Gun Control

Cody Wilson's "Ghost Gunner": Banned by FedEx?

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Cody Wilson has dedicated his professional career to stirring up trouble, whether through his work on the first 3D-printed plastic handgun, the Bitcoin "dark wallet," and now the "Ghost Gunner". (I profiled Wilson in Reason back in December 2013.)

Today Wilson tells me a story reminiscent of his earlier efforts, where businesses whose tools or services he used toward his subversive goals, from banks to payment companies such as Stripe to 3D printer manufacturers, got nervous about being anywhere near him.

Corporate entities have tended to show great discomfort with being connected in anyway with his efforts. But as Wilson told me in my Reason profile, the very efforts to stop him from doing what he wants to do often feed into his success, often via the press blowback they engender.

Here's what the Ghost Gunner is and does, and why, from my earlier reporting. It's:

a tabletop milling machine which can, quoting from their FAQ, "manufacture any mil-spec 80% AR-15 lower receiver that already has the rear take down well milled out. ….Lowers with non-mil-spec trigger guards that are otherwise mil-spec are also compatible. Defense Distributed recommends using the 7075 Ares Armor Raw 80% Lower AR-15 Billet."

Wilson launched the project in response….to "the rhetoric developed out of California of detectability as the norm, of the observability of everything to the modern state. This guy [state Rep.] de Leon defined as a 'ghost' something not intelligible to the state and that's a perfect way of talking about it. So this device will cut aluminum and it's good at finishing an 80 percent lower receiver for an AR-15 in under an hour." (Roughly, the ATF declares any lower receiver that is more than 80 percent complete as an actual gun subject to all regulations on actual guns.)

After months, Wilson tells me this morning, of trying to set up a merchant account with FedEx (via the NRA Business Alliance, no less), he says he was informed Friday on the phone by a FedEx representative that they were not going to be able to ship his Ghost Gunner.

"I told them, look you guys ship guns, this should not be a controversy. This is not regulated. This is totally settled law here." Still, so far, no go. Wilson was just told that they won't be able to ship the Ghost Gunner, with no specific explanation as to why, and nothing in writing.

Wilson was told by his FedEx contact that a superior would get back to him, but that hasn't happened yet. Wilson's annoyed to find a scared company "hiding a decision behind color of law when the law could not be more settled; we are a country of riflemen and we can make rifles" at home, for personal use. 

Wilson wonders to me whether Ghost Gunner's very liberation for its users from the normal industrial and business system of gunmaking, in which existing companies sell their products to you, not provide you with the means to make your own, might have his effort marked for destruction by dark forces of "corporate collusion."

Wilson has consulted with lawyers on whether his Ghost Gunner raises any legal or regulatory questions involving weapons, and he provided me with a memo from his legal counsel stating that "under current relevant law, regulation and policy, the GG Mill (which includes the required firmware) as a product is not subject to GCA [Gun Control Act] regulation, nor  is it otherwise subject to ATF jurisdiction, control, or regulation." It's just a tool, a milling machine, and Wilson is sure there is no legal issues that should prevent  FedEx from shipping it.

Wilson's product, which allows for private home manufacture of AR-15 lowers without serial numbers all the more important since a January BATFE directive essentially bars licensed federal firearms makers from renting the use of their milling equipment to non-licensed private gun makers. To quote from the ATF regulation:

any person (including any corporation or other legal entity) engaged in the business of performing machining, molding, casting, forging, printing (additive manufacturing) or other manufacturing process to create a firearm frame or receiver, or to make a frame or receiver suitable for use as part of a "weapon … which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive," i.e., a "firearm," must be licensed as a manufacturer under the GCA; identify (mark) any such firearm; and maintain required manufacturer's records…..

Held further, a business (including an association or society) may not avoid the manufacturing license, marking, and recordkeeping requirements of the GCA by allowing persons to perform manufacturing processes on blanks or incomplete firearms (including frames or receivers) using machinery, tools, or equipment under its dominion and control where that business controls access to, and use of, such machinery, tools, or equipment.

So, you as a private citizen who is not in the business of making weapons can still make them at home without serial numbers, if anyone will ship you Wilson's Ghost Gunner. But GCA-licensed gun makers cannot do it for you with their equipment anymore.

To get his product shipped to his customers, Wilson complains, he might have to "smuggle my product out of Austin." He has not yet attempted to use the U.S. Postal Service; the anarchist Wilson says he "never thinks of the U.S. postal service first." But he definitely needs a bulk pickup deal from some shipper, not to have to bring them in one by one over the counter, for his company to remain financially viable, he says. 

