Today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives published its Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns. While this study is limited to the importability of certain shotguns, based on their features, the long-term ramifications and effects of this “study” are yet to be seen and could be devastating to US manufacturers.
The central focus of the study is the imposition of the “sporting purpose” clause that can be found in 18 U.S.C. 925(d). Prior to this study, the ATF had convened a panel in 1968 to review the sporting clause in relation to importability of handguns and then issued two other similar studies in 1989 and 1998 on “semiautomatic assault weapons” in relation to importability under the sporting clause. The two prior studies “concluded that the scope of ‘sporting purposes’ did not include all lawful activity, but was limited to traditional sports such as hunting, skeet shooting, and trap shooting. This effectively narrowed the universe of firearms considered by each study because a larger number of firearms are ;particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to a sporting purpose’ if plinking4and police or military-style practical shooting competitions are also included as a ‘sporting purpose.’”
While the study declares that it has taken into consideration that military shotguns or shotguns with “common military features” may be “unsuitable for traditional shootings sports”, the study/ATF has considered that such shotguns may be â€œ’particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes’ if military shooting competitions are considered a generally recognized sporting purpose” and that the study has “made an effort to consider other shooting activities.”
So, just when you thought that the ATF may actually apply some common sense to its definition of “sporting purpose,” the next paragraph goes on to state that after its review of shotguns used in United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) shooting matches, it was unable to determine, without further investigation, whether such use constituted a sporting purpose!
The study then continues on to define firearm features that serve no sporting purpose, which are basically akin to the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. Specifically, features that are not particularly suitable for or readily adaptable for sporting purposes include: (1) folding, telescopic or collapsible stocks; (2) bayonet lugs; (3) flash suppressors; (4) magazine over 5 rounds or drum magazines; (5) grenade launcher mounts; (6) integrated rail system (other than on top of the receiver or barrel); (7) light enhancing devices; (8) excessive weight (greater than 10 pounds for a 12 gauge or smaller); (9) excessive bulk (greater than 3 inches in width and/or greater than 4 inches in depth); (10) forward pistol grips or other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooterâ€™s extended hand.
Not surprisingly, the study goes on to find that, “Although the features listed above do not represent an exhaustive list of possible shotgun features, designs or characteristics, the working group determined that shotguns with any one of these features are most appropriate for military or law enforcement use. Therefore, shotguns containing any of these features are not particularly suitable for nor readily adaptable to generally recognized sporting purposes such as hunting, trap, sporting clay, and skeet shooting.“
What does this mean? Well, the study is open for comment through May 1, 2011, after which, who knows what action ATF will take. From what I have heard, ATF is already preventing any new import approvals for any shotguns with any of the above-listed features. While the study is disconcerting, it is limited to “importability”….or is it?
While there is no doubt that the study only refers to the importability of shotguns, what about those shotguns, that are no longer importable, but which have been imported in the past? Furthermore, if these shotguns have no “sporting purpose,” what about all shotguns, manufactured in the US, that have a bore diameter of more than 1/2 inch and have one of the above listed features? (Remember, this study states that a shotgun with only ONE of these features is no longer importable). Are we going to have an onslaught of Destructive Device determinations?
I am highly suggesting that ALL in the firearms community take the time to read the study and take the time to thoughtfully comment on this study. This could be the tip of the iceberg that could greatly erode our firearm rights in the future, not only with regards to importation, but also US manufacture.