouldn't necessarily have to sell them separately.  You're still not selling a rifle, you're selling a kit, putting the assembly (manufacturing liability)responsibility on the new owner.

All that being said, I also feel that in today's letigious society, eventually it will come to a point that if you legally sell any firearm, whether you built it or not, you will be named in lawsuits as partially liable.  The handwriting is on the wall.  Soon, (I'm praying) the anti-gun grabbers won't be able to sue the gun manufacturers.  The next logical step is to target anyone involved in any transaction.  Look out all you FFL guys.  The individual gun dealers are already on the list.

Sorry to be so pessimistic.  But to me, things are getting worse, not better.
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 5:47:00 AM EDT
Hello Everyone!
I am new at this stuff so please bear with me. I have been looking into the issues of building my own weapon from an 80% or less lower, and I found out some interesting info. It seems that the BATF says that you can build your own weapon from an 80% or less lower, shoot it all you want, and come time to sell it, you keep the lower and sell everything else, unless you pay the MAKE tax, $200 bucks, and serialize it. Then you DO become liable! Otherwise just selling parts is exactly that. All of this info has been gathered up over the span of 2 moths or research from various sites. The BATF,etc.
This is the BEST site too guys! Keep up the EXCELENT work!
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 4:34:06 PM EDT
There is no making tax unless you're building an NFA firearm, like a short-barrel rifle, AOW or (if you could get approval, which you can't) a machinegun.

Assembling a never before assembled lower to a parts kit is manufacturing.  A private unlicensed individual can do it, provided it's for personal use, and not built for the purpose of resale.

An 01 FFL (dealer) cannot legally buy stripped lowers and parts kits, and put them together, to offer them for sale, because that's engaging in business as a manufacturer, without a manufacturing license.

No manufacturer will sell you a lower and parts kit in the same transaction, because they'd be required by ATF to pay excise tax upon the complete firearm (in knockdown condition) represented by the lower and kit.
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 4:46:32 PM EDT
I'm not a lawyer either, but my lawyer is. I had him look into this since I bought a bare lower a ways back and am just about ready to order a kit. His advice was that "the entity that affixes the serial number is the manufacturer of record." This is, of course, would be on the stripped lower receiver. However, he went on to say, although the "kit" has been determined by the BATF to be a "non-gun" if ANY modifications from "stock assembly" are made the liability goes to the assembler. Stay safe and READY, Dan
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 4:59:28 PM EDT
Their is an excise tax if you manufacture a firearm for sale even if it is not an NFA firearm.  If you are not an licensed  manufacturer, don't worry about that tax because you can't legally manufacture firearms for sale anyway.  You are only manufacturing a firearm for your own collection without the intent to sell.

The reason buying a complete lower receiver and upper assembly separate is cheaper than the whole assembled gun, is because the company(ex. Bushmaster) doesn't have to pay the tax(I think its 11%) on selling a new complete firearm.  
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 5:01:30 PM EDT
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 7:25:22 PM EDT
Thank you CAMPYBOB! Lower aside, if one assembles most ANYTHING, in the eyes of the law, he becomes the manufacturer. Do a faulty brake job on your car and see if you don't end up in court. Modify anything in any way, and you assume a roll as a manufacturer. I deal with this in emissions/EPA laws almost every day. The lower (or whatever) has some liability, but they are NOT responsible for wht you do with it once in your hands.
Link Posted: 4/29/2003 7:39:19 PM EDT
This is BS.  I give a rat's ass.  The author is a troll...and so's rangerfreak.  Nobody's going to sue you.  Put the crack pipe down or don't sell your damn weapons.

First posts my rear end......[:K]

Link Posted: 4/30/2003 3:43:08 AM EDT
Link Posted: 4/30/2003 5:46:08 AM EDT
The original question was that of liability, not maker or manufacturer. I would expect that one who assembles a kit and lower receiver is no more or less liable if the defective weapon is sold and results in injury than someone who purchases a defective bushmaster, then sells it and finds that the subsequent owner has a similar injury. In the strict sense of product liability law, if the product is defective, and you had posession of it, you potentially share some of that liability. The amount of liability depends on the state laws, the jury, etc. The argument that your assembled weapon was not defective is probably tougher to make than bushmaster's, given the relative volumes and expertise.

Certainly the amount of time and usage that passes between the transfer from the assembler to the injured owner and the resulting injury would have some bearing on the jury's assessment of negligence and whether the weapon is truly defective. If you sell a gun you assembled, a resulting injury that occurs next week will be far worse than one that occurs in 5 years.

