Is the Tommybuilt T36 a Machinegun or Just Another ATF Regulatory Disaster? [VIDEO]

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This Week in Gun Rights is TTAG’s weekly roundup of legal, legislative and other news affecting guns, the gun business and gun owners’ rights. 

The Tommybuilt T36: Machinegun or ATF mess?

Courtesy Tommybuilt Tactical

We’ve seen a lot of buzz over the last week over the Tommybuilt T36. All we really have to go on, so far, is the post on his website asking users to send their guns back to be re-jiggered…for a $225 fee. No official documents have been released yet, and the story is a heck of a tale.

Apparently the ATF paid Tommybuilt a visit, flip flopping in the typical regulatory agency fashion. You see, Tom Bostic’s T36 is based on H&K’s own semi-auto lockout design used by them in the civilian SL8. ATF had long ago approved this design…until they suddenly didn’t.

The story goes that ATF agents, armed with a T36, an HK G36 full auto fire control group and other unobtanium full auto G36 parts, and a hammer, were able to modify and force feed the T36 full auto components. Whether they actually got it to fire is another thing, but that apparently was enough for the agency to start bullying Bostic.

Being a small business, Tommybuilt felt it was easier to accept some changes and roll with it rather than risk the time suck and cost of being tied up in litigation. It’s truly a sad state of affairs when ATF can bully smaller players into compliance, and the big players are generally insufficiently motivated to fight these arbitrary abuses of authority.

The way I read this situation, there is, and ought not be, anything wrong with the T36. It was deliberately designed to be a semi-auto firearm, and thus has no business being considered “readily restored” or “designed” to fire automatically.

This looks like yet another clear abuse of arbitrary regulatory authority that this industry desperately needs to see reigned in.

AI-Controlled guns, but not the cool kind

artificial intelligence digital smart gun
Shutterstock

A group of researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York recently published a paper detailing the potential for AI intervention to prevent mass shootings: a so called “ethical lockout.” The proposition seems to be that, through a bunch of sensors and algorithms, “smart guns” could determine whether or not a firearm was being used for proper purposes, and disable the trigger when the firearm rules out self-defense.

The use case theorized in the article is as follows regarding a shooter driving to a Walmart to engage in violent crime:

At Walmart itself, in the parking lot, any attempt on the part of the would-be assailant to use his weapon, or even position it for use in any way, will result in it being locked out by the AI. In the particular case at hand, the AI knows that killing anyone with the gun, except perhaps e.g. for self-defense purposes, is unethical. Since the AI rules out self-defense, the gun is rendered useless, and locked out.

It continues, belching up oft-cited yet misleading statistics on firearm casualties, concluding that . . .

If the AI could be developed in such a way that it would only allow users to fire in ethical situations such as self defense, while at a firing range, or in designated legal hunting areas, thousands of lives could be saved every year.

Of course, as even the researchers admit, this is a “blue sky” proposition, one that’s most certainly not in the cards any time soon. Still, it’s nice to see people are at least openly talking about the absurd depths of their ambitions, providing a clear counter-example to those who claim that paranoid gun owners are arguing the slippery slope fallacy.

The technology certainly doesn’t exist to accurately gauge a person’s intent, but the technology certainly does exist to completely render our firearms useless. To some of these people, it seems, that might be more of a feature than a bug.

Anti-Gunners want to keep public transportation users disarmed

commuter bus public transportation
Shutterstock

There’s a bill in the Missouri state senate to remove the state’s prohibition on lawfully carrying a firearm while using public transportation. The editors of the Kansas City Star seem to think it’s a “risk proposition that lawmakers should soundly reject.”

To any rational observer, prohibiting the lawful carry of arms on public transport seems a calculated way to disarm the poor, as there’s no evidence of lawful carriers posing a unique risk when on a train or bus. How the editorial board of the Kansas City Star can argue for this continued prohibition with a straight face is beyond me.

