Last week the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) issued a letter classifying certain triggers, specifically Rare Breed's Forced Reset Triggers (FRT), as machine guns. Does the ATF's decision on forced reset triggers present FRT owners with legal issues?
There is no national support for more federal gun-control legislation, but anti-gunners still hold positions of authority in the federal government. A favorite anti-gun apparatus of Washington is the ATF. The ATF issues rulings and definitions that circumvent the legislature yet have the effect of law in practice.
ATF's overreach —
The most recent example is the ATF's focus on Rare Breed's, Forced Reset Trigger. One of the first things President Biden did when he came into office was to meet with the ATF. The Biden Administration wants the ATF to explore ways to limit the Second Amendment through regulation rather than legislatively.
It's easy to blame Biden for the ATF's overreach, and it's clear that the current president isn't going to lose sleep over the ATF's assault on the American People's Second Amendment rights. However, the ATF's continual overreach occurs under the Presidental administrations of both political parties.
In any event, the legal fight between the ATF and Rare Breed started back in July 2021. First, the ATF sent Rare Breed a cease and desist order, demanding they stop manufacturing and selling the FRT. Rare Breed challenged the ATF's decision and asked for an injunction, but it was not granted.
Rare Breed continues selling the triggers, stating that they believe the ATF overstepped its authority.
What is The Rare Breed Forced Reset Trigger —
Rare Breed explained why they believe the Forced Reset Trigger does not meet the ATF's criteria for “machine gun” in this video. It is a long video, but I think worth the watch if you want to really understand the specifics of the issue at hand.
What about Binary Triggers —
Then there is Franklin Armory's Binary Firing System Trigger. At first glance, the Binary Trigger seems similar to the FRT. However, it functions differently, as explained in the video below.
Franklin Armory hasn't missed the opportunity to capitalize on the ATFs war on Rare Breed. I understand the marketing side, but I'm not sure any company should be celebrating that the ATF passed over their company for a competitor. If the ATF is successful in stopping the FRT, who is to say they won't turn their attention to Franklin Armory's Binary Trigger?
The ATF's Letter —
The ATF sent an open letter to Federal Firearms Licensed (FFLs) dealers stating the following:
OPEN LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSEES
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently examined devices commonly known as “forced reset triggers” (FRTs) and has determined that some of them are “firearms” and “machineguns” as defined in the National Firearms Act (NFA), and “machineguns” as defined in the Gun Control Act (GCA).
These particular FRTs are being marketed as replacement triggers for AR-type firearms. Unlike traditional triggers and binary triggers (sometimes referred to generally as “FRTs”), the subject FRTs do not require shooters to pull and then subsequently release the trigger to fire a second shot. Instead, these FRTs utilize the firing cycle to eliminate the need for the shooter to release the trigger before a second shot is fired. By contrast, some after-market triggers have similar components but also incorporate a disconnector or similar feature to ensure that the trigger must be released before a second shot may be fired and may not be machineguns.
Both the NFA and GCA regulate machineguns. “Machinegun” is defined under 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b) and 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(23) as— Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person. (Emphasis added.)
ATF’s examination found that some FRT devices allow a firearm to automatically expel more than one shot with a single, continuous pull of the trigger. For this reason, ATF has concluded that FRTs that function in this way are a combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and hence, ATF has classified these devices as a “machinegun” as defined by the NFA and GCA.
Accordingly, ATF’s position is that any FRT that allows a firearm to automatically expel more than one shot with a single, continuous pull of the trigger is a “machinegun”, and is accordingly subject to the GCA prohibitions regarding the possession, transfer, and transport of machineguns under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(o) and 922(a)(4). They are also subject to registration, transfer, taxation, and possession restrictions under the NFA. See 26 U.S.C. §§ 5841, 5861; 27 CFR 479.101.
Under 26 U.S.C. § 5871, any person who violates or fails to comply with the provisions of the NFA may be fined up to $10,000 per violation and is subject to imprisonment for a term of up to ten years. Further, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 5872, any machinegun possessed or transferred in violation of the NFA is subject to seizure and forfeiture. Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2), any person who violates § 922(o) may be sent to prison for up to 10 years and fined up to $250,000 per person or $500,000 per organization.
Based on ATF’s determination that the FRTs that function as described above are “machineguns” under the NFA and GCA, ATF intends to take appropriate remedial action with respect to sellers and possessors of these devices. Current possessors of these devices are encouraged to contact ATF for further guidance on how they may divest possession. If you are uncertain whether the device you possess is a machinegun as defined by the GCA and NFA, please contact your local ATF Field Office. You may consult the local ATF Office’s webpage for office contact information.
A the bottom of the post I've embedded the ATF's letter so you can read it for yourself.
So what is next —
For sure, legal challenges like these take time for resolution, lots and lots of time. In the meantime, pro-freedom lawmakers at Capitol Hill are starting to ask questions about the ATF playing fast and loose with its definitions. I won't wade into the argument about how or when this will end. I will only say that sometimes when looking retrospectively, these types of cases prove to be pivotal. The real issue is how much power Congress will allow the ATF in redefining terms?
What do you think about this situation? Should the ATF have the authority to place a product in a highly regulated class without some legislative review?