It’s been less than a month since new federal rules took effect attempting to rein in the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns,” a catchall term for unserialized, home-built firearms that Democratic leaders, law enforcement officials, and gun control groups say are turning up in the hands of criminals across the United States.
But barely a few weeks into the new regulatory regime, the firearms industry has already adapted and scored an early legal victory. And gun enthusiasts have created and released open-source blueprints for a simple plastic tool that offers a relatively quick, easy—and apparently legal—workaround for anyone who still wants to build an untraceable weapon.
The tool, known as a jig, is designed to help with the assembly of the exact type of Glock-style pistol frames that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is trying to restrict. One version was posted by Ethan Middleton, a Wisconsin-based 3D-printed gun file designer known online as Middleton Made.
“It’s the biggest middle finger to the ATF,” Middleton told VICE News. “Whatever they’re going to do, we’re going to try to find a way around it.”
The new ATF rules, announced by President Joe Biden earlier this year, are largely aimed at “kit guns,” which include a pistol frame and other essential parts, including a jig and other tools for home assembly. When frames come only partially complete (“80 percent” finished, with some holes left undrilled), they are not legally considered firearms, meaning they do not require a serial number and could be purchased without a background check in most states.
The new rules say that when an unfinished frame or receiver is “distributed, or possessed with a compatible jig or template,” it can be considered a firearm under the law because it makes completing the build process faster and easier.
As a result, some retailers have responded by selling only the pistol frame alone, while others are selling kits that include the necessary parts and tools but no frame. Jigs are a common tool and factory-made versions are available online, but prices have climbed to over $100, making the 3D-printed version an extremely low-cost alternative.