B.L.U.F. The DoJ got a judge to grant a TRO against Rare Breed’s FRT-15 trigger. This might have interesting fallout with regards to the NFA and/or ATF overstepping their bounds, again.
27 CFR § 479.11
Machine gun. 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 machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
This is the law. Congress passed this law in 1934. The issue has always been that the final ruling on what is and is not a NFA item or a firearm has been the opinion of the ATF.
[N]either laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and … the laws must not be arbitrary.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood, “The RUle of Law in Times of Stress”(2003)
Judge Wood’s comments highlight the need for, first, an open and transparent system of making laws and, second, laws that are applied predictably and uniformly. Openness and transparency are essential. If people are unable to know and understand what the law is, they cannot be expected to follow it. At the same time, people deserve to know why a particular law has been passed and why they are being asked to obey it.
— American Bar Association “What is the rule of law”
There is a point in time where a piece of metal or a fabrication moves from being an object, a hunk of aluminum, or a piece of bent sheet metal to a frame or receiver. The point at which this happens is not know from the law. It isn’t defined. One moment the thing isn’t a firearm, the next it is.
For example, if you were to cast a piece of plastic in the shape of an AR15 lower and were then to fill in the fire control area with a different colored plastic, that thing is a firearm. It became a firearm when it became a receiver which happened when it was first shaped like an AR15 receiver. Filling it back in does not make it “not a frame or receiver” once a receiver, always a receiver until properly destroyed.
Now let’s say we reverse the process, we create a piece of plastic that is the shape of the fire control pocket and then cast another piece of plastic around that first piece of plastic, making one single piece of plastic. That is not a receiver when the ATF was asked.
How about if the fire control pocket is orange and the exterior is black plastic? Ummm, that MIGHT be a receiver. How about if the fire control pocket had pins in the places where you drill the holes for the selector, trigger and hammer pins? According to the ATF, even though it takes exactly the same amount of work to finish, marking those holes makes it a receiver.
The point in time where you put your first dimple on an AR-15 “80% lower” where any of those three holes will go it becomes a receiver.
How do we know? Because many different people and companies have sent samples to the ATF and asked for a determination letter. Is this a firearm? The ATF will then send back a letter saying yes or no.
So here is the magic of definitions and the every changing opinions of the ATF. Marking where the magic forth hole will go makes that hunk of aluminum not just a regular frame or receiver, it makes it a machine gun receiver.
How do you, a normal citizen know at which point you have a firearm and when you have just an object? It isn’t clear.
Because it isn’t clear, the courts rely on the agency to tell them. This is why the ATF gets to say. Now the courts do get to look at the definitions and say “ATF, you are full of shit. Your definition doesn’t match what is written in law.”
Which brings us to some stupids.
“The ATF is so wacko that they ruled that a shoelace was a machine gun.”
This is true. They did. And yes, the firearm that had that shoelace on it was a machine gun. So enterprising individual had created a fully automatic M1 Garand or made an M1A Semi-Auto rifle fully automatic by adding a string to it.
The string is tied to the trigger and then fed through a eye behind the trigger. With this you could pull the string to fire the rifle. When the rifle is fired, the charging handle comes back, the case is ejected and the bolt moves forward stripping a round from the magazine and chambering the round. The trigger is reset when it moves forward.
Now take the other end of that string and attach it to the charging handle. If the string is the right length, as the bolt, with charging handle, moves forward it pulls the string tight which pulls the trigger. Bang. Bolt and charging handle move backwards and the string goes slack. Trigger resets. Bolt moves forward and Bang again. Repeat until magazine is empty.
That is a machine gun.
As stated above, for years people that want to stay on the right side of the ATF have sent samples to the ATF and gotten determination letters back. The problem is that the ATF can change their mind. The lab back in DC sends out a determination letter that says “it is not a firearm”. A local ATF inspects the same thing and says it is. The determination letter isn’t going to keep you out of trouble.
Rare Breed Triggers, LLC and Rare Breed Firearms, LLC decided to poke the tigger. They created a device that fires only one shot “by a single function of the trigger”. This device used the rearward movement of the bolt to push the trigger forward along with the shooters finger to position the shooters finger to press the trigger again.
By engineering magic, the reset didn’t complete until it was safe for the shooter to press the trigger again.
