Michael Cargill was successful in his challenge of the ATF’s unilateral redefinition of bump fire stocks as machine guns in the Fifth Circuit. It’s safe to assume that had something to do with the National Association for Gun Rights also choosing the Northern District of Texas to file their complaint against ATF’s similar unilateral redefinition of forced reset triggers.
Yesterday NAGR sued the federal firearms regulatory agency hoping to overturn their sudden, arbitrary, and capricious decision to go after Rare Breed and pursue its customers who bought their drop-in triggers.
[T]he Cargill Court examined the statutory text defining “machinegun” and concluded that the statutory term “single function of the trigger” is not synonymous with a single pull of the trigger: “The problem with [the ATF’s] interpretation is that it is based on words that do not exist in the statute. The statute ‘uses single function of the trigger, not single function of the shooter’s trigger finger.’” … The Cargill Court stated “we are obliged to conclude that the statutory definition of machinegun unambiguously turns on the movement of the trigger and not a trigger finger.” … Instead, “the statute requires that a machinegun be capable of firing automatically once the trigger performs a single function.” … Cargill further elaborated that the shooter’s input is absent from the statutory “machinegun” definition:
[T]he prepositional phrases [of the statutory definition] define the firing process’s requirements from a mechanical perspective. The process must occur by a single function, and the single act must be by the trigger. In short, there is no mention of a shooter. The grammatical structure continuously points the reader back to the mechanics of the firearm. The statute does not care what human input is required to activate the trigger—it cares only whether more than one shot is fired each time the trigger acts.
The Cargill Court favorably quoted from the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals regarding the definition of a “machinegun:” “‘The statute does not say ‘by a single function of the trigger finger’ nor does it say ‘by a single pull of the trigger in addition to external pressure from the shooter’s non-firing hand.’ …. Had Congress wanted to use the phrase ‘by a single pull of the trigger’ for machine guns, it could have. But it did not.’ …
In the FATD reports referenced above and the Open Letter, the ATF explicitly claims that FRTs are “machineguns” because they may enable a user to fire multiple rounds with a “single, continuous pull of the trigger” (emphasis added). This interpretation is foreclosed by Cargill.
Defendants have not—and cannot—allege that FRTs allow users to fire multiple rounds by a single function of the trigger. An FRT resets after every round is fired and the trigger must engage in a separate function of releasing the hammer for each and every round fired.
You can read the full NAGR complaint here. NAGR issued the following press release announcing the lawsuit . . .
The National Association for Gun Rights filed a lawsuit against the ATF, National Association for Gun Rights v. Garland, in federal court in the Northern District of Texas. This action was filed in the same appellate circuit that ruled earlier this year that bump stocks are not machine guns in Cargill v. Garland.
In an open letter to all federal firearms dealers in 2022, the ATF stated: “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently examined devices commonly known as ‘forced reset triggers’ (FRTs) and has determined that some of them are ‘firearms’ and ‘machineguns’ as defined in the National Firearms Act (NFA), and ‘machineguns’ as defined in the Gun Control Act (GCA).”
Rare Breed Triggers began selling the Forced Reset Trigger in December of 2020, after having the design analyzed by multiple legal teams and firearms experts. By January 13th of 2021, the ATF had launched efforts to have FRTs outlawed. The ATF tried to justify this by saying that “multiple concerned citizens” reached out to them regarding Rare Breed’s FRTs, however FOIA requests proved that there was no record of a citizen ever contacting the ATF about the triggers.
“They are harassing our friends at Rare Breed Triggers for making perfectly legal forced reset triggers (FRTs). They’ve seized merchandise, raided homes, and generally rained terror down on the heads of law-abiding gun owners,” said Dudley Brown, President of the National Association for Gun Rights.
“They’re even bringing up Rare Beed Triggers on civil charges in an attempt to run them out of business.”
The goal of the Texas lawsuit is to bring an end to the ATF’s FRT trigger ban and to protect NAGR’s members and supporters who own FRTs from an out of control ATF.
Under federal law, a machine gun is defined as “a 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.” This is the definition that has stood unaltered in the law for nearly nine decades that the ATF is now ignoring and trying to re-write through civil charges against our friends at Rare Breed Triggers. There is no dispute that the Rare Breed Triggers’ FRT only allows one round to be fired for each function of the trigger.
“If we allow the ATF to continue to whittle away our rights by constant re-defining of what is, and what isn’t legal, we’ll soon be left with no rights at all. There should be no authority for a government agency to make rule of law unilaterally by themselves, and the courts need to recognize that,” said Hannah Hill, Executive Director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights, legal arm of the National Association for Gun Rights.