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Conscientious Gun Owner Mistakenly Makes An Illegal SBR?

This article was originally posted on Thefirearmblog.com

After recent events in Florida, Scott-Dani Pappalardo decided that his AR-15 is one too many and decided to get rid of it. In a very public forum, he cut the gun in half with a chop saw. Unbeknownst to him, he may have just committed a felony and made an illegal SBR.

For those who cannot see his Facebook video, here is a repost on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIxWPuNFfk

Let us skip over why Mr. Pappalardo felt the need to do this–it is his gun and he can do whatever he wants with it. The problem is how he did it. He simply cut the barrel, handguard, and gas tube with a chop saw. By doing that he made the barrel shorter and thus potentially made an illegal SBR.  We all know what he was trying to do but it doesn’t change the fact that is still a gun and it is still actually functional.

Insert a magazine with some 5.56 and it will fire the first round. Rack the charging handle and it will be ready to fire again. It is a bolt action. If he were to throw in a .22LR conversion bolt with the compatible magazine, it would return to a semi-auto firearm, albeit a short-barreled one. Replace the upper receiver and it will work just fine–the original functionality was only impacted by cutting the gas tube.

At some point, after this video was made, he cut the actual receivers.

AR-15 cut into three pieces but still an illegal SBR

Unfortunately, this is still not the correct way to dispose of a firearm. I was unable to find the proper method for destroying a firearm but I was able to find these guides for destroying a machine gun, and presumably, the method of destruction is the same.

The purpose of this procedure is to destroy the receiver or frame in a manner that will prevent its function and future use as a firearm. A proper method of destroying this firearm is to cut the receiver into separate pieces as follows. All cutting must be done with a cutting torch having a tip of sufficient size to displace at least ¼ inch of material at each location.

  • Each cut must completely sever the receiver in the area indicated by the diagonal lines.
  • The receiver must be completely severed in each area indicated with a diagonal torch cut.
  • Cutting by means of a band saw or cut-off wheel does not ensure destruction.

Note: Alternate methods of destruction defining the proposed procedure must be submitted in writing to the ATF Firearms Technology Branch for review and approval prior to implementation.

According to the ATF website, what Mr. Pappalardo did is insufficient which is where it crosses into potentially becoming an illegal SBR. He only cut the barrel and later he cut the receivers in half with a chop saw. He needed to have used a torch. I was told by my friend Bryan S. that this is to help make it more difficult in reassembling the gun–you can’t simply re-weld it back together.

I did find a website that goes over scrapping firearms although it seems to be from the perspective for manufacturers and FFL holders. For those interested, there are specific steps to disposing and scrapping firearms.

. . .scrap is accountable.  At some point the firearm or frame/receiver was either acquired, bought, or it was manufactured.  Therefore, it should have a corresponding entry into your A&D Book.  Well, since it is listed as an acquisition; once the firearm is destroyed it needs to be disposed of in your A&D Book too.  Some things to consider when recoding the destruction:

  • Before you cut, shear, crush i.e. destroy your firearm, you should first record the firearms placed into your scrap bin on a scrap log or a to-be-destroyed log.
    • This is a list of the firearm Make, Model, Serial Number, Type, Caliber/Gauge, and the date it was entered into the bin.
  • On scrap day, this list should be validated against the physical firearms for verification prior to scrap; and once scrapped should be used to make the appropriate dispositions into the A&D Book.
  • The A&D Book should be populated almost immediately after the destruction to ensure accuracy.
  • Another detail to pay attention to is making sure that your A&D Book accurately reflects the firearm type at the time of destruction.
    • If you are disassembling a firearm and only scrapping the frame or receiver, then you’re A&D Book must first reflect the change in form prior to the final scrap disposition.
  • Lastly, when destroying an NFA firearm, be sure to prepare a letter to the NFA Branch, informing them of the destruction and requesting that they amend your National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record to remove the NFA items scrapped.

While we agree that no firearm should really be destroyed, if you want to dispose of one there are proper ways to do so. You can contact your local ATF office and ask for guidance. You can take it to your local police station, but please notify them ahead of time (obviously don’t just walk into a police station with a firearm).  Or you can surrender it to your local FFL.

Firearms are, with some exceptions, serialized items, and to properly dispose of one, you should take the proper steps, making sure you are in compliance with the applicable laws. Don’t just arbitrarily start chopping it apart and risk making an illegal SBR.

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