Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, have begun confiscating gun parts known as drop-in auto sears, or DIAS. A DIAS is a simple toggle device which, when installed in an AR-type rifle, along with several other critical fire-control parts, can convert a semi-auto AR into a full-auto assault rifle. The devices were originally unregulated, but in 1981 ATF declared them to be machine guns if possessed in conjunction with the other parts needed to make a conversion, but the agency made their new determination apply only to DIASes manufactured after Nov. 1, 1981. Now ATF is apparently using the records of a man who openly sold the devices for decades to track down purchasers and take their property as contraband – with the real possibility of then prosecuting those people.
One of the reasons gun owners tend to be completely opposed to the passage of any new gun laws – no matter how innocuous or reasonable seeming – is the erratic history of interpretation and enforcement of the current gun laws. This is also why I cringe every time I hear someone who supposedly supports gun rights – from politicians to the head of the NRA – calling for the feds to “enforce the laws already on the books.” The fact is, the gun laws that are already on the books are a labyrinth of confusion and booby-traps full of open-ended mandates, ambiguous definitions and unbridled bureaucratic discretion. Many innocent people have had their lives and livelihoods completely destroyed when federal agencies have decided to “enforce the laws already on the books.”