ATF Arrests Florida Man for Selling Metal Drawing of Full Auto ‘Lightning Link’

Photo: Screenshot from the home page of AutoKeyCard

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has arrested a Florida man for selling a piece of metal engraved with the outline of a “lightning link” that turns a semi-automatic AR-15 into a fully automatic machine gun.

The ATF’s move comes alongside a similar crackdown on 80-percent receivers and an ongoing debate about the legality of 3D-printed guns. In each case, federal regulators have made contradictory and unilateral decisions about the point at which a piece of metal or plastic becomes a regulated firearm or accessory.

Kristopher J. Ervin, 40, was arrested March 2 and indicted Thursday on a charge of possessing an unregistered machine-gun conversion device, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Ervin’s company, AutoKeyCard, operated under two domains, www.autokeycards.com and www.autokeycard.com, both of which have been seized by the ATF.

Ervin sold metal, credit-card-sized cards that had been laser engraved with the outline of a lightning link. Some of the cards also doubled as bottle openers, according to this page accessed by GunsAmerica. The AutoKeyCard 3in1 with Bottle Opener sold for $109.

SEE ALSO: Everytown Joins Kansas City and Illinois in Lawsuit Against ATF Over Nevada Gun Manufacturer

The product description directs users, “Do not cut or alter artwork in any way” and describes the item as a “Business Logo Card, Great Conversation Piece, Artwork and Novelty.”

In the Terms of Service posted on autokeycards.com, the company tells its customers, “You may not use our products for any illegal or unauthorized purpose nor may you, in the use of the Service, violate any laws in your jurisdiction.”

None of this was enough to protect Erwin from prosecution. It is a violation of federal law to manufacture, receive, transport, and/or deliver a machinegun not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, the agency noted in a statement about this case.

Section 26 U.S.C. §§ 5845(b) of the federal code defines “machine gun” as “any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun.”

The ATF argues that Ervin’s products violate this statute because users could cut out the metal along the engraved lines and use that device to convert an AR-15 into a machine gun.

SEE ALSO: Big Tech Moves to De-Platform 3D Printer Gun Groups… Again

Anyone in possession of one of Ervin’s products is in violation of federal law and could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 per count, the ATF claims. It isn’t clear whether someone could face prosecution even if they hadn’t cut out the lightning link.

The ATF is prosecuting a similar case against a man who sold what the agency claims are full-auto AR-15 sears disguised as “wall hangers.”

This case also shares similarities with both the 80-percent receiver controversy and the debates surrounding 3D-printed guns. In the 80-percent receiver cases, pro-gun advocates have argued that the ATF has incorrectly (and inconsistently) defined an unfinished piece of metal as a firearm receiver. As in the AutoKeyCard case, the ATF hasn’t clearly communicated at what point a metal block has been machined to the point of becoming a firearm.

AutoKeyCards also share similarities with the designs for 3D-printed guns. State attorneys general have tried to ban 3D-printed gun designs from being posted online, but gun rights advocates have argued that those designs are protected speech. A similar case could be made for AutoKeyCards because they are, essentially, a product design engraved into a piece of metal.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Kenneth Ragan March 22, 2021, 9:28 am

    A devise such as this will only work in certain receivers with certain bolt carriers…and as far as I know there is nobody making them and they havent in a loooong time.

  • PB- dave March 22, 2021, 9:25 am

    Think the atf stretched a bid on this one….. if this is truly a etched metal blueprint , it is no more dangerous than a paper print. It is what someone does with that info that could be illegal … is the gov’t a mind reader?
    IF the manufacturer had lasered these deep enough to be able to knock them out of the plate, the atf would have a possible case.

    • man_o_brass March 22, 2021, 9:54 am

      It’s a blueprint for a lightning link etched directly onto the correct material to make a lightning link out of. The dude did everything except add “Insert tab A into slot B.” Don’t be naive.

      • Dave Emery March 22, 2021, 1:27 pm

        Allowing infringement is the ultimate naivete, wouldn’t you say?

        • man_o_brass March 22, 2021, 2:44 pm

          Indeed. My right to keep and bear legally registered NFA items has never been infringed. The constitution doesn’t say: “shall not be regulated.”

          • Rick March 23, 2021, 12:46 am

            You know what else the 2A DOESN’t say? SHALL be regulated. (It mentions a militia being regulated, NOT firearms.) Stop making excuses for a government that has PURPOSELY taken steps to UNDER-arm its citizenry. ATF has shown time and time again what their main focus is and it doesn’t involve putting ACTUAL criminals behind bars. Making this item is one thing, actually putting it IN a firearm is something else. Apparently, now the ATF are also the thought police….

