Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in Violation of the Law, Classifies 80% Lowers as “Firearms”

Today, in a press release entitled ” AG Shapiro, Gov. Wolf: 80% Receivers Are Firearms” Pennsylvania Attorney General issued an opinion letter regarding, putatively whether 80% lowers (which have no legal definition or meaning) are firearms for purposes of some, but not all, provisions of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (“UFA”).

While acknowledging that “there is no controlling caselaw providing a definition or standard for applying the phrase ‘may readily be converted'” nor a definition for “designed,” in direct violation of Article 2, Section 1 (non-delegation provision), the preemption provided for by Article 1, Sections 21 and 25, and the rule of lenity, Attorney General Shapiro concludes that “a receiver is a ‘firearm’ if it can be converted to expel a projectile by [sic] individual with reasonable skill (expertise), basic tools (equipment) available to and understood by such an individual, and commonly available parts (availability) in a reasonable amount of time (time).” Thus, apparently under AG Shapiro’s opinion, a block of metal or plastic can now constitute a firearm. In fact, he goes on to hold:

A receiver does not need to be fully manufactured to be a firearm as defined in the Applicable Sections. A receiver if a firearm under the Applicable Sections it is is: 1) “designed” to expel or 2) “may readily be converted” to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive. Given the UFA does not provide a statutory definition of these terms, PSP shall utilize the legal framework set forth in this Opinion when enforcing or issuing interpretative guidance regarding the Applicable Sections of the UFA. Along with direct enforcement of the UFA< PSP has the ability to issue interpretative rules through internal documents, manuals, or policy statements; while not contorlling, these interpretations would be entitled to deference. Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 140 (1944). Additionally, PSP can further interpret the definitions through formal rulemaking. 18 Pa. C.S. 6111.5 Any regulation properly promulgated by PSP is entitled to deference, unless clearly erroneous. Harkness v. UCBR, 591 Pa. 543.

What appears lost on AG Shapiro is the fact that only the General Assembly can write the law and that the General Assembly cannot delegate its authority, in the absence of providing a coherent framework that can be equally and consistently applied. W. Phila. Achievement Charter Elem. Sch. v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 635 Pa. 127 (2016); Mary Ann Protz v. W.C.A.B. (Derry Area School District), 639 Pa. 645 (2017). Furthermore, when dealing with criminal statutes, or statutes having both criminal and civil applications, the rule of lenity requires that any ambiguity be resolved to the Defendant’s /Challenger’s benefit. United States v. Thompson/Ctr. Arms Co., 504 U.S. 505, 518 (1992).

Perhaps most interesting to some is the misleading title of the press release, as it suggests that AG Shapiro and Gov. Wolf conclude that “80% lowers are firearms”; yet, “80% lower” is not mentioned in the opinion. Of course, perhaps that’s the way AG. Shapiro and Gov. Wolf are directing the PSP to conclude 80% lowers are firearms, without specifically addressing it in the opinion. Only time will tell, but if the PSP does take a position that “80% lowers are firearms,” it will surely be challenged in the courts and the outcome is not likely to be favorable to the Commonwealth.

If you or someone you know has had their rights violated by this opinion or the PSP’s interpretation of the UFA as it relates to “firearms”, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.


36 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in Violation of the Law, Classifies 80% Lowers as “Firearms”

    1. Per PICS website:

      As of 12-16-19, the sale of partially-manufactured (often referred to as 80%) frames and receivers and kits which include the same, requires a background check through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, in accordance with the Attorney General’s binding opinion and applicable requirements within the UFA. No sales may occur by a licensed firearms dealer without such a check. PSP is not yet ready to process such checks and is working diligently to have a process in place as soon as possible within the next thirty days to allow these checks to occur in a lawful manner.


  1. I am very concerned about this, because it leaves open the possibility that the AG himself could be cuffed, stuffed, and transported for the possession of three feet of 1/4″ galvanized pipe and a few fittings. Woe betide the citizens of any country that criminalizes plumbing supplies.


  2. Time for rope,It’s way past time these Democrats get their head out of their arse.
    Who da hello they think they when the SHTF there will be No Mercy for these Fascists.


  3. I wonder if the PSP or the AG will start warning website to not sell 80% receivers in Pennsylvania? I know lots of gun shows will stop it. They stop people from selling hunting rifles without a PICS check.


  4. We have sat back for decades and silently alowed politicians, whom We The People have elected, to make these
    Laws without a Constitutional amendment… We have accepted it and said nothing. From 1791 to 1934 we respected and upheld the Constitution.. Constitution of United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992)states
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


  5. why should we be surprised by these demono-crats trying to subvert & make their own laws.. both shapiro and the wolf in sheeps clothing clearly believe that they know whats best for us… welcome to socialism


  6. When will you challenge the legality of all UFA “ law “ as unconstitutional regarding article 21 of the PA constitution? It clearly states SHALL NOT BE QUESTIONED in Pennsylvania but yet there is UFA laws ???? Absolutely No one , no government, no politician no bureaucrat no law enforcement no judge DENY any RIGHTs they didn’t grant them no can they take them regardless of so called criminal activity. If one is a violent criminal they should not be allowed to be free in society. If one is mentally ill & a threat they should not be allowed to be free in society, but begging permission to purchase a firearm is ILLEGAL & Unconstitutional! no court grants these rights no court can take or deny them. So when will you Atty Price actually take the fight directly to the juggler vein of these unconstitutional illegal laws in PA ??


