If you have never heard of this before, you are one with The Geek. So it must be New News.
Here's the skinny:
According to the story at TMO, five years ago (give or take) Bill Akins invented a gizmo that would fit into a semi-automatic rifle (10/22) and 'simulate' Full-Auto Fire Mode. (According to Google, there is a link at firefaster.com ... but I can't make it work.)
In 2003, Akins sent a sample to ATF with the question: "is this legal?" ("... whether the Akins Accelerator would be considered a machine gun under the National Firearms Act [NFA] and Gun Control Act [GCA], the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] "couldn't make it work" (sounds like I'm not the only one), so they sent back a letter saying, essentially, it was NOT ILLEGAL. *("During the evaluation of this device, ATF was unable to get the device to function properly, ultimately determining that it was not a machinegun.")* That is to say, it didn't constitute a full-auto weapon, or something to that effect.
Akins mortgaged his house, his car, his honor and his first-born, and took out loans to produce and market the device, which sold like the proverbial hotcakes.
In 2006, somebody who had bought one of his devices went to the ATF and asked the question: "is this legal?" This time, the ATF testing could make it work.
So they [ATF] sent a letter to Akins, essentially a 'cease and desist' notice. He was requested and required to stop manufacturing the device, stop selling the device, send all of his stock (perhaps only the 'spring' which ATF had apparently decided was the functional crux of the mechanism ... it's not clear from the available articles) to ATF, along with a list of everyone who had bought it. Also, he had to contact all of the people who had bought the device and BUY THEM BACK ... at his own personal (or corporate expense, and then send those devices to ATF.
As you may intuit for yourself, this not only put Akins out of business but also bankrupted him.
Horsley's blog article includes a number of links which may clarify the issue to you. It seemed fairly complicated to me, but I'm just a Geek and you may make more sense of it.
The Red's Trading Post commentary and links seem to reduce it down to a simple question: has "Maximum Mike" Sullivan arbitrarily imposed a ruling designed to put a small businessman, who is subject to the bureaucratic rulings of an out-of-control Federal agency, out of business?
I don't know the answer to that question, nor do I know the answer to any of the other questions which naturally present themselves.
- Does this device actually convert a semi-automatic rifle to "Full-Auto"?
- What is the exact definition of "Full Auto"?
- Does the ATF, which had originally declared the device to be "legal" and later reversed its ruling, have any obligation to the FFL holder?
- Is this a legitimate federal action, or is it just another example of the way that Mike Sullivan is perverting the power of the ATF to meet his own political agenda ... or his own personal quest for power?
Reading the letter from Mike Sullivan (pdf) which Horsley links too, it seems to me that by the definitions cited there may be a strong case for declaring the device in violation of the GCA. I haven't read that law lately, but the definition quoted in the Letter from Mike Sullivan sounds authoritative.
You now know everything that I know about this situation. I could research it further, and follow up on (for example) the GCA and the NFA. I could compare these laws with the decisions of ATF and Michael Sullivan. I might even come to a conclusion which I could sell to you, and you might buy.
I don't want to do that.
What I want to do is to give you the information, provide a few leads to further study, and allow you to tell me what the law is, in this case.
More, I want to give you the opportunity to decide whether the ruling of the ATF ... whether or not the Akins Accelerator is an illegal device ... is appropriate in its ruling that the manufacturer should bear all responsibility for recovering the devices which they have sold.
ATF originally ruled that the device was legal; then it reversed itself. The manufacturer (Bill Akins) established a business based on that ruling. What is the responsibility of the ATF here?
Is this the responsible administration of a Federal Agency? Or is it the unilateral ruling of a power-mad agency chief administrator?
Don't let the verbiage encourage you to rush to judgment. I really haven't decided for myself. And I'm more interested in what YOU think than I am in voicing my own opinion.
What do you think? And why do you think that?
UPDATE: December 24, 2007
Ryan Horsley kindly emailed a correction: I had spelled Bill Akins' name "Atkins", which is patently (you should excuse the expression) incorrect. It's embarrassing to spend so much time researching and writing an article, only to discover after publication that the name of the subject has been spelled wrong.
Thanks to Ryan for editing my copy. I should send all of my articles to him before publication.
Jerry the Geek