(Editor’s note: This story was written exclusively for Armed American News by Mark Naughton, a video journalist and a co-host on the popular Twitter Space 2Feds. Before turning to journalism, Mark was a police officer and U.S. Air Force veteran. He is now part-time in the Army National Guard, and he travels America covering high-profile court cases, protests and major criminal incidents.)
by Mark Naughton
[Fargo, N.D.] The man who invented the forced-reset trigger, or FRT, sang the praises of the owner of Moonlight Industries after a video showing ATF agents badgering the man broke the internet.
“I would give him an A,” said Kevin Maxwell, the FRT patent holder and owner of Rare Breed Triggers.
Maxwell, an attorney who moved his business from Florida, said he watched the Moonlight Industries video and was impressed by the owner’s conduct given the stressful circumstances.
In a viral video posted May 9, ATF agents attempt to confiscate the specialty AR-15 triggers belonging to the owner of the tactical equipment manufacturer Moonlight Industries.
A woman identifying herself as an ATF agent said the man had made it onto their “FRT confiscation list.”
“I’m sure you’re aware that the ATF just recently classified FRTs, the forced reset triggers, as machine guns, so we are aware that you may have purchased some of these FRTs, so now we are having the whole agency basically reaching out to these purchasers and we have to pick them up,” she said.
Maxwell said anyone whom the ATF contacts regarding the FRTs must handle the interaction peacefully and with tact and tell the AFT agents their opinion is not the law. “It is your opinion that FRT triggers are machine guns, no court has determined it is a machine gun and if you do not have a warrant or court order to seize any property, I don’t have anything to say to you.”
The inventor, who was charged with manufacturing, selling, and failing to register his company’s FRTs with the federal government by the Eastern District of New York, said the ATF concocted the FRTs as the legal equivalent of illegal machine guns without any validation by Congress or the courts.
The inventor said he agreed to move the trial’s venue in exchange for the Justice Department’s promise not to access his customer list.
Maxwell said he believes the ATF obtained records of his customers who purchased the triggers after he made a Feb. 14 deal with the court not to surrender his customer list in exchange for allowing his case to be heard in New York rather than his home state of Florida.
“I believe the ATF got my customer list through bank or shipping records, and we’ll know for sure through discovery very soon,” he said.
The lawyer said he also faces federal mail fraud charges for distributing them nationwide with codefendant Lawrence DeMonico of Rare Breed Firearms.
A spokesman for Moonlight Industries said he would not give the name of the man approached by the ATF, and the company had no comment.
However, on the company’s website, there are t-shirts mocking the female ATF agent.
It was little over a year ago that George Lauder, the ATF’s then-assistant director of enforcement and services, said in an open letter to all 133,000 federally licensed firearms dealers, that the forced reset triggers are classified by the ATF as firearms and machine guns.
“ATF’s examination found that some FRT devices allow a firearm to automatically expel more than one shot with a single, continuous pull of the trigger,” he said in the letter. “For this reason, ATF has concluded that FRTs that function in this way are a combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, and hence, ATF has classified these devices as a machine gun as defined by the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act.”
Even before the letter was sent there were rumors that ATF was planning to issue its FRT ruling. In response, a YouTuber posted a Feb. 12, 2021, video demonstrating how an FRT-equipped AR-15 is not the same as a fully automatic trigger firearm, or machine gun, with a high-speed camera.
“Every individual bullet fired has one complete trigger motion that is initiated by the shooter’s trigger finger; while most of this action happens subconsciously, it is, in fact, a single trigger movement for a single projectile going downrange and doesn’t meet the qualification of what’s labeled as a machine gun because of this,” he said.
United States Attorney Breon Peace also charged Maxwell and DeMonico with defrauding their customers by misrepresenting the triggers not as machine guns and therefore not subject to heavy restriction and regulation, according to court documents.
Maxwell said the ATF expanded the definition of what a machine gun is as defined in the National Firearms Act. “You go into business for years; you do the right thing, then the ATF adds words to the law.”
There are more than 80,000 FRTs in circulation today at a value of roughly $29 million. Maxwell sold his triggers at a rate of 1,000 to 3,000 per week, according to the ATF’s complaint.
Maxwell said before a temporary restraining order prohibited him from selling more triggers while his case proceeded, his triggers sold very well.
When the government took an interest in FRTs, Maxwell took the proceeds from his final lot and made a legal defense fund for anyone charged with machine gun possession for having an FRT trigger. He has funded legal fees for three customers helping them hire expert witnesses, he said.
The temporary restraining order prohibiting Maxwell and DeMonico remains in effect until Aug. 31, according to court records.