          • Kevin Kuwata March 23, 2021, 1:50 pm

            The State and Federal Government may provide legal avenues for some to buy Class 3 weapons, but that doesn’t mean the average firearm enthusiast can own one. You may live in a state where you don’t consider your right to legally own a class 3 weapon “infringed upon”, but there are several states where it is impossible for the average firearm enthusiast to own a machine gun or suppressor.
            Requiring someone to jump through all the hoops to obtain one (without any assurance that you will be approved) meets the definition of “infringement”.
            I do not have a desire or use for an automatic weapon or suppressor, nor do I condone the illegal possession of such weapons, but a metal card with engraved etching? I am with PB-Dave on this one.

    • Chris March 22, 2021, 10:31 am

      Originally they were made to be easily “knocked out” being cutout completely except for a few bits of metal to hold the parts to the card but they were shut down. They changed their design and went to the engraved design where it was a solid piece of metal where the buyer would need to cut every single part and gap out themselves. The problem they may have had is that they redesigned the cards again, where they were not just laser engraved but rather had the hard to cut thin gap already removed at the bottom of the long piece as well as the “eyelet” area cut out calling it a “pencil holder”. This meant all someone needed to do was cut along the outside of the two pieces making it much easier for someone without a lot of experience to be able to accomplish. Since it is not a “solid” piece of metal in the areas makes it that much easier to extract from the “card” which can be used along with an M16 bolt carrier to turn it into an automatic weapon which is what likely led to their downfall. Had they kept the card solid and not cut out these areas there would be no question as it being a novelty item but having these areas cutout the antigun groups can twist it as “there is no necessary reason for these areas to be cutout unless the item is intended to be used”.

  • man_o_brass March 22, 2021, 9:20 am

    Let’s be realistic here, guys. The heart of the matter is intent. My idiot cousin once got pulled over with some perfectly legal items and chemicals in the back of his truck. He was sent to prison because the cops knew damned well he intended to use it all to set up a meth lab.

    NOBODY bought one of these things to open their beer with. The only reason anyone paid money for one of these things is to intentionally break a law. Whether or not that law is BS is beside the point at the moment. To any idiot smart enough to hold a Dremel, these things are purpose-made illegal auto-sears. Nothing more.

    Disagreeing with the law is one thing, but don’t start twisting your perceptions of world around you just to back up your beliefs. That’s what liberals do.

  • Phillip DeWitt March 22, 2021, 8:32 am

    Anyone who can afford center fire ammo to play with a MG can easily afford a Class 3 permit.

    • Trevor Teague March 22, 2021, 9:39 am

      Free men don’t need permission.

      • Dave Emery March 22, 2021, 1:28 pm

        Amen.

  • Griffendad March 22, 2021, 8:14 am

    It’s interesting how the Federal government has become afraid of Americans. Maybe it’s because they’ve become corrupt and Americans know that it’s their duty to overthrow just such a government.

    • John Boutwell March 22, 2021, 10:40 am

      Exactly!

  • Dilligaf March 21, 2021, 9:28 pm

    The atf needs to be abolished immediately. They are the most anti-American alphabet agency in the government.

  • bobs your uncle March 20, 2021, 8:17 pm

    The problem is that real criminals are dangerous and going after them could place agents in real danger. How many functioning full automatic firearms were recovered?

  • Peter Brown March 20, 2021, 4:42 pm

    We can discredit atf, et al by detailing their ineptitude but it doesn’t matter to Kristopher J. Ervin. He must spend thousands of hard earned dollars to fight big brother. Big brother uses our money to fight Mr. Ervin, fine, if big brother loses they can refile after delving deeper into the activities of an innocent American.
    This won’t escape the notice of potential investors. Investors may scatter the next time someone with a firearm oriented product appeals to them for startup bucks.
    I feel that the guvamint knows this and banks on it.

  • Shanz March 19, 2021, 2:42 pm

    I would love to see blue dog try to convert a semi auto into full auto using one of these. That would be hilarious. He/ Him/Commy would need to get an AR first I’m guessing.

  • Eric Wendt March 19, 2021, 1:05 pm

    Machine guns are covertly causing the ammo shortage in this country!😎

  • Bryan March 19, 2021, 11:41 am

    This is all crap, these things are nothing more than a very (very) lightly engraved drawing of a lightning link. If you have held on in person you’d understand. You are not going to take a dremel tool and cut the links out of the piece of metal, you might try, but you’ll end up with metal sawdust and what used to be a flat piece of metal that will follow the sawdust into the trashcan.

    What’s next, banning coat hangers? Going into someone’s garage and confiscating all flat pieces of metal? Wait, you thought about how to convert a semi-auto to full-auto one time…place your hands behind your back and quit resisting….

  • Ursus Logicus March 19, 2021, 10:54 am

    Any court/judge/jury convicting the accuse in this case is one which needs to be examined by a team of psychiatric researchers. I cannot LOGICALLY expect a conviction.

    However, the Government does not realistically seek a conviction as much as it seeks to financially ruin or compel the accused to plead out or surrender, thus achieving the same result as a conviction.

    That’s how a weaponized Democrat DOJ works.

  • Vincent G March 19, 2021, 10:49 am

    They have always been afraid of us. Their actions now show just how really afraid of us they have become.

