By Elizabeth Dinan
April 09, 2014 1:40 PM
NEWINGTON — Gun maker Sig Sauer has filed a civil suit against the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives claiming the federal agency wrongfully classified a “muzzle brake” Sig designed to reduce recoil, as an item “intended only for use” when making a silencer.
Sig claims that gun silencers are “subject to burdensome legal requirements” and by calling its muzzle brake a part for a silencer, the federal agency is subjecting it to “economic injury.”
“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.
ATF Director B. Todd Jones is named as defendant in Sig’s lawsuit and has 21 days, after being served, to respond to the civil action, dated April 7.
Sig claims it designed the muzzle brake which “effectively reduces recoil and muzzle rise when a shot is discharged” and as such, it’s not subject to regulation under the federal Gun Control Act.
“Accordingly, it will be highly marketable to consumers and will generate profit,” according to the suit.
If classified as a silencer or muffler, “no market would exist for the device,” because consumers would not subject themselves to the “required burdens” associated with silencers, to buy a device that doesn’t perform as a silencer, Sig claims.
Silencers are subject to specific marking, record keeping and transfer restrictions, according to Sig.
The Newington gun maker’s suit, filed in the U. S. District Court of New Hampshire, states that it submitted a rifle, with its muzzle brake, to the ATF on April 4, 2013 for evaluation. The device 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.
The ATF responded, by letter dated Aug. 26, 2013, that the device is constructed as a silencer component commonly referred to as a “monolithic baffle stack,” the suit states.
“Welding it to a barrel does not change its design characteristics or function,” Sig says it was informed by the ATF.
In a Sept. 6, 2013 followup letter, Sig asked the federal regulatory agency for reconsideration, while reporting that sound meter testing proved the device amplified, not muffled sound, when a gun with it was fired. It also included evidence showing the device offsets and corrects recoil of a firearm when attached, Sig claims.
By letter dated Feb. 21, the ATF stuck to its original finding, stating that Sig’s device is a part intended only for use in making a silencer. In its subsequent lawsuit, Sig tells the federal court the ATF did not dispute its evidence showing otherwise.
Due to the ATF’s “erroneous” classification of the device as a silencer, Sig has and will continue to suffer economic consequences, it tells the court. The ATF failed to “articulate a satisfactory explanation for its classification and “failed to examine the relevant data,” the suit claims.
The federal agency also failed to address Sig’s contention that there are similar devices on the market that are being transferred without being treated as firearms, Sig claims.
Sig asks the court to set aside ATF’s determination as unlawful, to declare that its muzzle brake is not a part only intended for use in silencers, and to award it costs and damages.