In early March 2021, Kristopher Ervin—a resident of Florida—was arrested and taken into custody by agents as part of a joint operation managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF for short, together with the aid and support of the United States Postal Inspection Service. Based on the information from the ATF, it was claimed that Kristopher Ervin used to illegally sell auto sears. These are the primary components utilized to convert semi-automatic AR-15s into rifles and make them fully automatic and fully fun.
The specific reason for Ervin’s arrest is his illegal deals of auto sears, as he was selling them with a lack of the appropriate and proper paperwork. Surely, the law about such deals and trade are strict, and it makes sense that one will definitely face severe consequences once the rules are not followed. That’s why this guide aims to discuss a related topic about the arrest, which is the downfall of the Auto Key Card. The agenda is to help you uncover why ATF is also upset with it and more.
Before anything else, it is important to keep in mind that whatever information is shared in this informative guide is not intended to be used as legal advice. Whatever information here is only provided for information and entertainment purposes. Now that everything is clear about that, let’s get into details about the Auto Key Card, starting to know what it is.
What is Auto Key Card?
The Auto Key Card works exactly how it sounds. Simply put, the Auto Key Card looks like a metal bottle opener in a business card size. These business-card-sized metal bottle openers are sold through Kristopher Ervin’s websites: AutoKeyCard.com and AutoKeyCards.com. Upon knowing that the sites belong to Ervin, you might be curious about what happened to the sites, right? Well, the sites are eventually shut down.
Going back to the business-card-sized metal bottle openers, they feature a laser-engraved design that shows parts of an AR-15 automatic connector. The laser-engraved design is popularly known as a “lightning link.” Specifically, the lightning link can convert an AR-15 to fully automatic when assembled from its separate components and installed in an AR-15. What makes it more impressive is that there’s no need for additional modifications to the firearm or extra charges for the conversion.
Looking at the Auto Key Card, you will be impressed that it serves as a great way to convert an AR-15 to a fully automatic one. While it looks small and nothing special, it actually means to be a great help for rifle owners who want to have a fully automatic rifle without costing much and requiring additional modifications. Thinking about it, it might be the go-to choice for some AR-15 rifle owners. Hence, it is no wonder that the cards also have gained the attention of the ATF. In fact, the ATF has put more than just attention to the cards.
With what the Auto Key Card can do, the ATF considered that the business-card-sized metal bottle opener cards were pretty much similar to auto sears. Hence, ATF has decided that the cards should be placed under the same restrictions as a machine gun under the National Firearms Act amendment’s Firearms Owners’ Protection Act. Due to that consideration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents and ATF have purchased a few of the business-card-sized metal bottle opener cards. The purchase of the cards complies with the sting operation.
Since the U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents and ATF have tested and discovered more about the metal bottle openers, they have determined that Ervin was selling auto sears illegally. The judgment is made since the cards seem disguised as business-card-sized metal bottle openers but function pretty much like auto sears. After all, the buyers who get an Auto Key Card have one distinct reason: to use the card to transform semi-auto AR-15 rifles into completely automatic rifles.
Upon the inspection of the agents and investigators from both agencies, they found the reason for the arrest of Ervin—lack of proper and legal paperwork for selling the cards. Hence, Ervin has been taken into their custody. The downfall of Auto Key Card doesn’t end with that because Ervin’s business websites were also seized by the authority, stopping any business transaction. Hence, stopping the availability of the Auto Key Card in the market.
Besides digging deeper into what’s the big deal about the downfall of the Auto Key Card, let’s first discuss the relevant information about it.
Are Auto Key Cards Legal?
Because Auto Key Cards work pretty much as a device that can help transform semi-auto AR-15 rifles into completely automatic rifles, they obviously look like an alternative to auto sears. While there’s that fact, the primary reason why Auto Key Cards are not legal is that they are illegally sold on web domains. The way they are sold is considered a serious felony, and it is a serious violation of federal law.
Since Auto Key Cards are sold without the proper paperwork, it is quite obvious that they are not legal. As a matter of fact, the violation regarding their deals can lead to a fine of up to $250,000 per count and a penalty of up to ten years in prison. Definitely, it is a serious crime that has serious consequences.
