Machine Gun Parties

Bryan Schatz attends a “building party”, where gun enthusiasts privately collect and assemble pieces from various assault rifles:

Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.

His takeaway:

I’m left wondering: Seeing how easy this is, are build parties monitored? Do hand-built weapons ever surface in crimes? Are the cops worried? When I call local law enforcement representatives from Los Angeles, Orange County, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove, they say they’ve never heard of such a thing. “That doesn’t happen here,” says Bruce Borihanh, an LAPD spokesman. But a cursory browse of online gun forums is enough to show that, well, clearly it does. There seems to be one about every month. Plus, I just attended one less than an hour’s drive from his office.

I’m reminded of what one of the build party hosts said before I left: “Remember that thing I told you about why people do this: These builds can happen only because they aren’t blown out to the public and law enforcement.”