ICE Agent’s P320 Lawsuit

P320 X-Five Legion (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
P320 X-Five Legion (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

SIG SAUER is facing a lawsuit from ICE agent Keith Slatowski, who claims his P320 discharged on its own while he was training at a government firing range, striking his hip and thigh.

Many have been quick to dogpile on the P320 based on its infamous early drop-fire defect, but I can’t personally see how this discharge could be related to that. As I understand it, dropping or striking the gun transferred enough energy to the trigger bar to actually “pull” the trigger and drop the sear. This incident, it seems, happened on-the-draw.

That’s not to say it isn’t possible that this particular firearm may have had a unique defect, but the discharge sounds more like it’s due to negligent firearms handling than negligent firearms design, at least to this observer.

MidwayUSA Selects New CEO

Replacing the well-known and very meme-worthy Larry Potterfield, Matt Fleming is being promoted to CEO. Larry Potterfield will remain as Chairman of the board of the Missouri retailer.

Fleming has been on board for years, and apparently has been tremendously successful, earning the personal endorsement of Potterfield. We can only hope Potterfield will remain on video.

New Special Prosecutor in McCloskey Case

St. Louis McCloskey Kim Gardner
Mark and Patricia McCloskey (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

Following all the clear nonsense in the classic case of the lawn defenders, a new special prosecutor has been appointed, who promises to start with a “clean slate.”

Instances like this, where clear political motivations drive charging and prosecutorial decisions, highlight serious problems with our criminal justice system. Individual political ambitions share nothing with the just application of law, and in fact may be counterproductive to it.

It is the duty of the criminal justice system, at every level, to administer justice neutrally and with adherence to the Constitution.

North Carolina Considering Loosening Prohibition on Church Carry

West Freeway Church Shooting Texas
In this still frame from livestreamed video provided by law enforcement, churchgoers take cover while a congregant armed with a handgun, top left, engages a man who opened fire, near top center just right of windows, during a service at West Freeway Church of Christ, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas. (West Freeway Church of Christ/Courtesy of Law Enforcement via AP)

The North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a favorable report for Senate Bill 43, which would expand the ability of citizens to carry while attending religious services.

I’ve been routinely shocked at how many states, many of them in the American south, prohibit carry in houses of worship. It’s one of the first phenomenon I wrote about, the way an orthodoxy against carrying defensive arms into houses of worship seemed to inexplicably materialize somewhere between the founding and today.

All faiths have their uniquities, and it ought be on the directors of each house of worship to decide whether or not their flock members can carry…not the members of a part-time state legislature.

22 COMMENTS

  1. If stuffing full auto components into a semiauto rifle means that the semiauto rifle is actually a machine gun because it can be “readily converted” to full auto capability, then all AR riles are at risk because all it takes is drilling an extra hole in the lower receiver and minimal (but illegal) changes to create a full auto sear. Thus the question is this: is this how the Bidenharris Admin intends to use EOs to ban/require registration of all AR type rifles?

    • The Dr. Professor Jill Biden Administration is going to do whatever they think they can get away with and then some.

    • It takes a little more than that. Material needs to be removed to make room for the autosear. It’s less that half the work of making an 80% receiver, and there are jigs available. The BATFE had a standard of less than 1 hour’s work by a qualified gunsmith as “readily convertible.” With CNC machining, that covers just about everything.
      We need to see how there current bumpstock cases progress. The government may not be able get away with making them contraband without compensation. If they declare them machine guns and they remain in people’s hands, 99.9% will become real machine guns.

      • That’s why they used the hammer. To force the fire control group into the space designed not to accept it. Whether or not it would work afterwards is open to debate. Has F-Troop hired Bubba as part of an EEO drive?

    • Loads of ARs come with the lower machined in a way that one could simply swap out parts if one had an auto-sear on hand.

      Old RRA rifles ALL came that way because they used the same lowers on their civvie guns as they did for .gov contracts. I would assume the new ones do too but I haven’t looked at a new one in several years.

