Thursday, August 3, 2023

Is a Trigger Transforming Rifles into Machine Guns? Controversy Ignites in Brooklyn Courtroom.

This week, arguments unfolded in a Brooklyn court over the legality of a device designed to expedite the firing of rounds from a firearm, with federal prosecutors contending that it breaches the federal machine gun prohibition.

However, Rare Breed Triggers, a company that sells this innovative trigger mechanism which, when integrated into a rifle, accelerates the rate of firing, strongly disagreed with this interpretation.

Rare Breed's president, Lawrence DeMonico, boldly challenged the authorities in court, stating, “If you are so convinced they're machine guns, arrest me. Let’s go ahead.”

The company has reportedly sold over 80,000 units of their "forced reset triggers" (FRT-15s) across the United States, including to New York City and Long Island residents, as stated in the court records. This legal dispute mirrors the broader, ongoing controversy regarding other devices, such as bump stocks, designed to increase the firing rate of firearms.

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York initiated a lawsuit to halt Rare Breed Triggers' sales earlier this year, alleging that the company had set up an elaborate corporate structure and used pseudonyms on shipping labels to conceal their actions.

Temporary restrictions were placed on sales by Judge Nina R. Morrison in February. The outcome of this week's hearing will determine whether an extended injunction to halt sales will be enacted as the case continues to progress.

According to the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968, machine guns—illegal under federal law—are defined as firearms that can discharge more than one round of ammunition per single trigger pull.

The "forced reset triggers" sold by Rare Breed can technically fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull. However, a number of firearm experts assert that the device does not turn a firearm into an automatic weapon, as the trigger resets itself between rounds.

The case poses a challenge to the powers and restrictions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the federal agency responsible for implementing gun laws.

The ATF has been progressively more proactive in recent years, as firearm legislation remains stagnant in Congress. The bureau has issued rulings on several contentious devices, including ghost guns, bump stocks, stabilizing braces, and forced reset triggers like the FRT-15, leading to multiple legal objections against perceived overreach. President Joe Biden has declared his intention to further bolster the ATF in order to curb nationwide gun violence.

Company executives characterized the civil suit as a contrived legal strategy aimed at obstructing their sales of the triggers, which have generated an estimated revenue of $39 million since 2020.

Before the commencement of device sales, the executives consulted with former ATF employees and attorneys who affirmed the device's legality. Even after the ATF deemed the triggers illegal, the company continued to sell them, disputing the agency's evaluation.

Expressing his resolute stand, DeMonico stated, “I am ready to stand for what is right against an agency that arbitrarily changes its stance and uses non-statutory language to discourage and intimidate people from exercising their lawful rights.”

In two days of testimonies, a multitude of expert opinions were presented about whether the FRT-15 fulfills the legal definition of a machine gun. Prosecutors and defense attorneys explored the inner mechanics of the device in exhaustive detail. Videos and comprehensive diagrams were presented, and real gun parts were used to illustrate the device's workings.

The defense called two former ATF agents, who refuted the official ATF report that labeled the FRT-15 as a machine gun. Both stated that the mechanics of the FRT-15 required the trigger to reset after each shot, contradicting the ATF's position that the device allowed continuous firing without trigger reset.

The case encompasses more than the device itself, with allegations of continued sales after a cease-and-desist order from the ATF and accusations of fraud.

Company executives denied any attempts at deception, explaining that their complex corporate structure was designed to limit liability in the event of device malfunction and to streamline future partial business sales. 

DeMonico disclosed that he had been transparent about the device's legal hurdles through online videos and media interviews. He also confessed to using pseudonyms on shipping labels to reduce the risk of theft of the valuable firearm accessories.

Additionally, DeMonico revealed that he procured a stock of triggers from a separate manufacturing company after their premises were raided by the ATF. He argued that since the devices were already paid for, he saw them as his property.

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