Pre-Ban or Post-Ban: More Than Just a Date

By Corey Sattler

It’s been a few years, and there is still confusion about what changed and what is legal since the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the 1994 Crime Bill. Many people just want to know if they have in their possession a pre-ban or a post-ban AR-15 type receiver. These are the questions that I probably hear more often than any other. Even firearm dealers don’t know sometimes, and I have talked to people who asked their local BATF agents what the determining factors are, and the agents are giving incorrect information. So what are the new regulations? Read on my friends...

The Crime Bill “restricts the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain ‘Semiautomatic Assault Weapons’.” So what, you say, is a “Semiautomatic Assault Weapon”? The law (Section 921 (a) (30), Title 18 U.S.C.) defines it as so:

1. Any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as;
* Norinco, Mitchell, Poly Technologies, Avtomat Kalashinikovs.
* Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI, Galil.
* Beretta Ar70 (SC-70).
* Colt AR-15
* Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, FNC.
* SWD M-10, M-11, M-11-9, M-12.
* Steyr AUG.
* Intratec TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22.
* revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12.

2. Any semiautomatic rifle that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of the following features:
* a folding or telescoping stock.
* a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
* a bayonet mount.
* a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor.
* a grenade launcher.

3. A semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of the following features:
* an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip.
* a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip or silencer.
* a shroud that is attached to, or par tially or completely encircles the bar rel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the non-trigger hand without being burned.
* a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded.
* a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm.

4. A semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of the following features:
* a folding or telescoping stock.
* a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
* a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds.
* an ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Of course, some of the features listed are already regulated by previous laws, and none of them make any real impact in the so-called “war against crime”, but there they are. Aren’t your elected officials great?

At this point you know what a Semiautomatic Assault Weapon (SAW) is defined as, but how do you determine what it is you have or what you can legally buy or make? What makes a gun “pre-ban?” What it all boils down to is when the firearm itself was built. The manufacture date of the lower receiver alone has virtually nothing to do with its classification as pre-ban. Edward M. Owen, Jr., Chief of the Firearms Technology Branch of the BATF, has this to say:

“Semiautomatic pistols and rifles assembled after September 13, 1994, and possessing two or more of the features listed in [Section 921 (a) (30), Title 18 U.S.C.] are semiautomatic assault weapons as defined. The fact that the receiver may have been manufactured prior to September 13, 1994, is immaterial to classification of a weapon as a semiautomatic assault weapon. Additionally, payment or non-payment of excise tax is also immaterial to classification of a firearm as a semiautomatic assault weapon.”

What he is reiterating is, as far as pre-ban and post-ban is concerned, the date of manufacture of the receiver has nothing to do with anything. If your SAW was built into a whole SAW, or in a complete kit form, before Sept. 13, 1994 (The Date), you are the lucky owner of a pre-ban receiver. Notice I say SAW. The existence of firearm alone is not enough - it had to be in a form that would now be illegal to manufacture. If the gun was built after The Date, if the receiver was without all of the parts to make a SAW before The Date, or if it was not in a SAW form before The Date, then it is post-ban. Let me give you a few examples to clarify this:

* John Q. Public bought himself an AR-15 receiver in 1988 and put it in his safe. In April 1997, he decided to build it into a rifle. Was it a SAW before The Date? No...so he has to build it into a POST-ban firearm.

* Mary Quite-Contrary buys an AR-15 lower from her dealer who purchased it 7 years ago, built it into a SAW 2 weeks later, and in January ’94 tore it apart to sell as components. Did she buy a pre-ban receiver? Yes. It was a SAW before the date, and is therefore pre-ban.

* Billy Bob finds a respectable dealer at a gun show that is selling “pre-ban AR pistol lowers.” The dealer says he bought them before “the Ban” and registered them as pistol lowers, but never built them into anything. Are they pre-ban? No way. Are they pistol lowers? Sure...just post-ban pistol lowers. As long as they don’t have two or more “Deadly Features” when they are built, they are legal.

* Fred Foosball buys a complete semiautomatic assault rifle kit in August 1994, but doesn’t assemble it until September 14, 1994. Is it a legal pre-ban rifle. Yes...it had all (and I mean ALL) of the pieces to make a complete SAW before The Date. BATF accepts this as a complete pre-ban rifle.

* Ax McGuitar purchases a Remington 1100 on July 4, 1994 for duck hunting that fall. A year later, he decides that he would like a pistol grip and folding stock added to make it a better home defense gun. Is this legal? No. The shotgun was complete before The Date, but it was not a SAW before The Date, and therefore cannot be modified to a SAW after The Date.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, it’s a bit puzzling at first. The basic rule of thumb to use is, if you are planning to buy a pre-ban gun or receiver, make sure that the person selling it to you can prove that it was built as a SAW (or in a complete kit form) on or before The Date. If he or she can’t do this, my best advice is do not buy it.

Many people also believe that a serial number can tell you whether or not a receiver is pre- or post-ban. This is not always the case, contrary to several lists that can be found online or at gun shows. For example, if a manufacturer’s books show a serial number as being manufactured on August 23, 1994, and also lists that serial number being shipped on September 3, 1994, is this a pre-ban receiver? Well, that information alone does not tell you. If the books only show when a serial number was made and left, you still don’t know how it was shipped. Was it a rifle? or a receiver only? did the dealer who purchased it have it as a SAW before The Date? These are all questions that are unanswerable with the provided information, so don’t go on these facts alone! Remember, you must know when the receiver was built into a firearm!

I hope that the foregoing has been responsive to any misconceptions you as the reader may have about pre-ban and post-ban receivers/guns/regulations. Please pass this information on to your friends, neighbors, local gunshops, or anywhere you feel this could be helpful. The more knowledge we all possess, the better off our sport (and sportsmen) will be. Until then, play nice and shoot straight!

About the author: Mr. Sattler is the current Director of Law Enforcement and Internet Sales, and previous Archival Records Manager for Olympic Arms, Inc. in Olympia, WA. He has been with the company since early 1993. He is also a Reserve Deputy Sheriff in a small Southwest Washington county.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N11 (August 1999)
and was posted online on March 4, 2016


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