I've left messages via phone and email with the FedEx employee in question and after eight hours he has not responded. I will update this post with any clarification or comment from FedEx when or if it arrives.

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65 responses to “Cody Wilson's "Ghost Gunner": Banned by FedEx?

  1. Well, this is the way new businesses get started; providing services that the old farts won’t.
    Certainly try UPS or DHL. I can tell you the USPS is dying for business; they hit on us regularly.
    Amazon drone or similar?

    1. Amazon drone or similar?

      Why do you think drones are so heavily restricted? It’s not about Amazon or the privacy of your backyard, it’s about delivery tracking. All commercial deliveries are currently tracked, and you take it for granted because it’s a few big corporations.

      Commercial drone deliveries would mean any kid could start a delivery service. Tracking would be obvious, widely reported, and perceived as intrusive. And it would also be utterly ineffective.

      I expect that commercial drone use will come along with mandatory drone tracking, based on some fabricated safety and consumer rights concerns.

    2. The behind the scenes problem with all of this is the Obama Administration’s use of tightening regulations through “Operation Choke-Point.” This program prohibits banks from extending credit, transportation and shipping companies, and other common providers from doing business with any other business the government arbitrarily decides is “hazardous” in their opinion. If any bank extends credit the threat is federal regulators will suddenly come down on their own business operations causing harm. If a private individual did what the government is doing they would be arrested and charged with extortion.

    3. Keep going fella. I wish you well.

      But you know how this is going to go down. They are going to plant a dead hooker in his tub one night and bury him under the jail.
      That is if he does not end up like that prosecutor in Argentina first.

  2. I kinda like the USPS, always have. I’d be happy if the government was only the Post Office.

    1. We won’t touch ’em unless the customer requires it. And in that case, it is strictly ‘you own it when it leaves our hands’.
      If they ever lose anything, you will *never* have the paperwork or the time required to recover the loss.

      1. This,

        Also, the post office would provide shitty national defense.

    2. I’d be happy deputizing the feds with more responsibilities, but only when they’ve made the postal service a profitable exercise in economy and competition.

      They’d be out of business within a month.

      1. i’d say within 2 weeks, could never make payroll, all the carriers go beserk and kill each other as well as all the happy cheerful desk clerks…

      2. That’s a common misperception. USPS would be profitable if it were allowed to freely decide its own delivery schedule, decide where to have offices, and didn’t have to fund* its workers’ pensions 75 years into the future.

        * “fund” is kind of a misnomer as the money is just handed over to Congress to be spent as they please with IOUs deposited into yet another “trust fund”

        1. The Post office Pension fund is not even funded to the same level to which Private companies are legally required (80%). So no, the pension part is bullshit. And the 75 years in the future has also been proven wrong.

          “The confusion over 75 years may be due to an “accounting” and not an “actuarial or funding” issue. They only have to fund the future liability of their current or former workforce. …LL: So bottom line, the unions claim of the postal service pre-funding pensions for future workers is false?

          Chairman Issa: Absolutely false. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently found that pre-funding requirements match Congress’ intent when they were enacted in 2006. ”

          http://www.cnbc.com/id/45018432

        2. USPS would be profitable if it were allowed to freely decide its own delivery schedule, decide where to have offices, and didn’t have to fund* its workers’ pensions 75 years into the future.

          I.e., they would be profitable if they were an unregulated private enterprise.

          That’s kind of like saying that hell would be a nice place if it wasn’t burning hot and full of demons.

        3. While the disposition of the funds is not excusable, the “pre-funding” of pensions is absolutely a valid factor in profitability. If you have a known future liability then it should be amortized and accounted for.

          This is like saying that flood insurance would be profitable if only they didn’t bother to make actuarial tables.

  3. So it’s not illegal to own or handle the GG, but it’s frowned upon by the feds. If it were illegal, you would know exactly the limits of what the feds could and would do to you if you handle the GG. Since it’s not illegal, the feds are just going to fuck with you if you handle it – and there’s no limit to what they can do if they fuck with you rather than arrest you and charge you and put you on trial. Breaking the law potentially carries less of a penalty than doing something the feds don’t want you doing, even if there’s no law against it.

    That’s why FedEx won’t touch this with a ten-foot pole – they know if they handle the GG the feds are going to come after them and since there’s nothing legal the feds can do, it will be the fucking for FedEx.

    1. Well Fed Ex has also been hassled by the Feds to search the packages for drugs.

      https://reason.com/blog/2014/07…..o-block-yo

      I’m sure that the GG just looks like another giant headache to them.