Auto Key Card Review
Once again, the Auto Key Card possesses a design like an ordinary metal bottle opener in the size of a typical business card. Putting all the legality aside, the Auto Key Card is convenient to purchase since it is available online on the websites such as AutoKeyCard.com and AutoKeyCards.com. Frankly, the overall concept of the Auto Key Card centers on helping with effectively converting an AR-15 rifle to a completely automatic one without the additional changes and charges is something surely impressive.
Despite being designed impressively and smartly, the Auto Key Card fails to be a safe alternative to auto sears, even with the same functionality. Of course, the legality issues are the reason why it is worth buying. Well, the business websites that sell it are already seized, so that explains everything about its worth.
How Does The Auto Key Card Work?
According to what the ATF claims, since the Auto Key Card comes with a picture of a lightning link drawn onto the metal piece, someone can use it to transform a semi-automatic AR-15 into a fully automatic rifle. It works by cutting it out and bending it to the necessary shape to help with the conversion. Thus, this functionality leads the Bureau to believe that the card, which is a device that converts AR-15 rifles into fully automatic rifles, is actually considered the firearm itself.
Realistically speaking, the Auto Key Card is certainly not that kind of device. Rather, it is just a metal with a drawing of a firearm, so it can’t be used or installed on a firearm without significant further manufacturing. But it does wonder in terms of transforming semi-auto AR-15 rifles into completely automatic rifles.
What’s the Big Deal with Auto Key Card’s Downfall?
One thing is certain with ATF; it is very strict about many things, including alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. That’s why it makes sense that the agency gives serious attention to the Auto Key Card since it has the ability and design to convert a semi-auto AR-15 into a full-automatic. Part of the findings that the ATF has discovered through buying the Auto Key Card in an undercover mission is that it really has a way to convert an AR-15 style firearm into a machine gun.
The Auto Key Card can help transform an AR-15 style firearm into a machine gun by cutting and shaping out the etching for an auto sear by just utilizing a commonly available tool. Then, insert the auto sear into the firearm. Based on that functionality and design, the Auto Key Card fell into the ATF category of the machine gun. What connects that to the laws is that civilian transfer or ownership of machine guns was already banned many years ago. Hence, that meant Kristopher Ervin was really selling machine guns in violation of the law.
Definitely, the arrest of Kristopher Ervin suggests that ATF would really go after anyone who attempts to illegally sell a disguised item that can potentially work as an auto sear. With all of the strict laws for firearms, everyone should know that one who wants to purchase a machine gun or even just a suppressor will have to go to certain lengths in terms of working with the right paperwork. Money and time are also required before the ATF will allow owning a machine gun and suppressor.
Kristopher Ervin’s Illegal Business and Downfall
At the time when Kristopher Ervin began selling the Auto Key Card, he contacted Matthew Hoover and convinced the latter to advertise the product through his popular YouTube channel, CRS Firearms. Since Ervin just wanted to advertise, Hoover didn’t really sell the card on his YouTube channel. Rather, he just simply talked about it in his channel, providing some informative details about the cards in his videos. In return, Ervin provides sponsorship to Hoover’s YouTube channel. It is a win-win for both in terms of the partnership.
Well, Ervin’s business didn’t last long because agents from the ATF arrested him for selling the Auto Key Card. The reason for the arrest is that his card has an engraving of the lightning link’s outline. It was against the law that his card could serve as a device that could convert a semi-automatic rifle into a fully functional machine gun. What makes it worse is that there is no proper paperwork, and the Auto Key Card was sold as a novelty item on his website.
What’s more, the several documents that charge the case against Kristopher Ervin and Matthew Hoover in the Auto Key Card case released by GOA (Gun Owners of America) were the trigger of the arrest. Later on, after Ervin was arrested, his websites were seized and shut down. He also faced charges regarding illegally selling machine guns. After Ervin’s arrest, Hoover initiated the legal defense fund for his former sponsor. That act seemed to be somewhat successful since he was able to raise more than $60,000, which was saved to help with the legal bills.
Ultimately, after the arrest of his former sponsor, Hoover stopped promoting the Auto Key Card on his YouTube channel. Let’s take a look below at what happened after a year of Kristopher Ervin’s arrest. Did Hoover get off the hook, or was he also part of the charges—check out the answers to the question below. Read on for more.
