An 80 percent lower, blank receiver, or, as some critics refer to them as, “ghost guns,” are not technically firearms, according to the federal government and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Unfortunately, some states, including Washington, do not see it that way.
In the eyes of local and state governments throughout the state of Washington, an 80 percent rifle or lower must be heavily regulated or outright banned. At least, that is seemingly their goal.
Here is what you need to know about 80% firearms in Washington.
What is an 80 Percent Receiver?
We will use the definition set forth by the ATF, as their word is technically law. According to their definition, an 80 percent receiver, or blank receiver, is:
“80% receiver,” “80% finished,” “80% complete,” and “unfinished receiver” are all terms referring to an item that some may believe has not yet reached a stage of manufacture that meets the definition of firearm frame or receiver found in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). These are not statutory terms or terms ATF employs or endorses."
In layman’s terms, an 80% receiver is an unfinished receiver. It is only 80 percent complete, hence the name. To construct a working AR-15, you need to cut and mill the last 20%. Then, once your job is done, the blank receiver becomes a stripped lower receiver; a firearm, according to the ATF.
It is all too confusing, and states like Washington enacting their regulations muddies the waters even further.
Did Washington Ban 80% Lowers?
Well, neither will disarming law abiding citizens so they can't defend themselves...
They are certainly trying to ban 80 percent lowers in Washington. On April 23, 2019, the state legislators passed a bill prohibiting the manufacture and sale of what they call “untraceable firearms,” or 80 percent lowers turned firearms.
Their goal is also to stop 3D-printed firearm schematics and firearms in Washington.
Washington’s HB 1739
The bill, known as HB 1739, was introduced on March 4, 2019. The Senate passed it on April 16. On May 7, the Washington Governor signed a law, which took effect on July 1, 2019.
This bill affects 80 percent lowers, polymer firearms, 3D-printed firearms, schematics, and the AR-15 as a whole. Here is what is the bill says:
“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."
How Does Bill 1739 Affect AR-15s in Washington?
As of this writing, Washington has not yet officially banned 80% lowers. They are still legal to purchase, own, and finish. However, you cannot manufacture an AR-15 from an 80 percent lower to sell the completed rifle. Yet, that same regulation is set in stone via federal law, as put forth by the ATF. Washington is not breaking new ground here.
So how does this all work? Because an 80 percent lower is not technically a firearm, it does not fall under Washington’s regulations regarding “untraceable firearms.”
So long as you build an 80 percent lower for personal use, with zero intent to sell, then you are golden in Washington.
But wait, there is more to consider here. Washington did, however, ban the manufacture and possession of polymer 80% lowers. To be legal, a polymer lower would require a total of 3.7 ounces of steel, which it does not have in Washington.
If you want to build an AR-15 using a blank receiver, you will need to forego polymer and only use steel or aluminum lowers.
As of right now, Washington Governor Jay Inslee hopes to sign six other gun bills limiting or outright blocking the sale or possession of firearms in the state.
For the time being, you are well within your rights to purchase and construct an AR-15 using an 80% lower, so now is your chance to grab one before Washington bans their sale and possession for good!