BISMARCK, N.D. -(Ammoland.com)- Franklin Armory and the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc. (FRAC) have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) over what the plaintiffs allege are wrongful classification of firearms and regulatory delays.
The plaintiffs’ first claim in Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., et al. v. Merrick B. Garland, et al. is that the ATF wrongfully classified Franklin Armory’s FAI-15 Antithesis as a short-barreled rifle (SBR). The Antithesis is an AR-15-like firearm with a rifled barrel capable of firing both .410 shotshells and .45 Long Colt rounds. The ATF classified the firearm as an SBR under the Gun Control Act (GCA) and the National Firearms Act (NFA). The plaintiffs claim that the gun doesn’t meet the ATF definition of an SBR under the GCA or the NFA.
Under both the NFA and the GCA, the ATF considers a firearm as a rifle only if it is “designed . . . and intended . . . to fire only a single projectile.” The plaintiffs argued that since the gun fires .410 shotgun shotshells, it cannot be considered a rifle since the shell consists of multiple projectiles. The firearm also does not meet the definition of a short-barreled shotgun (SBS) under the NFA because the barrel is rifled.
Franklin Armory and FRAC claim that the ATF’s classification was arbitrary and capricious. They claim that the ATF abused its discretion by acting outside the letter of the law.
The plaintiffs’ second claim deals with delays in the ATF for creating a statutorily required process for manufacturers and federal firearms licensees (FFL) to seek authorization to sell, deliver, and transport SBSs under the GCA across state lines. There currently isn’t a process in place for firearms that are considered SBSs under the GCA but are not considered SBSs under the NFA.
The need for a process stems from the introduction of the Franklin Armory Reformation in 2017. The Reformation consisted of a barrel with lands and grooves, which means that it is classified as an SBS under the GCA, but since it fired a traditional rifle round as well as a proprietary cartridge instead of a shotgun shell, it is not considered an SBS under the NFA. In 2019 the ATF informed Franklin Armory and the public through an open letter that it would develop a process for companies to get permission to transfer these firearms to non-licensees.
Franklin Armory claims that the delay has caused the company significant financial harm. According to the plaintiffs, the ATF hasn’t seemed to have made any progress in developing the process it promised to create and deploy. The ATF also hasn’t given any reason for the nearly four-year delay. The plaintiffs’ lawyers also point out the indisputable fact that the American public has been deprived of the opportunity to buy the Reformation.
“The ATF’s classification of Antithesis overlooks the plain and clear language of the statute in favor of their own politically motivated interpretation, and its extraordinary delay in creating the procedures and forms necessary for the Reformation series of firearms to be sold in the marketplace has caused Franklin Armory significant financial harm,” said Franklin Armory President Jay Jacobson. “We have spent years attempting to resolve this matter without litigation. This lawsuit rightfully challenges the ATF’s egregious inaction and overreach, and seeks to ensure that not only Franklin Armory, but all industry members are treated fairly, accurately, and in accordance with the laws enacted by Congress.”
The plaintiffs claim that the ATF violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and has asked the North Dakota Federal District Court for relief. FRAC and Franklin Armory want the court to set aside and declare the ATF’s classification of the FAI-15 Antithesis unlawful. They want the ATF to issue a classification consistent with statutory requirements and the evidence before the agency within thirty days. They also want the court to order the ATF to “[i]ssue procedures authorizing the sale, delivery, and interstate transportation of weapons classified as short-barreled shotguns under only the GCA” within thirty days.
Washington D.C. legal powerhouse Wiley Rein, LLC, represents Franklin Armory and FRAC.
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 Crumpy.com.