UNITED STATES NEWS

The Fargo shooter used a binary trigger. Here’s what to know about the device that’s worrying police

Jul 21, 2023, 3:30 PM

Sitting in a parked car with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, the man who fired on police officers in North Dakota earlier this month chose to use the one gun in his vehicle that was modified with a binary trigger. The device allowed the gun to fire so rapidly that it sounded like an automatic weapon.

The July 14 shooting in Fargo, which killed one officer and wounded two others and a civilian, has put a spotlight on the device and other trigger modifications that are a growing concern for law enforcement.

Mohamad Barakat, 37, opened fire on the officers as they responded to a car accident. He shot from his vehicle loaded with guns, a homemade grenade, gasoline canisters, propane tanks containing improvised explosives, and more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, police said. Barakat was killed by a fourth officer who returned fire.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said on Friday that he believes the violence could have been the beginning of a bigger attack, as the Downtown Fargo Street Fair and the Red River Valley Fair were underway.

Wrigley noted that Barakat had four semi-automatic handguns and three semi-automatic rifles, but only one of them — the one he picked to go on his shooting rampage — had a binary trigger.

Here’s a look at the device, regulations around binary triggers and how they differ from bump stocks:

WHAT ARE BINARY TRIGGERS?

A binary trigger is a modification that allows a weapon to fire one round when the trigger is pulled and another when it is released — in essence doubling the firing capacity, firearms experts and weapons manufacturers say.

The modifications are relatively inexpensive, running a few hundred dollars depending on the model. They are also a relatively new technology, first released in 2015 partly in response to federal regulators seeking to expand the scope of banning modifications that create automatic weapons.

WHAT REGULATIONS EXIST ON BINARY TRIGGERS?

They are legal in most states and at the federal level. Federal regulations don’t yet cover the sale of binary trigger modifications, said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the College of William & Mary Law School whose research focuses on gun policy and politics.

“It’s a matter of technology outrunning regulation, which is not a new thing,” Spitzer said.

Some states do ban the purchase of binary triggers specifically or modifications like binary triggers generally. The manufacturer websites note that they cannot sell them to civilians in 12 states, including California, New York, Florida and others or in Washington D.C. At least one other state not listed on the seller websites has a partial ban on similar modifications, firearm law experts said.

HOW DO BINARY TRIGGERS DIFFER FROM BUMP STOCKS?

Bump stocks are a frame or component added onto the back of semi-automatic weapons that allow them to fire like machine guns by using the recoil from an initial trigger pull to fire multiple rounds.

Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives moved to ban bump stocks after the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival where a gunman using bump stock-modified weapons killed 60 people. Federal regulators argued that bump stocks fell under 1934 and 1986 federal regulations on automatic weapons.

The ban survived multiple challenges around the country until January, when a U.S. Appeals Court in New Orleans ruled in favor of challengers who argued the federal regulations against machine guns don’t specifically cover bump stocks.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also made moves to regulate what are called “forced reset triggers,” saying they also created, in essence, machine guns out of semi-automatic weapons by adding a spring to a trigger, allowing it to reset and fire faster.

Greg Wallace, a professor at the Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law who has studied firearm laws, said binary triggers work on a completely different mechanism than forced reset triggers. He said binary triggers modify the component of the trigger that holds the hammer or striking mechanism back.

Wallace said he agreed with several articles that have called binary triggers a gimmick “having little, if any, practical real-world use.”

___

Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

Vermont man sentenced to 25 years in prison for kidnapping woman and son outside of a mall

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was convicted of kidnapping a woman and her 4-year-old son by forcing them into her car outside a New Hampshire mall and bringing them to Vermont while he was searching for his estranged wife. Everett Simpson, 46, was […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Singer Justin Timberlake arrested and accused of driving while intoxicated on New York’s Long Island

NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Timberlake was arrested early Tuesday on allegations that the singer was driving while intoxicated on New York’s Long Island, authorities said. Timberlake was released from custody later in the morning after being arraigned in Sag Harbor, on the eastern end of Long Island. He was charged with one DWI count, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Residents flee New Mexican town as wildfires bear down on village of 7,000

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Residents of the mountain village of Ruidoso in southern New Mexico fled their homes under evacuation orders with little time to rescue belongings as fast-moving wildfires bore down on the town of 7,000 residents. Traffic clogged downtown streets of the normally pastoral village and summer vacation destination for hours Monday […]

11 hours ago

A sign outside the Internal Revenue Service building is seen, May 4, 2021, in Washington. The gover...

Associated Press

The IRS plans to end another major tax loophole for the wealthy, could raise $50 billion in revenue

The Internal Revenue Service plans to end another major tax loophole that could raise more than $50 billion in revenue over the next decade.

14 hours ago

President Joe Biden meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the Wh...

Associated Press

President Biden to announce deportation protection and work permits for those married to US citizens

President Biden is planning to announce a sweeping new policy that would lift the threat of deportation for those married to U.S. citizens.

15 hours ago

Associated Press

Former GOP Rep. George Nethercutt, who defeated House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994, dies at 79

SEATTLE (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, who was a Spokane lawyer with little political experience when he ousted Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley as part of a stunning GOP wave that shifted national politics to the right in 1994, has died. He was 79. Nethercutt died Friday near Denver of progressive […]

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

The Fargo shooter used a binary trigger. Here’s what to know about the device that’s worrying police