On April 10, 2022, Attorney General Garland signed a Final Rule titled “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms” (“Final Rule”).  This 364 page document makes extensive revisions to the Code of Federal Regulations governing commerce in Firearms, including the regulations adopted pursuant to the Gun Control Act (“GCA”), the National Firearms Act, and the Arms Export Control Act.  Once this Final Rule is published in the Federal Register, the new regulations will go into effect in 120 days.  The following is only a brief summary of certain regulatory changes made by the Final Rule.  All federal firearms licensees must closely examine these new regulations and implement any business and/or policy changes necessary to ensure compliance.  We are available to assist in this regard – please contact us to discuss any individual questions or concerns that you may have regarding these comprehensive regulatory changes.
New Definition of a Firearm “Frame” or “Receiver”
The newly adopted regulations separately define the terms “frame” and “receiver” such that a “frame” specifically refers to the specified housing or structure of a handgun, and a “receiver” refers to the specified housing or structure of a “rifle, shotgun, or projectile weapon other than a handgun, or variants thereof.” In addition, specific definitions are provided for the frame/receiver for ten specific types of firearms to ensure that existing classifications of the part that is the frame or receiver for certain firearms, such as the lower receiver for AR-type firearms, remain in effect.
The Final Rule adds a new definition of a “[p]artially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver,” which includes, among other things, “a frame or receiver parts kit, that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver…”  However, this new definition excludes “a forging, casting, printing, extrusion, unmachined body, or similar article that has not yet reached a stage of manufacture where it is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon.”  This definition is designed to address the sale of what are known as “80% receivers” that are used to privately manufacture firearms for personal use without a serial number, and are referred to as “ghost guns.”  This new regulation is certain to cause confusion, because the ATF letter rulings defining what is, or is not, a frame or receiver based on the prior regulation will no longer be valid.  The new regulations make the determination of whether the piece at issue is, or is not, a frame or receiver contingent on whether it is possessed with physical items such as jigs or tools, and even written materials, such as instructions, guides and marketing materials.
New Definition of a “Firearm”
The Final Rule also changes the definition of a “firearm” itself to now include a “weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”  The term “readily” is also defined and includes six criteria to aid in determining whether the definition of “readily” is satisfied as to a particular firearm.  Furthermore, a new definition is added for a “privately made firearm” (PMF), and the Final Rule requires all federal firearms licensees to mark any PMFs that come into their possession with a unique serial number.  This will require dealers who may purchase firearms without a serial number (or who already have them in inventory) to mark them with a serial number, and most dealers do not have the necessary equipment to do so. 
New Retention Period for 4473 Forms
The Final Rule also requires federal firearm licensees to retain 4473 forms forever whereas current law only mandates a twenty year retention period.  Although the new rule allows 4473 forms that are older than twenty years to be stored at an off-site warehouse, that will not alleviate the burdens created by this rule change.  Most federal firearms licensees use paper 4473 forms and dealers that do a substantial amount of business will have thousands of new 4473 forms each year.  Corporations and limited liability companies have a perpetual duration, so they could have hundreds of thousands of 4473 forms over the course of their existence.  An off-site warehouse can solve some storage issues, but the licensee would have to go to the warehouse to retrieve 4473 forms that are older than twenty years when needed to respond to a trace request, and responses to trace requests are due within twenty-four hours.
The new regulations and definitions in the Final Rule will certainly be subject to court challenges and is already creating confusion in the firearms industry regarding how to comply.  Ensuring compliance with all federal firearms regulations – including the new regulations that will come into effect in the next few months – is of the utmost importance based on the Biden Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and its recent actions to revoke FFLs for violations that would have never previously justified a notice of revocation.
If you have any questions regarding compliance with the new regulations set forth in the Final Rule, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.