From the outside, it looks a lot like a machine gun. It can be used to fire very rapidly. According to Rare Bread Triggers, LLC it is not a machine gun.
Their big poke in the eye of ATF was that they didn’t bother to ask ATF. They went to their lawyers, and their experts and asked “According to the law, is this a machine gun?”
Their lawyers and their experts said “it is not.”
Having received legal advise from their lawyers they proceeded to sell the FRT, or Forced Reset Trigger.
Of course the Karens of infringement land shit their collective panties. How dare somebody find a legal way to make and sell a fun switch for a firearm. Hadn’t they just gotten evil bump stocks banned? And now this FRT is trying the same thing, only different.
On January 19th, 2023 the US DoJ filed suit in the Eastern District of New York (Brookland) requesting a injunction against Rare Breed.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, – v. – RARE BREED TRIGGERS, LLC; RARE BREED FIREARMS, LLC; LAWRENCE DEMONICO; KEVIN MAXWELL
The gist of the complaint is that Bruen doesn’t matter at all. Instead AR-15s are scary and some bad people have done bad things with AR-15s and the FRT-15 makes AR-15 even more super scary because they empty magazines faster!
As with most of these gun rights cases, the government always starts with telling the court how evil guns are and because guns are evil they should be restricted(infringed on) in some way. Post Bruen the government then says “and the evil thing we are going to ban isn’t protected by the second amendment, it is up to them to prove it is.” Followed by “It isn’t in common use because we they can’t show that the evil thing is actually fired in self-defense situations, much less commonly used.”
Judge Nina R Morrison granted the TRO that the DoJ requested on the 25th. This happened without attorneys for Rare Breed being there. On Jan 20th, the DoJ asked that the case be sealed and that was granted. On the 23rd the Judge granted an ex parte hearing.
An ex parte hearing is “done with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party.”
The DoJ got to present their side, the Judge granted the TRO. The defendants (good guys) were served and then the DoJ requested and was granted a motion to unseal the case.
At this point there are two dates are mentioned, Feb 2nd, 2023 and Feb 16th, 2023. So we should see some action on this in the near future.
Given that this is post Bruen it will be interesting to see if the lawyers attack with a Second Amendment claim or if they go with “ATF is overstepping their bounds”.
It will be interesting in many ways. While this is of smaller concern than pistol braces and bump stocks, it is closely related and might very well get grouped with those other cases on appeal.
In my option, Rare Breed went into this business with the desire to be sued up to the Supreme Court in order to attack the NFA.
H/T Grossly biased headline Judge blocks sale of machine gun converters after U.S. sues
3 thoughts on “What is a “machine gun”?”
Outstanding. Thank you.
Once again I conclude that laws should not be made by people who don’t understand what they’re regulating.
As to the FRT, I am anxious to hear how it’s argued by RBT, especially if they go straight to 2A grounds. That could be a very efficient shortcut, but I am concerned that it could set a bad precedent if either they do not reflect the burden of proof back to the DOJ, or the judge does not allow them to do so.
“How about if the fire control pocket is orange and the exterior is black plastic? Ummm, that MIGHT be a receiver.”
Actually, that is a receiver, at least according to the ATF. There was a company that did exactly that. Polymer receiver in one color, interior cast in another. Remove the interior color to finish it. I forget the company’s name, but the ATF decided they were an unlicensed manufacturer, even though they had to assume the manufacturing process was the opposite of what it really was to make their case.
The reality is no law, no matter how well written is infallible. There will always be room for interpretation. The big issue here is the “can readily be made to do so” clause. That allows the ATF, when warranted (supposedly) to arrest you for having a machine gun because you have the parts to make one. Auto sear? Check. Can it be fit into your receiver? Check. Equals machine gun. Auto sear? Yep, no receiver capable of taking it without extensive modification (no fourth hole, have to mill out that little bump), not a machine gun.
Which is why this pistol brace rule is so dangerous. Simply removing the brace and storing it in your gun safe is not enough, in my (IANAL) opinion. It can simply be slipped back on.
This along with the auto key card I’d say are just as important if not more because they really get down to the fundamentals of the capricious nature of the aft and the statutory definitions of things.
They also really nicely highlight the absurdity of the definitions and the rule making of the aft in a way that is easy for the lay man to understand. Ie that a flat strip of metal merely with a printed outline on it is a machine gun.
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