  4. The lower receiver of a rifle is essentially the entire working guts. In simple terms, it’s the part that feeds the rounds into the barrel and the mechanisms that connect the trigger to the firing pin. You can buy any other part of a rifle, a barrel, a stock, front and rear sights, etc. off the shelf without any paperwork. Only the lower receiver makes it a rifle. It’s perfectly legit for anyone to make one to 80%, then bring it to a gun shop for finishing and stamping. At 80% it’s just a simple block of metal that doesn’t really do anything.

    1. 80% of what, though? Is there a well-worn definition of what 80% looks like, or is it something susceptible to the ATF giving your handwork a once-over, declaring it better than four-fifths finished, and hauling you in?

      1. Almost everything is susceptible to the ATF giving you an ass-fucking.

      2. It’s a bit of an “I’ll know it when I see it.” line, but the general consensus is fire control.

        If you can put a trigger (safety, fire selector, etc.) in it, it’s 80%.

        1. The squirrels ate my “greater than”.

          If you can put a trigger in it, it’s greater than 80% and needs a serial number.

          1. It does not need a serial number, as long as it’s manufactured for personal use by a private individual.

            Only firearms manufactured for sale needs an identifying number, and the manufacturer needs a federal license to begin with.

            1. “It does not need a serial number, as long as it’s manufactured for personal use by a private individual.

              Only firearms manufactured for sale needs an identifying number, and the manufacturer needs a federal license to begin with.”

              You misfired a bit.

    2. Sorta.

      80% lowers aren’t regulated, and you can finish them for personal use into a functioning firearm so long as you don’t have the “intent” to sell it, because then you’re technically a manufacturer. So you can’t pay someone like a gun shop to make an 80% lower into a firearm. The BATFE said Ares Armor was doing just that, and they got notoriously raided for it.

      Finishing an 80% that was made of polymer currently just takes just some hand tools and a drill though, and Wilson’s machine is designed to make it that easy with aluminum lowers. If you finish it yourself for personal use, you don’t have to get it stamped or serial numbered or anything like that (at least according to federal laws, so check your state).

      Also, if that wasn’t confusing enough, if CAN also sell the weapon afterwards so long as you didn’t build it with the “intent” of selling it.

      Lovely federal regulations.

  5. FedEx shouldn’t have to do anything they don’t want to do–for whatever reason.

    Incidentally, we can track our packages via every package delivery service–except for the post office. The post office only seems to want to let me track a package after it’s been delivered, which kind of defeats the purpose. I wanna track stuff so I know when it’s going to be here, but the post office seems to treat their tracking service as nothing but a CYA maneuver.

    Yeah, we delivered your package and we can prove it!

    Anyway, I don’t remember any revelations about the government having a back door into all that package tracking data, but if they’re tracking all of our calls, isn’t it pretty safe to assume they’re tracking all of our packages, too?

    Start off selling these kits to those guys that make a living reselling stuff at gun shows. Or bring a U-Haul full of them to Las Vegas, yourself.

    I think there’s a gun show in Las Vegas every freakin’ weekend.

    1. isn’t it pretty safe to assume they’re tracking all of our packages, too?

      It’d be incredibly stupid to assume they aren’t.

    2. The USPS photographs and stores an image of every parcel passing through their system. They don’t like to talk about where those images are stored, or for how long.

      1. You mean an X-ray image? Presumably they aren’t opening the packages.

        1. No, he is talking about this program:

          http://www.alternet.org/civil-…..spying-you

          program ominously called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, “in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States ? about 160 billion pieces last year.”

    3. FedEx shouldn’t have to do anything they don’t want to do–for whatever reason.

      You’re missing the point entirely. FedEx by themselves doesn’t give a sh*t what is in their packages as long as it doesn’t explode, burn, or leak.

      When FedEx refuses to ship something like this, it can be only because of one thing: they are afraid of federal regulators. Regulators can either directly hold them responsible, or they can hassle them in many other ways in retribution for doing things they don’t want but that are still nominally legal.

      Either regulations have created such an environment of fear and uncertainty that they “self-censored”, or they actually asked the federal government “is this OK?” and got a less than encouraging answer.

  6. Stop trying to think for yourself and just be good sheeple already!

    It would be a shame if we had to do a no-knock 2 AM raid and mistook one of your 80% competed stocks sitting on a table for a gun in your hand and accidentally shoot you 200 – 300 times, you know?

  7. Can’t Colt just sue them for unlicensed manufacture?

    1. Online sources say the patents on the original design have expired, though Colt still has a trademark on “AR-15.”

      1. calling mine an AR-16.5…hahahahaha

  8. When did FedEx start handling firearms? It has been probably a decade or so since I last had to have a firearm shipped but I seem to recall UPS being the only carrier that would handle them. Am i misremembering in my dotage?

