NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Tuesday won a court injunction blocking a firearms company from selling after-market triggers that let gun enthusiasts convert AR-15 style rifles into weapons that can shoot as fast as machine guns.
U.S. District Judge Nina Morrison in Brooklyn said the Department of Justice was likely to prove that the “forced-reset triggers” sold by Rare Breed Triggers LLC and its owners were illegal machine guns under federal law.
The government said rifles equipped with Rare Breed’s FRT-15 triggers were capable of firing faster than military-grade M-16 machine guns, which can fire at least 700 rounds a minute.
In a 129-page decision, Morrison said the defendants defrauded customers by saying its FRT-15s were “absolutely” legal, despite having failed to win Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approval for their sale.
She also highlighted alleged efforts by Fargo, North Dakota-based Rare Breed to obstruct the government from tracking and confiscating the devices, including by destroying sales records and using fake names on packages sent through the mail.
“Defendants declined to seek ATF classification of the FRT-15 and instead simply assure RBT’s customers that the device was ‘legal’ precisely because they knew that allowing ATF to examine their device before bringing it to market might kill their proverbial golden goose,” the judge wrote.
Rare Breed has sold more than 103,000 FRT-15s, which cost $380 each, taking in $39.4 million since sales began in Dec. 2020, the Justice Department estimated in July.
Morrison’s preliminary injunction against further sales is the first of its kind.
Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn had no immediate comment.
Morrison was appointed to the bench by Democratic President Joe Biden.
She ruled six days after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas called the forced-reset trigger ban “likely unlawful” and temporarily barred its enforcement against three people and two gun rights groups.
O’Connor is an appointee of former Republican President George W. Bush, and known for sympathy toward some challenges to federal rulemaking.
The triggers are among a series of rapid-fire gun devices that have drawn objections from the federal government.
Others include bump stocks, which the Trump administration banned after a gunman used them in killing 58 people at an October 2017 country music concert in Las Vegas.
Courts are divided on that ban’s legality, and the Biden administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a January decision by the federal appeals court in New Orleans to strike it down.
Morrison’s preliminary injunction against Rare Breed also covers its sale of Wide Open Triggers, an FRT-15 copy designed to fit AR-15 style rifles.
The case is part of Peace’s Civil Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence, launched last year.
The case is U.S. v. Rare Breed Triggers LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 23-00369.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Bill Berkrot
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