Did Washington just ban 80% lowers and polymer 80% gun kits? On April 23, 2019, Washington legislators passed a bill that prohibits the manufacture and possession of “untraceable firearms” and “undetectable” 3D-printed guns. Washington is also trying to stop 3D-printed firearm schematics from being downloaded, bought, or sold in Washington state. Bill HB 1739 was introduced March 4th and passed by the Senate on April 16.
The Governor of Washington signed the law on May 7th, with an effective date (for parts of the bill) of July 1st, 2019.
How does it affect you, the at-home AR builder?
What does Washington’s HB 1739 say?
There’s a lot of confusion going around about how this bill may affect the 80 percent lower, polymer firearms built at home, and the AR-15 in general. Here’s the legal stuff straight from the bill itself:
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to:
(a) Manufacture, own, buy, sell, loan, furnish, transport, or have in possession or under control, any machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle;
(b) Manufacture, own, buy, sell, loan, furnish, transport, or have in possession or under control, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for use in a machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle, or in converting a weapon into a machine gun, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle;”
(c) Assemble or repair any machine gun, bump-fire stock, undetectable firearm, short-barreled shotgun, or short-barreled rifle; or
(d) Manufacture an untraceable firearm with the intent to sell the untraceable firearm.”
What is does untedectable and untraceable mean?
The legislation also spells out what an “undetectable” and “untraceable” firearm means:
“Undetectable firearm means any firearm that is not as detectable as 3.7 ounces of 17-4 PH stainless steel by walk-through metal detectors or magnetometers commonly used at airports or any firearm where the barrel, the slide or cylinder, or the frame or receiver of the firearm would not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the part when examined by the types of X-ray machines commonly used at airports.”
“Untraceable firearm means any firearm manufactured after July 1, 2019, that is not an antique firearm and that cannot be traced by law enforcement by means of a serial number affixed to the firearm by a federally licensed manufacturer or importer.”
How this affects the AR-15 in Washington
First, let’s look at the “untraceable firearm” piece. HB 1739 makes it illegal to manufacture with the intent to sell the untraceable firearm. This was already illegal per the Gun Control Act of 1968. Federal law always said you can build a gun at home, but only for personal use. You can’t intend to sell it. Doing so would make you a manufacturer – someone who need a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
80% lowers are still legal in Washington
Importantly, the legislation’s wording doesn’t outright ban “untraceable firearms”. Because 80% lowers aren’t considered firearms until they’re built, Washington’s new bill doesn’t directly affect their sale, shipment, or ownership.
As long as you’re building your 80% lower and AR-15 with no intent of selling it, you can still build one in Washington. The legislation passed doesn’t appear to cover 80 percent lowers at all, in fact – only the firearms built using them. This means you can still order an 80% lower and a jig.
Polymer 80% lowers may be illegal
Unfortunately, the wording in this legislation appears to trap the polymer 80% lower. Once an 80% lower is machined, it’s considered a firearm. The ATF even says so. But once machined, that polymer “firearm” will not have the necessary 3.7 ounces of steel present that the legislation requires to be legal.
And installing a lower parts kit won’t get the job done, either. A lower parts kit is not considered a firearm – only the stripped lower receiver is considered a firearm.
It looks for now, like building a lightweight, polymer AR-15 in Washington is now out of the question.
Washington isn’t done with new gun laws
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear WA Gov. Jay Inslee was content with only signing HB 1739. Below are six other gun bills recently ratified in the Pacific Northwest:
- HB 1465: Gun buyers with a concealed carry license will be subjected to an additional background check.
- HB 1786: Police may now confiscate guns from anyone with a restraining or protective order.
- SB 5027: Existing “Red Flag” laws (gun confiscation) will now be extended to juveniles under 18.
- SB 5181: Anyone placed under a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation will have their gun rights stripped for 6 months.
- SB 5205: Anyone with a history of violence and found incompetent to stand trial (but not committed) is now banned from firearm ownership.
- SB 5508: Concealed carry applications must now undergo a fingerprint-based background check via the FBI.