    1. Any carrier can ship firearms. But USPS can’t refuse to ship them. I think the best policy here is don’t ask, don’t tell.

      1. But USPS loves to open up packages. If it’s from overseas, from a non-established business or if it’s a new route, they’ll open your package.

      2. You can’t ship handguns via USPS unless you’re an FFL… in fact, even bringing a handgun into a post office is a federal felony.

        Long guns are more complicated. In theory you can ship them via USPS within the same state, to an FFL in another state, or to yourself in another state. But be prepared to get in an argument.

    2. FedEx is actually the shipping carrier used by the Civilian Marksmanship Program to ship US Government surplus rifles and ammo to individual civilian owners.

      Last time I had a CMP package delivered, the delivery driver knew exactly what it was: “M1 Garand from the CMP?” “Yup.”

      1. CMP is fixin’ to sell 1911s now too. I wonder how those are going to be shipped.

  9. Sounds to me like a good time to boycott Fed-Ex, and to tell them why. Anyone have a good email address to bitch to Fed-Ex about this?

    1. Until reading this article I was under the impression FedEx was good guys.

      1. There are only those who are willing to risk doing business until threatened, and those who are scared of the potential of being threatened.

        The vast majority of the “good guys” fall into the later category, especially the bigger they become (which also leads into lobbying and cronyism, but I digress..)

        1. To be fair, all legal businesses have to be either cowards or cronies to survive.

          See the article’s reference to Stripe, or this related article:
          http://www.americanbanker.com/…..597-1.html

          B of A Snubs Two Gun Makers as Banking Becomes Politicized

          Or a more broader example, Operation Choke Point:
          https://reason.com/blog/2014/04…..porn-stars

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  11. This reminds me of the story from a week or two ago where the law requires banks to notify the governmemt of deposits over 10,000 but since one business was doing just under that, they must be trying to skirt the law and were doing something suspicious. In this case, the legal atmosphere of “well you technically didn’t break any laws but you are breaking the spirit of the law, so lets throw the book at you” seems to have fedex scared of associating with this guy. Damn shame if that is the case.

  12. I think it’s pretty easy to guess what happened: FedEx called their regulators and said “can we ship this?”, and the response was something like “we can’t give you legal advice, but we think it would be unwise”. FedEx looked at a few thousand dollars of revenue vs. the likelihood that inspectors and regulators interfere with their business and they said “it’s not worth it”.

    1. Well yeah, duh.

  13. …he definitely needs a bulk pickup deal from some shipper

    I smell a golden business opportunity. Anyone here have access to a fleet of trucks?

  14. I will update this post with any clarification or comment from FedEx when or if it arrives.

    I suspect their response is going to be something along the lines of “because fuck you, that’s why.”

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  19. I think all the Reason readers who are business owners and think this is BS should turnaround and boycott Fedex. I’m going to start shipping from UPS starting today.

    1. ^^^Obviously a UPS employee.

    2. I agree… But it also helps if we inform Fed-Ex of what we are doing, and why… So… Wanna pitch in and help? Find an email address for us to use to give Fed-Ex a clue or 2…

  20. To get his product shipped to his customers, Wilson complains, he might have to “smuggle my product out of Austin.” He has not yet attempted to use the U.S. Postal Service; the anarchist Wilson says he “never thinks of the U.S. postal service first.” But he definitely needs a bulk pickup deal from some shipper, not to have to bring them in one by one over the counter, for his company to remain financially viable, he says.

    Sounds like the plot hook to a new “Smokey and the Bandit” movie.

  21. Heck all you need is a bench mill and a blue print to make a total lower AR receiver and even make one full auto with the flip switch if your a handy guy with machine tools. Of course I wouldn’t recommend it for a full auto as the ATF under Obama has turned into a SALEM WITCH hunt for anything gun related or ammo elated anymore……….

    The next President will undo so many Obama bs rules it aint even funny. Maybe then we can get rid of the 1986 law stopping us regular joes from having a full auto M16 like we had in the military. Until then be cool and wait. The day of deliverance from the progressive regressives isn’t far off!

    1. Don’t hold your breath

  22. This is actually expensive. A table top 3axis mill can be had for roughly 1200 dollars.

  23. Set up a shell company. Cody’s name won’t even be on the paperwork. “I’m just a consignment broker.”

  24. So exactly how does Fedex know whats in the box? Do they pack it for him?

    Or did he tell them exactly what the machine does and goad them into the response he wanted? (because he wants all the pub he can get, its his MO)

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