A New York federal judge issued an order Tuesday temporarily barring two firearms companies from selling devices that prosecutors say convert AR-15 style rifles into machine guns, finding that prosecutors are likely to prove the companies plotted to hide their sale from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by intentionally failing to register the accessories.
The preliminary injunction ruling is the first barring a company from selling the accessory, the FRT-15, according to a spokesperson from the US attorney’s office. Prosecutors say the device allows a semi-automatic firearm to fire as fast as a machine gun.
According to prosecutors, Rare Breed Triggers, LLC and Rare Breed Firearms, LLC, and their owners Lawrence DeMonico and Kevin Maxwell, knew that FRT-15s made a weapon qualify as machine guns under federal law. Rare Breed sold approximately 100,000 FRT-15s anyways, prosecutors allege, ignoring demands from the ATF to stop selling the accessories and “falsely representing that the FRT-15s was ‘absolutely’ legal, District Judge Nina Morrison wrote in an opinion Tuesday.
“The parties agree that the ATF’s classification process is voluntary. A manufacturer can choose to forego the process and risk facing prosecution or civil liability if the device is later declared to be illegal,” according to the opinion.
“Yet Defendants’ deliberate decision to bypass that process with the FRT-15,” Morrison wrote, “indicates that 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.”
CNN has reached out to attorneys for the defendants.
As part of her ruling, Morrison said that prosecutors are likely to prove that the defendants repeatedly “conspired to use dishonest means to interfere with the ATF’s ability to track and confiscate FRT-15s.” For example, the government presented evidence that the defendants used fake company names on the return addresses of packages being sent to customers and destroyed sales records after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the ATF.
Morrison also found that the defendants likely attempted to interfere with the ATF’s investigation into their sale of FRT-15s, noting that DeMonico allegedly tried to take FRT-15s from a warehouse before the ATF could seize them.
The judge pointed to allegations that an ATF agent received a threatening phone call from the fax line in the lobby of Maxwell’s law office. Morrison wrote that the call was a “troubling coincidence” because the ATF had served Maxwell with a cease-and-desist letter one month earlier but noted that the government has not proven that Maxwell was involved in the call, and that other offices in the same building also were involved in litigation with the ATF. Maxwell testified that he did not make the call, according to the court filing.
According to the ATF, the caller, who did not identify himself, said: “When are you going to stop trampling on our Second Amendment rights?”
While the litigation is ongoing, Morrison’s ruling stops Rare Breed Triggers and its owners from selling FRT-15 and other machine gun conversion devices until otherwise ordered, and requires the defendants to “preserve all documents related to the manufacture, possession, receipt, transfer, customer base, and/or historical or current sale” of conversion devices.
DeMonico and Maxwell said they believed “in good faith” that the FRT-15 was legal “based on their own understanding” of how they work and the law, according to the court filing.