I'M GETTING MIXED MESSAGES FROM LARRY CROW ON THIS POST, SO I'VE MODIFIED THIS POST SLIGHTLY AS OF FRIDAY...
This appears to be true — BATF has launched and initiative aimed custom gunsmithing in America.
The weapon they're using is a really fine point...what is the definition of "manufacturing a firearm"? That phrase is NOT defined in any legislation and, since it's not a legally defined term, it's open to interpretation. Since the late 1990s, when the then ATF hit gunsmith Jim Clark Senior for "manufacturing a firearm" (which cost Jim more than $100,000 but alledgedly clarified the question) was "making or providing the controlled, or serial-numbered, part."
The new BATF definition of "manufacturing a firearm" is "making any substantive changes to a firearm."
CORRECTION OF YESTERDAY'S POST: Using the new definition, the BATF hit Competitive Edge Gunworks — who has been featured on SHOOTING GALLERY and COWBOYS — and threatened chief gunsmith Larry Crow with SIX potential felony counts (including one for "changing the hammer and barrel of a Ruger and installing an octagonal barrel") unless applied for a manufacturing license and pay the appropriate tax and penalties for the guns he was charged with manufacturing.
CORRECTION ON YESTERDAY'S POST: Crow says that he has reached an agreement with BATF, but that revenue agents stated they have the right to go back through a gunsmiths' paperwork and levy the 11% excise tax and penalties on every gun the gunsmith has ever produced. There is no statue of limitations on tax issues. For some of the top gunsmiths, we would be literally talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Both NRA and NSSF lawyers are on it now, with Second Amendment Foundation close behind. Master gunsmith Hamilton Bowen says if this isn't a tempest in a teapot, it puts 3/4 of the Pistolsmith Guild, including him, out of business.
ironically, manufacturing licenses are not particularly expensive, but the excise tax adds another layer of paperwork.