As many in the Firearms Community are aware, yesterday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a somewhat vague Open Letter to all Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs), dated March 22, 2022, declaring that it considers some – without specification – forced reset triggers (FRTs) to be machineguns. (Who didn’t see this coming given their absurd position on bumpstocks?!?!)
The Open Letter declares
These particular FRTs are being marketed as replacement triggers for AR-type firearms. Unlike traditional triggers and binary triggers (sometimes referred to generally as “FRTs”), the subject FRTs do not require shooters to pull and then subsequently release the trigger to fire a second shot. Instead, these FRTs utilize the firing cycle to eliminate the need for the shooter to release the trigger before a second shot is fired. By contrast, some after-market triggers have similar components but also incorporate a disconnector or similar feature to ensure that the trigger must be released before a second shot may be fired and may not be machineguns
The Open Letter than goes on to declare
Under 26 U.S.C. § 5871, any person who violates or fails to comply with the provisions of the NFA may be fined up to $10,000 per violation and is subject to imprisonment for a term of up to ten years. Further, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 5872, any machinegun possessed or transferred in violation of the NFA is subject to seizure and forfeiture. Under 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2), any person who violates § 922(o) may be sent to prison for up to 10 years and fined up to $250,000 per person or $500,000 per organization.
Based on ATF’s determination that the FRTs that function as described above are “machineguns” under the NFA and GCA, ATF intends to take appropriate remedial action with respect to sellers and possessors of these devices. Current possessors of these devices are encouraged to contact ATF for further guidance on how they may divest possession. If you are uncertain whether the device you possess is a machinegun as defined by the GCA and NFA, please contact your local ATF Field Office. You may consult the local ATF Office’s webpage for office contact information.
Given what appears to be ATF’s active enforcement of its interpretive jiggery-pokery, ever changing interpretations of the Gun Control Act and implementing regulations, it is important that any individual in possession of an FRT only surrender such item(s) under protest, advise that you do not consent to the forfeiture or destruction of your property, and that you require a property receipt from ATF. Be aware that the agent may attempt to have you sign an ATF 3400.1 Form – Consent to Forfeiture or Destruction of Property and Waiver of Notice – which you should NOT sign under ANY circumstance. In the event that they ask you to sign an ATF 3400.1, inform them that the only ATF form you are willing to sign is an ATF 3400.23 – Receipt of Property and Other Items, as the ATF 3400.23 does not contain language, wherein you agree to the forfeiture/destruction of your property.
You should also attempt to take photos of your items, so you can prove the condition they were in when taken by ATF, as well as, find any receipts or other information relative to your purchase of the items. It would also be prudent to separately document your experience of the encounter in writing – such as the location, date, and time of your interaction with the ATF agent(s), the names or other identifying information (ID #, contact number, business card, etc.) of all ATF agents or persons you spoke with, the details of all discussions, and any other information they told or provided you. You should also demand a copy of the executed ATF 3400.23. If they tell you that they’ll mail you a copy, in addition to requesting that they do, you should take a photo of the executed form with your phone. After compiling all these documents and information, you should place them in a safe place.
So that there can be no misunderstanding on ATF’s part, I would strongly recommend sending a letter, consistent with the below, to the ATF Agent that took your item(s), because, in the event ATF elects to institute a forfeiture action, they are required to serve you with a copy and in that event, you should immediately contact an attorney, if you wish to challenge ATF’s ability to forfeit your property.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
<insert field office address of ATF agent>
Dear Agent <Insert Last Name>:
As I informed you on <Insert Date> when you took my <Insert Items> (hereinafter “items”), I surrendered them under protest as I understand ATF contends that my continued possession of those items would result in my arrest and prosecution. As I dispute ATF’s contention and authority in this matter, I am only surrendering my items to preclude my arrest and prosecution. I do not consent to the destruction of my items nor do I consent to forfeiture of my items. I assert all of my rights pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and all applicable federal laws.
In the event ATF’s newly minted interpretation is enjoined or is deemed unlawful by a court of law, I expect ATF to immediately return my items, at no cost to me, and expect that ATF will not cause any damage or harm to them, while in its possession.
Thanking you for you time and assistance in this matter, I am
<insert name and address>
If your rights have been violated by ATF or another federal administrative agency, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.
Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.