Posted: Jul 13, 2012 3:21 PM
Updated: Jul 13, 2012 3:35 PM
WESLACO - Federal agents are looking into cases of partially finished firearm parts that are showing up in the hands of Mexican cartels.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms issued a statement today in response to a story aired Thursday by CHANNEL 5 NEWS. The report was on what is commonly known as 80 percent lower receivers.
The parts require tooling by a skilled gunsmith and therefore are not considered part of a firearm, the ATF said. The metal piece can be bought and sold legally without a federal license.
To turn the metal piece into a firearm, a person needs to finish tooling it and assemble it with other parts like a trigger assembly, upper receiver and barrel.
The ATF said the metal piece does not meet the definition of a firearm and therefore is not regulated by them. However, if someone uses the piece to make a firearm and then transfers or sells the finished product, it would be a violation of federal law because it is illegal to manufacture firearms without a license.
The ATF statement also said that if someone tries to export an 80 percent lower receiver it would be a violation since it is a munitions part.
A vice president with the intelligence agency Stratfor said Thursday that the parts are becoming increasingly popular among Mexican drug gangs.
The ATF said the part have been in production for approximately 10 years. The spokesperson did not mention any ongoing investigations into the production or sale of the parts.