Let's face it though, by choosing to own firearms, we are exposing ourselves to a higher level of liability. If the trade-off is important to you, keep the guns and maintain appropriate personal liability insurance. Ignoring or denying the liability issues is probably irresponsible gun ownership.
Link Posted: 4/30/2003 5:58:52 AM EDT
hey 82ndabn......
1st off, anyone wishing to read what I have read, go to this web address...
sgtfreedom.com/misc/faq/atf_letter.html and read it and do the homework on the references it makes to the different laws as to the tax etc.
2nd... I may be a troll...what is it to you?
3rd... it is your rear end you are speaking from because if you would have looked you would have seen that it WAS my very first post!BTW, this is my 4th post. Just thought I should point that out for ya.
Link Posted: 4/30/2003 11:31:21 AM EDT
hey 82ndabn......
1st off, anyone wishing to read what I have read, go to this web address...
sgtfreedom.com/misc/faq/atf_letter.html and read it and do the homework on the references it makes to the different laws as to the tax etc.
2nd... I may be a troll...what is it to you?
3rd... it is your rear end you are speaking from because if you would have looked you would have seen that it WAS my very first post!BTW, this is my 4th post. Just thought I should point that out for ya.
View Quote

Alright.  I apologize.  I shouldn't jump the gun like that.  Its just that this definitely wouldn't be the first time this sort of thing happened.  People show up and start asking, "Is it legal to do this?" or "is it illegal if I do that?"  We get enough of that around here.  And 9 out of 10 times its a damn troll.

So, if I made a mistake then, I apologize and take it back.

By the way.  You aren't the one that sent me the "fuck you, you better shut up" email, are you?  I would hope not.  That's evidence of a childish mind in itself.

Have a nice day, everyone.

Link Posted: 4/30/2003 3:33:51 PM EDT
hello again 82ndabn,
Apologies from me too. We all get the wrong impressions from time to time.
I can only imagine some of the traffic that goes thru here!

In answer to your question about the mail you were refering too, Nope, not me. Has someone been on here before with the same username I have now? If so I will be glad to change it to something else so as to avoid any more confusion. I am one who just doesnt like going around causing trouble. It makes it bad on everyone in the long run!

I would rather not say anything if it is going to make enemys with everyone.Makes for a very unpleasant time online and from what I have seen around here, that is not what you guys are about. You guys rock![hail2]
Link Posted: 4/30/2003 3:56:58 PM EDT
I'm always happy to make amends - especially if I was the cause of the problem.

I sincerely hope you enjoy your time here and I'd like to encourage you to come back often.

This really is a great place with great people.  And I know with you coming back, it'll only be better.

Link Posted: 5/2/2003 9:00:11 AM EDT
My message is this...........

If there was ever a lawsuit involving a gun either you assembled or that you sold any attorney would go for the entity with the "deepest pockets" and Insurance liability.

what good is a multi-million dollar lawsuit
if your only going to be able to collect $100 week partial payments...............

Use your heads folks and as always follow the money
Link Posted: 5/2/2003 11:39:02 AM EDT
Would the FFL be liable if he handled the transfer of a well used gun from one owner to another?  Well, it is the same situation.  He is no more liable for the transfer of a lower than for any other firearm.  He is accepting a fee for a transfer.  If he won't do it, someone else will.
Link Posted: 5/2/2003 12:49:34 PM EDT
I say, "Sue me."  I'm not worth more than a couple of hundred dollars...  [;)]

We don't have debtor's prisons in the US: Sue me, sue me, sue me!  You can't get blood from a stone!

As for a more serious answer, I think it's time to find a new FFL.  I was asked by a local FFL why I wanted to build instead of buy a "reliable complete AR," and I said "for the experience, and the pleasure."  He asked me if I was a gunsmith, and I said, "No, but I have half a brain and I'm mechanically inclined."  He wasn't happy: he KNEW that once I built my first AR, I'd never buy a complete AR again.  A few weeks later, I went back into his shop, and what's he doing?  Building his own AR.  I asked him why he was doing that and not just taking a "reliable complete AR" off the shelf, and he said that since he's a gunsmith, it's okay for him to enjoy putting them together.

Find a new FFL.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  Shoot and have fun.  Share your fun with others.  Enjoy life; it's too short to worry about POSSIBLE litigation.
Link Posted: 5/2/2003 2:18:09 PM EDT
I talked to a lawyer today, a fellow member of the NRA, who was recommended by a local guru.

The lawyer stated that as far as liability was concerned, yes, I could be sued if I built a gun and then it either blew up and hurt someone or was used in a crime.  However, it would not be sensible to sue me, he said, becuase I have very little money compared to a company such as Bushmaster or Olympic Arms.  Most likely, the reason the FFL dealer didn't want to sell me the receiver was that he didn't want to be involved in the chain himself, and probably he wanted the profit of selling a complete rifle as well.

THe lawyer recommended that if I was concerned about it, the best thing would be just to sell the gun in pieces if I wanted to get rid of it.

I have located a local FFL who would be happy to order a lower for me, and I will go ahead and build the gun.  
Link Posted: 5/3/2003 7:47:08 PM EDT
as an individual, you may legally "manufacture" one firearm per year for your personal use (not for immediate resale).
View Quote

Can you provide a link. I have never read this type of info....One firearm per year stuff.

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