      • “Loads of ARs come with the lower machined in a way that one could simply swap out parts if one had an auto-sear on hand.”

        Nah, there aren’t any current-production civilian ARs that can easily mount an auto sear and it’s been that way pretty much since forever (or at least maybe the 90s when Colt was busy colluding with ATF on these changes).

        • *checks the two rifles in question*

          Uh, with a drill through side to side in the right spot this will take an auto-sear. Just need the jig to punch that hole in the right spot, which is also easy to get.

          So… define “easily”. Lots of companies sell lowers that are milled to fit an autosear but they don’t drill the lower for that purpose. Heck, even Mr.GunsandGear has covered this.

          RRA, Centurion, ATI MilSport, Sons of Liberty Gun Works, BCI and others all make lowers that are milled but not drilled for FA. IIRC the Centurion is the CM4 and it’s a bit over $100.

        • But the parts might fit into an older SP1? I remember mine had the full circle BCG while the A2s had the bottom of the circle cut away.

        • Southern Cross, you are correct. There was a period when there were “SA” and “FA” bolt carriers, and threats (at least) that having a “FA” bolt carrier (all by itself) could get you a prison sentence. Then, suddenly, that was gone, I now have some of each.

    • Forget the auto sear conversion. What about using a Lightning Link? That’s a drop in part that converts to full auto within a few minutes.

      Seems like it would become a legal quagmire if the ATF were to rule this way since Lightning Links are supposed to be registered NFA items. But what about the ATF isn’t a legal quagmire at this point?

  2. ‘Is the Tommybuilt T36 a Machinegun or Just Another ATF Regulatory Disaster?’

    Honestly, it would quicker to list the number of times when the ATF was in the right. I’m sure that’ll happen at least once eventually.

  3. Do they call that pistolero “The Iceman ” or Limpy the Law Dog?
    So the BAFTE sit around all day making machine gunms out of semi autos. Sounds like a fun job, however I’ve heard occasionally you have to go out and burn kids to death, kill wives and infringe on the Constitution you swore to uphold, and I ain’t into that.

    • Define “occasionally.” Maybe “occasionally” burn women and kids, but I would argue infringing Constitutionally protected rights takes up pretty much all of their waking hours.

  4. Re: A.I. controlled firearm usage:

    Dr. Manhattan : “She was pregnant….. And, you gunned her down.”

    The Comedian: “That’s right… And you know what? You watched me. You could have turned the gun to steam; the bullets in to Mercury; the bottle in to god damn snow flakes but you didn’t. Did ya? You really don’t give a damn about human beings.”

    …. to which the lawyer will argue: “If the shooting wasn’t justified, then why didn’t the A.I. stop it?”

  5. Just had another thought. I recall that people were buying an imported Chinese part designed for airsoft guns but that fits on a real Glock, turning them full auto. Are all Glocks now machine guns because of the (potential) availability of this hack?

    • No…. you didn’t modify the gun (reciever/frame/NFA part with the serial number); you added a 3rd party device to an other gun part (slide). If I drilled a “3rd hole” in an AR15 lower, or modified a glock frame to accept a G18c slide, or (in the Tommybuilt case) modified an SL-8 reciever to accept G36 parts, then, yes, I would have manufactured a machine gun….. sounds like the ATF had to do some gymnastics to make it happen. If I remember correctly, Larry Vickers had a Tommybuilt XM-8 in one of his youtube videos with a registered G36 trigger pack that he fired full auto. He said everything was nice and legal because the trigger pack was registered. It didn’t quite sound right because the modified SL8 was modified to accept machine gun parts and not the other way around. But, who am I (a meer mortal) to question Larry Vickers.

  6. They should have to grandfather all guns made like they did with the open bolt macs.
    Making buyers pay to “fix” this is unreasonable and it was an approved design.
    The ATF and all gun laws need to go. They are unconstitutional and should be struck down as so.

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