The ATF has sent out an open letter to all Federal Firearms Licensees stating that they are now classifying “some“ FRTs or Forced Reset Triggers as machine guns. The letter also mentions that the ATF intends to take “appropriate remedial action with respect to sellers and possessors of these devices.”
This letter is a culmination of events that we’ve covered since the last year, starting with the ATF contacting Rare Breed (the manufacturer of the most popular FRT) and informing them that they were considering the FRT to be a machine gun. In response, Rare Breed challenged the ATF’s decision in court.
More recently, Gun Owners of America reported evidence of a leaked email from ATF documenting plans to give Field Agents the green light to start demanding forfeiture of Forced Reset Triggers and documents relating to the sale/transfer of these devices.
ATF has finally announced that FRT owners violate the NFA and GCA. In their open letter, ATF states that “Current possessors of these devices are encouraged to contact ATF for further guidance on how they may divest possession.” So, ATF asks that gun owners call them and make them aware that they own what ATF has determined is an illegal machine gun.
But as always, with the ATF and gun control, there’s a larger story here.
Forced Reset Triggers or FRTs are not machine guns or machine gun parts. They’re semiautomatic triggers. Interestingly enough, in ATF’s letter, they say that what determined that FRT devices are machine guns was that “some FRT devices allow a firearm to automatically expel more than one shot with a single, continuous pull of the trigger.” Keep in mind the use of the word “continuous.”
Let’s compare this finding with the definition of “machine gun” as defined in 26 USC § 5845(b)
“The term ‘machinegun‘ means 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.”
Notice how the word “continuous” is missing from the legal definition?
While it is true that FRT devices do increase a shooter’s rate of semiautomatic fire, the FRT does not convert a semiautomatic firearm into a machine gun. Like the name “Forced Reset” implies, the trigger is reset after firing via spring tension and a mechanical assist.
If this situation sounds familiar, that’s because it is—the ATF in 2019 classified bump stock devices in a similar fashion.
The ATF did this by considering bump stock devices to be machine guns. Companies made no bump stock devices before 1986, so all bump stocks were effectively banned using the NFA, GCA & FOPA. The ATF is using this same process to ban and criminalize possession of Forced Reset Triggers.
This overreach is a tactic straight out of the David Chipman Playbook. Chipman was Biden’s nominee to lead the ATF, and a Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords, one of the largest anti-gun organizations. While Chipman proved to be too divisive of a nominee for ATF and had to withdraw his nomination, his thought process and policies still significantly influence the federal government.
In 2018, Chipman wrote an article called “Legal & Lethal: 9 Products That Could Be The Next Bump Stock,” and while Forced Reset Triggers did not exist at the time, they surely would have made the list.
So, what’s so important about a four-year-old article, and how does this relate to FRTs?
Well, this article reveals the process in which the anti-gun lobby and their allies in the ATF seek to erode American gun rights.
In Section 9 of Legal & Lethal, Chipman details his idea that semiautomatic firearms with “large-capacity magazines” in his mind are the same as machine guns. He does this by arguing the definition of “manual reloading,” saying that; “semiautomatic firearms with large capacity magazines rarely require manual reloading, but they can expel a lot of ammunition in a brief period of time. They do so by allowing a trigger to be pulled many times very easily and ensuring that there is almost always another bullet ready to go. Despite this, large-capacity magazines and semiautomatic firearms equipped with them (sometimes called “assault weapons”) are not regulated under the NFA, even though they pose incredible danger to our communities.”
If the definition of machine gun can be co-opted to include semiautomatic rifles, it would be disastrous for the firearms community, yet this is precisely where we’re headed with the disastrous bump stock decision, and now one step closer with the FRT situation.