Shannon Watts wants to know what’s in your wallet. Even more, she wants what’s in your wallet to decide what you can buy.
Michael Bloomberg’s front woman for his bought-and-paid-for gun control group Moms Demand Action is demanding credit card companies monitor and police cardholder purchases. Specifically, she wants credit card companies to ban purchases of precursor firearm parts. Watts derides them as so-called “ghost guns” and wants to ban their sale. Her claim is that the ATF recovered 10,000 of these “ghost guns” last year, but those included firearms with obliterated serial numbers and older firearms not legally required to serialized.
Here’s the problem. It’s perfectly legal for anyone who can buy a gun to build their own at home. She’s stomping her foot and demanding that credit card companies do what tech companies are doing. She wants them to dictate law and to be the arbiters of what’s legal, of what’s allowed and what rights law-abiding citizens can exercise.
Can I Buy a Law?
Watts proposes in a Business Insider op-ed that credit card companies deny purchases of precursor firearm parts. She points to a lawsuit that her partner gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety brought against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to force them to regulate 80 percent unfinished receivers as firearms.
She conveniently ignores that the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss in a related and coordinated lawsuit filed by Giffords and the California Attorney General. ATF will soon file for summary judgment in the Everytown case. Among the several reasons the DOJ seeks to dismiss the case is the fact that a receiver blank is not a receiver under the law.
Once a firearm receiver crosses the so-called “80 percent” threshold for being finished, manufacturers are required by the law and ATF regulations to serialize the receiver because, under the law, it is a “firearm.” Everytown’s lawsuit wants to force ATF to define a “frame or receiver” as any part “that is designed, intended, or marketed to be used in an assembled, operable firearm.”
Everytown’s definition would mean that a forging or billet, a solid un-machined block of metal with no holes drilled in it, that a manufacturer would purchase from a supplier, would itself be a “firearm” requiring the raw material supplier to have an ATF manufacturing license and mark and serialized the forging or billet with its name, location and a serial number. This, of course, is not what the Gun Control Act requires.
As ATF explains in moving to dismiss the Giffords case, “Congress has defined “firearm” with specificity as, inter alia, “(A) any weapon . . . which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” or “(B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” In doing so, Congress changed the prior definition to explicitly exclude “‘any part or parts’ of a firearm,” other than a receiver…. A receiver blank may not “readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” is not “designed to . . . expel a projectile” in and of itself and is not itself a “receiver.” It is therefore not a “firearm” within the meaning of the statute.”
The ATF explains that a “receiver” is “[t]hat part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel” and how it determines when something is readily convertible. A forging and so-called “80 percent receivers” are clearly not readily convertible to fire a projectile and so therefore not a frame or receiver of a firearm.
Home-built firearms have always been legal. Even before the founding of our nation, Americans were building and assembling firearms in their homes for their private use. This is perfectly legal and is the practice predominantly of hobbyists.
The overwhelming majority of firearms in the United States are bought through retail purchases, which are completed with a face-to-face transfer and completed FBI background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This happened 21 million times last year.
Watts ignores that those who can’t buy a gun at retail also are barred from building and possessing a home-built firearm. If a person is prohibited from buying a firearm at retail, they are also prohibited from possessing a home-built firearm. If a person builds their own firearm at home and sells those firearms to be “in the business” of making and selling a firearm, they must obtain a license from the ATF. Being “in the business” without a license is a felony.
Watts attempts to make the case that there’s a precedent for credit card companies to take active role with the abhorrent comparison of lawful firearm ownership with sex trafficking and pornography. Watts’ ham-fisted attempt to denigrate law-abiding citizens is as crude as her comparison. It shows that there is no brush too wide for her to use to tar the reputation of law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Watts also shows that there’s no idea she’s not willing to co-opt to achieve her gun control agenda. This isn’t the first time the idea of having credit card companies police Americans’ private purchases was floated. New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin pitched the idea in 2018. He attempted to publicly shame credit card companies for the horrific crimes committed by deranged individuals.
Spokespersons for both Visa and Mastercard rejected this idea then. They would be wise to do it again.
Michael Bloomberg, who writes the check for Watts’ Moms Demand, infamously admitted during a town hall even during his failed presidential bid that he had no problem being protected by guns. After all, he’s rich. But Bloomberg has never had an issue with telling others how to live their lives. Now, he’s got Watts selling his bad ideas of getting credit card companies to climb on board with his big brother gambit.
Watts might be playing from an outdated playbook, though. This year is different. More than 8.4 million people who never owned a gun before 2020 now have one in their possession. The likelihood of those people buying guns that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in wads of cash is unlikely. They bought them with a credit card.
Guns are just today’s cause du jour. After big tech colluded to silence dissent online, it’s not a stretch to see when those bankrolling these cancel culture campaigns move on from gun control and deny the ability to buy a fossil-fuel-powered car or purchase red meat or any other grievance they become offended by. It took a judge to stop Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban in New York City.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.