According to Sea Coast Online New Hampshire-based SIG SAUER has filed civil suit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives alleging they wrongfully classified a SIG-designed muzzle brake as an item “intended only for use” in producing suppressors. Specifically, BATFE determined that the SIG brake incorporated a monolithic baffle stack in its design. On April 4, 2013, SIG submitted the brake for BATFE examination which is described as 9.5 inches long and permanently attached with a weld to a 6.5 inch barrel, making the overall barrel length 16 inches. ATF responded by informing that the device was classified as a suppressor and that, “Welding it to a barrel does not change its design characteristics or function.”
SIG asked for a reconsideration, responding to the ATF on 6 September, 2013 in a letter offering evidence that sound meter testing proved the device amplified, not muffled sound,as well as evidence showing the device offsets and corrects recoil. Unfortunately, it seems the ATF stuck by their determination, responding in a February 21 letter stating that the device is a part intended only for use in manufacturing a suppressor.
Consequently, SIG filed suit claiming economic injury because suppressors are “subject to burdensome legal requirements” and “no market would exist for the device” whereas their muzzle brake “effectively reduces recoil and muzzle rise when a shot is discharged” making it “highly marketable to consumers and will generate profit.” SIG also asserts that despite their follow up with ATF, the agency did dispute its evidence that the device worked as claimed.
“If classified as a silencer, no market exists for the subject device given that it will not silence, muffle, or diminish the report of a firearm and yet it would still be subject to the burdensome requirements set forth above as if it really is a silencer,” Sig argues through Manchester attorney Mark Rouvalis and Virginia attorney Stephen Halbrook.
This suit comes on the heels of a recent suit by Innovator Enterprises against the ATF because it classified their Stabilizer Brake as a suppressor. U.S. District Judge John Bates
“In any agency review case, a reviewing court is generally obligated to uphold a reasonable agency decision that is the product of a rational agency process,” U.S. District Judge John Bates writes. “This is not a high bar,” he continues, “But in this case, ATF fails to clear it.” The Judge overturned the BATFE determination letter for teh device becuase it was based solely on physical characteristics rather than performance. He goes on, referring to the determination letter in his decision, writing, “contains hardly any reasoning, and makes no reference to prior agency regulations or interpretations that support its conclusion.” Instead, Judge Bates called the ATF letter a brief and informal document and “a non-binding statement of the agency’s position on whether the Stabilizer Brake is a silencer,” and “will not bear the force of law as applied in future classifications of different devices.”
Sounds pretty familiar.