  7. Just saw this morning the PSP ePICS is showing the following when logging in for FFLs:

    “As of 12-16-19, the sale of partially-manufactured (often referred to as 80%) frames and receivers and kits which include the same, requires a background check through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, in accordance with the Attorney General’s binding opinion and applicable requirements within the UFA. No sales may occur by a licensed firearms dealer without such a check. PSP is not yet ready to process such checks and is working diligently to have a process in place as soon as possible within the next thirty days to allow these checks to occur in a lawful manner.”

    This side stepping of the legislative process is infuriating. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before something is made “law” that turns myself and other otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals and the only thing that we can do about it is be stepped over and attempt for get these jokers out of office through voting.


  8. Guess they better do pics checks for all SHOVEL SALES because if someone wanted to they can build a receiver out of a square steel shovel from any hardware store, along with all aluminum cans, if one wanted to melt soda cans into a block of aluminum and then make a receiver. better include all plumbing supplies, nuts & bolts, flat bar & billet aluminum. They can give a BS opinion saying this material are actually 0% receivers and can easily be made to expel a projectile ! Come on josh do the right thing here. You live in PA you are the plaintiff , the left files injunctions all the time without regard to monetary benefits because they are pushing their twisted agenda for the long run. Sometime all it takes is one person to stand up and say enough. Will that person be you Josh ? Obviously the NRA has no interest in helping or they would have already filed but they are like crickets.


  9. I have had an order for 80% lowers from a company called ( 80% Lowers ) cancelled because of the so called law in Pennsylvania about the 80% lowers being considered firearms. They sent me an apology letter stating that after consulting with their lawyers that they can no longer ship 80% lowers to Pennsylvania. This stinks !!!! There is no current law in Pennsylvania prohibiting the online purchase of these 80% lowers, just the attorney generals statement that they should be considered firearms. I have been denied my right to purchase these items because of the fear of possible legal ramifications of a non-existent law.


  10. It’s a real shame that some elected officials are so clueless that their mouths are hitting 4th gear before their brains are out of park. Even some that actually do the research twist the wording to reach liberal voters, many of which are misinformed and/or lead by the liberal-fueled news media.
    I know of two instances of a seller either rejecting or canceling a purchase in Pennsylvania, containing an 80% lower, less than 24 hours after the press release by Wolf and Shapiro. I dont need to to do business with those uninformed cowards.


  11. ABSOLUTELY BADASS MY BROTHER, take those tyrants in Harrisburg to the Matt and don’t let them up for air. It’s starts with 80% next it turns into a Virginia style all out Assault! I knew you would not sit idle. Go for the juggler josh & don’t stop till Shapiro , PSP & WOLF feel your foot go up their tyrannical rectums and out their tyrant mouths!


  12. I’m completely confused, I have an ordered on line an 80% Glock style lower that is to be released early spring. I have $700 invested in this with all the other parts. If it’s not a law now, can I get something else NOW, so at least I have something?


  13. This is clearly the Left’s way to force something into Law without the General Assembly drafting legislation on it or Gun Control by Elitist Fiat and hopefully the courts with rule in favor of the Constitution and Freedom


  14. 80% “receivers” cannot “expel” a projectile, and smokeless gunpowder is a Class B or C PROPELLANT, not and “explosive”.


  15. My subject is different but it follows the same path. Question = What happened to allowing Local Police Depts. to use radar to slow these idiots down ? The Gov wants to make every community big or small to pay for the PSP protection. They don’t work for FREE and if they don’t like it get another job. Just saying.


    1. The local government is responsible for that not happening. Back in the 1960’s local governments were financing huge portions of government by writing tickets using radar to write massive amounts of tickets.

      It was so abused that here in Pennsylvania that made use by local cops illegal. I drove in NJ for work for years. There are cops everywhere with radar in their cars. People still drive like it’s a NASCAR race anyway.

      Also you notice the PSP rarely use hand help radars. Cops sitting them in their laps in other states had much higher testicular cancer rates than mere coincidence could explain. I don’t see local government paying for the more expensive vehicle mounted units. To many will turn it into a revenue sources when speed is actually reduced. Just like red light cameras.

      A friend told me a truth. Look at those white lines (Speed Enforcement systems.) they put on the roads in PA. He said if they are at the top of the hill, they are doing it to slow people down. If at the bottom it’s to write tickets. A lot of those white lines I see are at the bottom of the hill. Or on long straight local roads with nothing around but trees and open space, where driving fast is only likely to endanger your own vehicle, not others.

      It too often turns into making money, not protecting people. One of the local departments sits near a stop sign at a busy road where I live. They write tons of tickets for people blowing through at full speed at an intersection. I know they give warnings if you “Hollywood Stop”.

      That district justice has extended office hours because of all the tickets written. No need for.fancy equipment. I’ve seen accidents plunge where they put cops out to go after “aggressive drivers”, not static speed traps.


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