Thanks to a Gun Owners Foundation and AmmoLand News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the gun-owning community now knows that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has determined a metal sliver is a machinegun.
The FOIA in question included a criminal examination letter by the ATF’s Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) that examined a Noveske N4 AR-15, that was chambered in .300BLK and equipped with a Franklin Armory BFSIII binary trigger. A binary trigger allows the user to fire one round on the trigger pull and one round on the release of the trigger. According to The Bureau, a machinegun is a firearm that fires multiple rounds with a single action of the trigger. Since the gun owner must consciously release the trigger, the ATF considers this to be two separate actions of the trigger. Thus, it is not a machinegun.
The criminal examination letter, which the ATF’s Sacramento Field Office requested from FATD, showed a fingernail-sized piece of metal and a worn disconnector can cause a Franklin Armory BFSIII trigger to fire automatically — a malfunction which is called “hammer follow.” After determining the gun in question was firing automatically and was a machinegun, the ATF determined the gun owner violated the National Firearms Act (NFA).
The ATF examiner separated the upper and lower, removed the piece of scrap metal and tested the rifle again. This time, the AR-15 performed normally. When the examiner pulled the trigger, a single round fired. When the ATF employee pulled the trigger, the rifle fired another single round. The ATF determined the sliver of metal and disconnector was the equivalent of a drop in auto sear (DIAS).
Because the ATF considers any device that converts a semi-automatic firearm to a firearm that fires automatically to be a machinegun, the ATF has determined this ever-expanding category could include DIAS, lightning links or 3D-printed Yankee Boogles. In this current case, it could be anything that could interfere with a disconnector in a binary trigger. It could be a spent primer, or even a metal shaving from the gun.
According to Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America, “To a bureaucrat determined to infringe on the Second Amendment so that he or she may exercise an iota of statutory ‘authority,’ I suppose anything is a machine gun, whether it’s a bump stock, a forced reset trigger, or a metal shaving,…But let me be clear, a sliver of metal is not a machine gun, and machine guns are protected by the Second Amendment.”
American gun owners could be considered guilty of violating the NFA in the eyes of the ATF simply for having a piece of debris stuck in their binary triggers.
A gun owner could be charged with a felony that lands them in jail for ten years if their legally owned firearm malfunctions. Hammer follow can be a dangerous malfunction, but it shouldn’t land a person in federal prison.
Charging a gun owner for a firearm malfunction is like charging a driver for speeding as a result of a stuck accelerator or a pilot for murder as a result of a plane crash caused by mechanical failure. The gun owner did not cause the firearm to act as a machinegun; a mechanical failure did. There is no way that the gun owner could predict that their firearm would malfunction.
The FOIA response shows that the ATF has no intention of having faith in American gun owners.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.