  • Norm Fishler March 19, 2021, 10:45 am

    The country stands on the precipice of collapse and these fools are chasing down business card sized pieces of stamped metal. I, for one, would like to see what would happen if someone like Trey Gowdy took over the ATF.

    • alex March 22, 2021, 9:37 am

      norm,i hate to bust your bubble but trey gowdy is a do nothing,big mouth swamp dweller just like to rest of the washington scum,all his years in office he ran his mouth and did absolutely NOTHING,ZERO! he’s just a POS like the rest of them.

      • Gary0k April 20, 2021, 10:08 am

        Gowdy is a lawyer, promised to the British Crown BAR Association, England. Members of the BAR, owe their business to England, not the free world. OBTW, W.D.C, and Congress in session; only has law for themselves, while IN, W.D.C., not the rest of America, (Congress creates a corporation to ‘implement government’). Law, is simply, commercial contracts; all the time. Fight ‘law’, by only using Commercial Law (UCC Codes). The commercial product in question, is a commercial product; thus restraint of trade.
        The ATF, is in breach of contract; contract law, NOT STATUTE LAW! Statute law is the equivalent, of the Professor, man behind the curtain, in “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.

  • gary holfstra March 19, 2021, 10:00 am

    Full auto is really only useful as defensive or covering fire or to have “fun” at the range, or, I guess, if you want to charge up a hill into an enemies defensive position full-auto might scare them. Maybe stick fuses in your beard and light them ala Blackbeard as well, that should help. LOL

    If you want to blow $1 (or more) rounds down range at 450rpm go right ahead, you have that right. Me, I’ll practice actually hitting what I’m aiming at. One. Round. At. A. Time.

    Remember kids, “double tap, center mass”.

  • Eric Holder March 19, 2021, 8:26 am

    Well I hope the government does what it claims to prove it’s case, that the card COULD be cut and used as a part of a machine gun. I would like to see them do it. Currently I have numerous machine guns and IED’s because I could cut my car apart and melt it down and make machine guns and explosives. Certainly people recognize that ATF and ALL Federal Agencies are just drama queens and are specialists at taking credit for what local agencies do or just sit around making shit up. Pretty much the same as “The Big Guy POS POTUS Joe Biden” taking credit for all the vaccine baloney. Business is great with the open borders and my friends running the Cartels, just loading up crates of machine guns on flatbeds and driving back and forth everyday. My new trucks have new graphics on the sides that say “machine guns without borders”. LMAO

  • Joseph Burge March 19, 2021, 6:59 am

    While I agree that flouting border-line stupidity only causes problems, come on! It is obviously intended for a certain use, but its a flat piece of metal. What are we gonna do next, shut down Home Depot, and Auto Zone? Or institute mandatory Psychotherapy screening with required responses to the question “Do you have visions of lightning-link in your head?”

  • EricB March 19, 2021, 6:18 am

    If we had an unbiased media, there would be headlines screaming “Government Lackeys Infringing on Bottle Openers”. Next we’ll all go to jail because we saw a picture of something that we could copy and make in our garage.

  • Pat Riot March 19, 2021, 5:44 am

    Typical response from BlueDog.
    Infringement is infringement.

    It’s NOT a part. It’s a drawing of a part.

  • paul (I'll call you what I want/1st amendment) March 18, 2021, 1:12 pm

    God I can’t believe I’m agreeing with blue dog, but thanks to this guy, customers are now going to get knocks on their doors from the ATF with seize and ask questions later orders!

    • Blasted Cap March 19, 2021, 9:47 am

      And with the history of the ATF they’ll be done with no-knock warrants in the middle of the night. Kick in the door, shots fired because the infant in his mother’s arms was going for a gun in her bra or some other lame excuse.
      Great idea.

  • Blue Dog (he/him) March 17, 2021, 5:22 pm

    Seriously, this kind of cheeky flouting of laws about not turnings semi-autos into full-autos hurts us more than it helps us. Every joker out there bragging about using his arm brace like a stock, every clown bragging about making silencers with oil filters or potatoes, every chucklehead talking about ways to convert AKs to full auto with paper clips, you are just convincing the people in the middle to go along with the gun grabbers. It sickens me. As a firearm enthusiast, hobbyist and former seller of firearms, I am glad that they are shutting down stupidity like this.

    • Michael Boyd March 19, 2021, 6:26 am

      So you don’t think that the law in question itself violates the ‘…the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ phrase of the 2nd Amendment?

      • Kevin Kuwata March 23, 2021, 1:57 pm

        1st Amendment…

    • AR Libertarian March 19, 2021, 10:08 am

      It is as much a first amendment issue as it is a second amendment issue.

      It is a desire to control what knowledge that is available to the public. Next just owning a drawing of a lightning link will be suspect. Then they can start banning books for their potential for mis-use. Poor Man’s James Bond? Anarchist’s Cookbook?

      You think AOC or Feinstein or Pelosi has any limit to the knowledge they thinks is “too dangerous” for mere peasants to own?

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