A Year After Kristopher Ervin’s Arrest
In April 2022—more than a year of Kristopher Ervin’s arrest—the ATF executed an arrest warrant against Matthew Hoover. Obviously, the ATF didn’t let Hoover get off the hook, claiming that the YouTuber had conspired with Ervin in illegally selling the lightning links online. He was charged for it even though he didn’t sell any Auto Key Cards directly. But the mere promotion of it online makes him guilty. He was also part of why the Auto Key Card has gained attention and buyers, so he can’t escape the charges.
Remember when Hoover initiated the legal defense fund for his former sponsor? Well, ATF thinks that the action is solid evidence of the conspiracy theory. The theory goes if Ervin wins the case against him, he can sponsor Hoover again. That will lead to Hoover promoting the cards again online. After Hoover’s arrest, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) reached out to help him, promising an attorney and financial help for the legal defense. While the offer sounded good, Hoover turned it down and chose the lawyers he had previously worked with.
Although turned down, Gun Owners of America continued to work behind the scenes regarding the details surrounding the arrest of Ervin and Hoover. As for what happened to Hoover’s case, a federal magistrate ordered that he be released from jail on bond. Also, a judge has strictly mandated him not to contact witnesses in his case and stop promoting questionable firearm products on his YouTube channel.
The indictment was issued in February, but it is said that there will be reapplying for a new trial date soon. Some already believe that the defendants could face a lengthy stay in prison.
Possible Defenses for the Defendants
Realistically speaking, based on the law, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. With that said, Ervin still has the chance to overcome the case against him. According to the current law, there is a ban on civilian transfer or ownership of machine guns. There are some exceptions to the restriction, particularly for those who have already legally owned machine guns before the time the law went into effect. Additionally, the broader NFA prohibits the manufacturing of some specific firearms, including machine guns.
Surely, the laws are strict. But it is clear that what Ervin should do is to prove that he did not violate the laws. That will certainly be a hard task, especially since his product is named Auto Key Card. That’s actually not a good idea of a name for a product that should not be supposed to be an auto sear. Having “auto” in the name is definitely a bad idea.
Interestingly, there are some past cases that Ervin and his attorney can take as inspiration for his defense.
Timothy John Watson and Portable Wall Hangers
In November 2020, Timothy Watson was arrested by the FBI for selling products called portable wall hangers on his online site: portablewallhanger.com. Hangers, they don’t sound suspicious, right? Well, the issue there is that the hangers were 3D printed, featuring a detachable hook portion. That specific portion happened to have the shape of a drop-in auto sear, a component used for converting a semi-auto AR-15 to a fully automatic one.
Surely, the FBI didn’t think that the shape portion of the portable wall hanger was similar to a drop-in auto sear is just a mere coincidence. But the provided argument said that the product was really intended to serve as a wall hanger. So, it is unfortunate that some people find another interesting use for it as an auto sear. Basically, it is still hard to prove that there is no intention that the product is manufactured just to be a wall hanger and not an auto sear.
Defense Distributed and 3D Printed Files
The case battle of the Defense Distributed deals with the issue regarding 3D-printable firearms. What makes this case quite different is that Defense Distributed is a licensed firearms manufacturer. The brand only offers 3D print files freely but not selling its own 3D printed products. The service is for anyone, and they can do as they please. That is where the issue came from.
The argument that the Defense Distributed made is that they were simply exercising their First Amendment right of free speech when it comes to sharing the offer of the 3D printing files to people. Quite interesting, this argument can be helpful for Kristopher Ervin since the Auto Key Cards he sold on his websites are not the products he made. The deciding factor if this makes a solid defense is whether Ervin was actually making the lightning links or just engraving the design on a piece of metal.
Another must-know information is that anyone fighting against the government either needs to enter a plea deal or manage to win a settlement. It is quite rare to see one winning a case outright against the government.
Beware for People
The ATF has released a statement that it now considers the possession of any Auto Key Card to be a felony on the grounds. Even though the ATF may not prosecute anyone in possession of the said card, it is highly recommended to turn the card in. So it may be a good and safe idea to just contact the local ATF office to avoid getting into trouble. But it is much safer to consult a lawyer to be sure when it comes to evading prosecution. The amnesty is still not guaranteed even if the Auto Key Card possessed is turned in.
