On May 9, 2018, Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin issued his Report and Appendix on Pennsylvania State Trooper Bird’s justified use of force against an armed assailant in a Walmart parking lot. In both the Report and Appendix, it mentions on numerous occasions that the firearm utilized was previously a 80% frame – seemingly unaware that all firearms, at some point in the manufacturing process, are 80% complete. More disconcerting, DA Martin states that he will contact “Federal and State Legislators in the hope that corrective legislation may be promulgated” as this is a “a serious ‘loophole’ that should be closed by legislation at both the federal and state levels.” More specifically, he intends to call upon Federal and State Legislators to require 4473s and background checks on individuals, who wish to purchase firearm parts, as such would “not seem to [him] to be too burdensome.”
But was an 80% frame, manufactured by the suspect – Aaron Ibrahem – and later utilized by him in this incident? Or is there far more to the story? The Report and Appendix suggest that there is far more to the story and that DA Martin is using this opportunity for political grandstanding.
In turning to the last paragraph on page 5 and onto page 6 of the Report, several statements stand out to me.
The pistol which had been removed from Ibrahem’s lap by Trooper DelGaizo was later identified as a Polymer80, model: PF940V2, caliber: .40 S&W. This particular model is sold as a frame that is 80% complete in its manufacturing. The area that holds the fire control mechanisms is completely solid and does not qualify as a firearm under the definition of a firearm according to the BATF….[it] can be purchased without a background check or ATF E-Form 4473 being completed and filed at time of purchase.
This part is legally correct. Now, here’s where it gets interesting –
An E-Trace revealed that the firearm had been sold in Texas on March 20, 2018. The investigation revealed that the buyer had only purchased the lower polymer portion (the “frame” or “receiver”) of a Glock, without the upper portion and/or any trigger parts. (emphasis added)
Hold up, if this item was not a firearm at the time of purchase, an E-Trace would not yield any result, as the item would not constitute a firearm and it would be improper for an FFL to maintain any record or perform a background check in relation to a non-firearm. Thus, as of the time of sale in March of 2018, to an unknown buyer, the gun was a firearm and not an 80% frame. (I note that the incident with Trooper Bird occurred on March 28, 2018 and I question whether the date specified should reflect March 20, 2017 or whether the firearm made it from Texas to Pennsylvania and into the possession of Ibrahem in under 8 days).
And then it gets more interesting –
The purchase had been made from Spokane Archery in Washington State. The buyer had filled out an ATF E-Form 4473, as required, for the lower receiver.
Huh? The prior sentence said the firearm was sold in Texas, now it was sold in Washington State (it may be that the use of the word “sold” in the prior portion was actually intended to mean “transferred” whereby, the money to purchase the firearm was sent to Spokane Archery in Washington State and upon receipt, the firearm was sent to the FFL in Texas for transfer – however, the mention in the following sentence of a 4473 seemingly being complete by Spokane Archery makes this interpretation questionable). Regardless, we know that a 4473 was filled out “as required” because the frame was a firearm, not an 80% frame; thus, it was a firearm at the time that the suspect obtained it – a suspect who was already prohibited under 18 U.S.C 922(g) from receiving it and the person who transferred/sold it to the suspect was prohibited from such by 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(5), and (d).
Let’s see if the Appendix can shed any light on the above.
The investigation revealed that only the lower polymer portion of the Glock, without the upper and any trigger parts, was purchased from Spokane Archery in Washington State by a person from Texas. This purchase was legal because the ATF E-Form 4473 (Firearms Transaction Record) had been submitted. That portion of the Glock purchased legally, is referred to as the “frame,” or the “lower receiver” of the firearm.
So once again, it confirms that the item purchased by an unidentified person, who was not the suspect, was a firearm as a 4473 had been completed and submitted. This is the first time that the word “submitted” is used in relation to the 4473 (in the Report, it only states that it was filled out) and it is important, as we now know that the background check was performed on the unidentified purchaser. However, the Appendix then declares that “It is believed that [Ibrahem] then ‘manufactured’ a firearm by obtaining the lower portion (frame/receiver) of the weapon by purchasing a so-called ‘Polymer 80″‘on the Internet.”
Huh? Both the Report and Appendix establish that Ibrahem did NOT purchase a 80% frame but rather purchased/obtained a firearm, in violation of the law. Section 922(g) specifies those individual, who are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms and ammunition and there is no dispute that Ibrahem was prohibited. Further, Section 922(d) precluded the seller from selling/transferring the firearm (and potentially the ammunition) to Ibrahem. As the firearm constituted a firearm and Ibrahem and the seller lived in different states, the seller was also prohibited from selling/transferring the firearm (and potentially the ammunition) to Ibrahem, per Section 922(a)(5).
While acknowledging that the seller and Ibrahem violated Federal and State law without concern, DA Martin is now calling upon Federal and State Legislators to further restrict law-abiding individuals’ rights. If only laws existed against murder, it wouldn’t happen, right?