In the latest salvo of the ongoing legal saga involving Rare Breed Triggers, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) forcing the company to stop selling its “forced reset triggers.”
Stretching back to 2018, before Rare Breed Triggers (RBT) purchased the patent from Wolf Tactical (the company that originated the technology RBT’s FRT-15 trigger is based on), ATF determined that the precursor trigger was a “machinegun” and subject to the National Firearms Act.
The ATF claims that Rare Breed Triggers knew it would be unable to get a letter of determination stating that the FRT-15 trigger was a semi-automatic trigger, so the company chose to hire outside experts to examine it, and issued statements to customers that the triggers were legal based on those findings.
Rare Breed Triggers insists that its product is a semi-automatic trigger, as RBT explains on its website. To be sure, the distinction is arguably a fine one, mostly resting on the ATF’s definition of a “single function of the trigger.”
The 8-step cycle of most common to closed-bolt AR pattern rifles would seem to support Rare Breed’s claim – one pull of the trigger results in one round being fired from the gun.
The ATF claims, in an open letter sent to all Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) in March of 2022, that FRTs “do not require shooters to pull and then subsequently release the trigger to fire a second shot.”
The NFA definition of a machinegun clearly makes no mention of a requirement for a shooter to release a trigger, but that point is sure to be argued over in the ongoing court battles between Rare Breed Triggers, its legal supporters, and attorneys for the government.
What is a tangent topic of concern, and perhaps hope for 2A supporters, is that the determination of FRTs as “machineguns” under the NFA seems to have been accomplished in much the same way the ATF banned bump stocks.
The Trump-era ban on bump stocks was recently overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 13-3 decision in Cargill v. Garland, due in part to the ATF acting outside of its legal authority to create laws.
After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the ATF, Rare Breed Triggers refused to comply and continued selling their FRT-15 trigger.
Over the course of 2022, ATF raids on Rare Breed Triggers, a competitor, and a licensed manufacturer culminated in the president of Rare Breed Triggers, Lawrence DeMonico, loading a large stock of FRT-15 triggers and parts into a U-Haul van, and driving off before the ATF was able to serve a search warrant on the company.
The ATF and local authorities ultimately located and stopped DeMonico in New Mexico, where they seized nearly 1,000 FRT-15s and thousands of extra parts from his vehicle. Despite the stop and the confiscation of what the ATF claimed were nearly 1,000 “machineguns,” DeMonico wasn’t charged with a crime.
Over the following months, Rare Breed Triggers reorganized as a North Dakota company and filed a lawsuit against the ATF in what was believed to be a more 2A-friendly court. The ATF objected, stating that Rare Breed Triggers only operated a virtual office in North Dakota, so it lacked standing. The court agreed with the ATF in November and dismissed Rare Breed’s case for improper venue.
Despite the legal setbacks, Rare Breed Triggers sourced additional FRTs and continued to sell them to customers.
On January 19, 2023, the ATF filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, NY, seeking a permanent injunction against the company selling its triggers. The court agreed, and issued a preliminary TRO against Rare Breed Triggers, pending legal challenges through April 30th.
As Rare Breed Triggers vows to continue their legal fight, updates are sure to come.