Since the ATF already considers owning an Auto Key Card to be a felony because it violates the regulations, the owner—if caught—may face a time of up to two years in prison and a fine of $250,000 per device. Surely, the penalties can add up quickly. Hence, there is really no better choice but to turn it in. If you happen to have one, it is safer to first contact a trustworthy lawyer to protect your interests and rights before contacting your local to make sure that you will not face harsh consequences.
Now, if you are caught possessing an Auto Key Card, there is a chance that you could be facing criminal charges. Expect that the ATF will not be soft in imposing the regulations. After all, the ATF already views owning one as an act of felony that will lead to a long time in prison and a hefty fine that will surely hurt a person, given the fact that the crime is possessing something illegal. Obviously, you should be wary of this kind of device as the ATF thinks of it as a firearm itself, which has strict rules. Ultimately, the Auto Key Card is really a disaster.
Depending on the status of the existing case for the Auto Key Card and how it will turn out, the ATF and other agencies may or may not decide to get even more aggressive when it comes to the interpretation and enforcement of the law. Theoretically speaking, if the ATF and other agencies chose to be stricter and more aggressive, it could lead to the inevitable shutdown of similar businesses. That will put the firearms industry in a bad position because there will be fewer businesses willing to manufacture firearms.
As for the news about the Auto Key Card and Kristopher Ervin, the only thing to do is wait and see for the future Auto Key Card update.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a quick list of some of the questions frequently asked about the Auto Key Card and other relevant topics to it.
What are Auto Key Card dimensions?
The Auto Key Card is designed in size similar to a typical business card and looks the same as a metal bottle opener. It showed the parts of an AR-15 automatic connector. So when assembled, it could change an AR-15-style firearm to an automatic rifle.
How does a lightning link work?
The lightning link typically works by pulling the disconnector to the rear and then releasing the hammer. It lays flat in the lower receiver, having the forward opening fitting on top of the disconnector’s hook. Meanwhile, its upright portion takes place between the rear takedown pin post of the upper and the bolt carrier.
What is a drop in auto sear?
The drop in auto sear is the combined components needed to effectively convert a firearm to automatically shoot more than one shot. When used, there is no need for additional components.
What is the penalty for possessing illegal auto sear?
The laws are undeniably strict, and one who wants to own a legal auto sear needs the proper federal license, which requires costly fees and an extensive background check. Despite the high requirements, one should never opt for having an illegal auto sear because being caught possessing the item illegally can lead to a high amount of fine and carry a 10-year federal prison sentence.
How does a full-auto sear work?
According to the information from the ATF, a full-auto sear works by providing adequate force to the trigger bar. Once used, it can prevent a firearm from having a limit of firing only one round each time. Hence, it can be converted to be fully automatic.
Can civilians own full auto pistols?
Contrary to popular belief, civilians can possess full auto pistols as long as they are law-abiding citizens. There will be no issue regarding that if the laws are followed, but it should be expected that an extensive background check and costly fees are required.
What makes a firearm fully automatic?
Fully automatic is a mode in a firearm that describes the operation at which point the trigger is pulled and multiple shots are fired. The firing will continue until the trigger is released or until the magazine is empty. In short, a fully automatic firearm will shoot automatically when the trigger is pulled. It is different compared to a semi-auto firearm that will only fire only once for each pull of the trigger.
With all that said above, it is quite clear that the Auto Key Card has currently ceased operations because its owner, Kristopher Ervin, has tangled with the ATF over the design of the metal card. The ultimate downfall of the Auto Key Card is up to the decision of the court. It will later unfold, so let’s just wait and see the news. It will be somewhat interesting to keep up with what will happen, how Ervin will defend himself against the charges, and how the government will react to it.
Since Ervin’s issue is connected to the firearms industry, it has become a big deal. Given the nature of firearms and their purpose, the industry needs to have law-abiding gun owners so that it will not be in a bad position from the government’s perspective. Stay tuned for the updates because Survival Gear Shack provides informative guides like this.