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Attorney General Eric Schmitt has challenged a proposed rule change from the federal government he said would exceed its authority and jeopardize manufacturers.

The proposed rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) would update the definition of a receiver, the part of a firearm that contains its firing mechanism. The current definition applies to single-framed firearms including shotguns and revolvers that were more prevalent at the time of its establishment nearly 50 years ago, while the new rule would extend ATF’s authority to cover receivers used in semi-automatic weapons.

Schmitt joined a coalition of 20 GOP state attorneys general on a letter to ATF Acting Director Marvin Richardson opposing the proposed changes last week.

“By sidestepping Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has far exceeded its authority as a federal agency, attempting to regulate unfinished metal parts,” Schmitt said. “This unconstitutional rule change infringes on Missourians and Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms and will likely put manufacturers and retailers out of business. It should be reversed immediately.”

The group pointed to an ATF study finding the change would force at least 35 businesses to close or scale down their activities, with the financial repercussions likely to exceed the bureau’s $1.1 million estimate, according to the coalition. The group also contended federal law allowed the bureau to regulate only complete firearms and receivers, with the exception of machine guns, a policy the proposal would violate.

Republican attorneys general from Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky also signed the letter.

The proposal is part of the Biden administration’s effort to crack down on gun violence, seeking to deter individuals from buying so-called “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that aren’t marked with commercial serial numbers. ATF seeks to regulate receivers in order to combat the issue, a move several Democratic attorneys general have advocated for.

“Ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for criminals and fueling the gun violence epidemic,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said earlier this year. “These DIY gun kits should be subject to the same background checks and qualifications as fully functioning firearms to prevent criminals who are not legally able to purchase or possess guns from getting their hands on these deadly, untraceable weapons.”

The bureau accepted public comments on the proposal over the last month. ATF will draft the final regulation based on feedback. Comments will be reviewed for 60 days before a final version is published.

Missouri has sparred with the federal government over firearm regulations several times over the past few months: The Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in on a lawsuit seeking to block the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) from going into effect last week. The department argued the law, which would declare federal regulations that could restrict gun ownership among law-abiding Missourians as “invalid” in the state, was “plainly unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.”

Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson have sounded off on the fight, saying they would not “stand by while the federal government tries to tell Missourians how to live our lives.”

Schmitt has also voiced his opposition to President Joe Biden’s appointment of David Chipman to lead ATF, a nomination that’s still awaiting congressional approval. Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, has opposed the federal government several times over the past year, challenging everything from election security to environmental policy.

Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.

Contact Cameron at cameron@themissouritimes.com.

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