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Legal Battles Unfold Over Triggers ATF Says Create Machine Guns

The internet videos alarm some and thrill others: Gun enthusiasts spraying bullets from AR-15-style rifles with an after-market trigger allowing them to shoot seemingly as fast as fully automatic weapons. The forced-reset triggers so concerned the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that it ordered the company making them to halt sales months after they began in 2020, declaring them illegal machine guns. Rare Breed Triggers, based in Fargo, N.D., said the ATF was wrong and kept selling its FRT-15 triggers, setting the stage for a battle in federal courts in New York and Texas, the Associated Press reports. The triggers are the latest rapid-fire gun accessories to draw scrutiny from government officials worried about mass shootings and police officer safety, joining bump stocks, which were banned by the Trump administration after 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 people, and cheap parts called auto sears that can make a pistol fire as if it were fully automatic.

“The defendants are illegally selling machine guns, plain and simple, with conversion devices that transform AR-15 type rifles into even more lethal weapons suited for battlefields, not our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York, said when he sued Rare Breed. The lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court claims Rare Breed failed to get ATF approval before selling the devices and defrauded customers by telling them the triggers are legal. Rare Breed denies wrongdoing. The National Association for Gun Rights sued ATF in a Texas federal court this month, challenging its classification of the FRT-15 as a machine gun. The suit was filed in the same circuit where the bump stock ban was struck down in January after other courts had upheld it. The bump stock and forced-reset battles involve how to apply the National Firearms Act of 1934 — a law passed to curb gangland violence — as modified in 1968 and 1986. The triggers were designed to work in AR-15-style rifles and take minutes to install. Rare Breed has sold about 100,000 FRT-15s, generally at just under $400 apiece, taking in nearly $38 million, ATF said.


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