Fargo Trigger Company Sues Feds Over Machine Gun Classification | Courts & Crime
A Fargo company says the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is wrong to classify its rifle trigger as a machine gun and wants a judge to overturn the bureau’s order to arrest the sales.
Rare Breed Triggers in federal court documents filed May 16 names U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the U.S. Department of Justice, the ATF and its acting director Marvin Richardson as defendants in the lawsuit. The attorneys representing them are not listed in court documents, and the agencies did not immediately file a response to the lawsuit.
The ATF “is unable to comment on matters in dispute,” spokesman Erik Longnecker told the Tribune. Garland’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kevin Maxwell, owner and attorney of Rare Breed, said ATF officials arranged a meeting with him in July 2021 but did not brief him on the matter. They gave him a cease and desist letter at the meeting.
“ATF has concluded that the Rare Breed Model FRT-15 Triggers are a combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun,” the letter reads, adding that the trigger allows a firearm to eject more than one shot with one continuous pull of the trigger.
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The bureau, after reviewing the trigger, classified it as a machine gun under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act. The letter ordered Rare Breed to stop manufacturing and transferring the triggers or face criminal prosecution, according to Maxwell’s complaint.
Maxwell, in an interview with the Tribune, said he believed the ATF’s review of the trigger came after “one of their internet gnomes saw it on YouTube.” He disagrees with the bureau’s classification.
“I know that’s not true because I know how the trigger works,” he said.
Maxwell claims the trigger resets — prepares for another shot — faster than any trigger in the world. A rifle-equipped semi-automatic AR-15 rifle could easily fire at a rate of 500 rounds per minute, but rate of fire is not a criterion for determining whether a weapon is a machine gun, Maxwell said.
The ATF definition of a machine gun states, in part, that it is any weapon that “automatically fires more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
The FRT-15 requires the shooter to pull the trigger a second time to fire another bullet. A pistol fitted with an FRT-15 would malfunction if the shooter forced the trigger to remain in the firing position, Maxwell said.
Maxwell, in his complaint, indicates that ATF agents in emails exchanged between them before their test stated that the FRT-15 should be classified as a machine gun.
“They decided it was a machine gun before they even looked at it,” Maxwell said.
During a test, an ATF agent allegedly attached the trigger and pulled the bolt to chamber a cartridge. The video shows the weapon firing until the magazine is empty, the document says.
Maxwell said it’s not possible to tell from the video if the trigger is an FRT-15. The zipper could also act as a spring with enough play to fire the trigger when it resets, and in adding the zipper, the ATF modified the trigger by adding an extra piece, the complaint states.
Maxwell also claims that the review report was changed twice and that officials did not give him a report for more than two weeks after telling him to stop selling the triggers.
“We believe we have reason to pursue this litigation,” he said.
Maxwell is asking the court to overturn the ATF’s cease and desist order and its classification of the trigger as a machine gun, among other remedies, including attorneys’ fees and costs.
Contact Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or [email protected]
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