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- Created on Monday, 31 January 2011 23:55
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 17:52
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The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution reads "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Just as the 1st Amendment was meant to ensure that the minority and unpopular opinions are able to be expressed, the 2nd Amendment means protecting 'arms', not just sporting arms, hunting guns and handguns, but rather the plain wording of the amendment shows it is meant to protect all arms, even ones that are unpopular with the government.
In a document the ATF calls a "study", ATF indicates that they have reevaluated the 'sporting purposes' interpretation to include shotguns for import purposes. In this document ATF declares its intent to prohibit the importation of "certain" shotguns which have any of the following criteria.
(1) Folding, telescoping, or collapsible stocks;
(2) bayonet lugs;
(3) flash suppressors;
(4) magazines over 5 rounds, or a drum magazine;
(5) grenade-launcher mounts;
(6) integrated rail systems (other than on top of the receiver or barrel);
(7) light enhancing devices;
(8) excessive weight (greater than 10 pounds for 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 theshotgun with the shooter’s extended hand.
In the so called "study" ATF imposes a very narrow, outdated & sometimes unusual definition of 'sporting'. After some explanation, ATF admits that this definition of "sporting purposes" needs to be reevaluated. Currently the ATF considers only trap & skeet shooting as applicable to "sporting purposes" for importation and ignores the prevalence of action competition shooting like USPSA. That group is indicated to have 19,000 members but does not qualify under ATF's definition of a 'sport' yet the American Curling society has only 13,000 members and is an Olympic Sport. There are numerous action competition shooting sports leagues, and regular unaffiliated shooting competitions and events all across the country. This wide chasm between what everyone besides ATF calls a sport and what ATF calls a "sport" shows that not enough research has been done to support the ATF Study.
Working groups need to be established to revise the ATF definition of 'sporting purposes' in recognition of the 1939 US v. Miller, 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller Supreme Court decisions, and the modern prevalence of action competition shooting sports practiced in leagues, at competitions and local ranges all across America. Only then can an accurate study be produced.
Many of the criteria ATF uses to identify a shotgun as 'not suitable' for sporting purposes are plainly nonsensical. Among these are folding, telescoping or collapsible stocks, flash suppressors, magazines over 5 rounds, integrated rail systems, light enhancing devices & forward grips. All of these features have applications that lend themselves to both sporting and sometimes military or tactical applications. The 2 need not be mutually exclusive.
- folding, telescoping & collapsible stocks provide adjustable length of pull allowing for both family use of the same gun, as well as adjustability for optimum fit & better control.
- flash suppressors permit follow up shots in low light conditions typical in hunting near dawn or dusk.
- many modern shotguns with a pump or semi automatic action have magazines over 5 rounds. A shotgun with an 18 inch barrel can easily hold 7-8 shells and shooters in 3 gun or exhibition shooting can have even more.
- integrated rails have become ubiquitous to mount forward hand grips, lights, lasers and optics. All of these features enhance the ergonomics of the gun, the controllability of the gun and the ability to shoot the gun in adverse, or low light.
The other features that ATF identifies they classify as "suitable to military or law enforcement" purposes. This very admission brings firearms so defined under the protection of 'arms' described in the 2nd Amendment, as well as more specifically arms as discussed in both Miller & Heller. In fact, the Miller decision protects exactly the types of arms that ATF currently seeks to prevent from importing. From Miller:
"when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."...
"Also 'Clauses intended to insure the possession of arms and ammunition by all who were subject to military service appear in all the important enactments concerning military affairs. Fines were the penalty for delinquency, whether of towns or individuals." ...
The Miller decision did not outlaw short barrel shotguns, nor did it pronounce they were not protected arms under the 2nd Amendment, rather it held that evidence was not presented and it was not within judicial notice that the arm was 'reasonably related to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia'. Heller did not overturn Miller in any way, and in fact continued Miller's findings and expanded upon them. Both rulings touch on the need for the militia to provide for themselves arms in common use at the time.
While the ATF is tasked with ensuring that arms of a sporting purpose are imported it must acknowledge and recognize the restrictions placed upon this statutory law by the 2nd Amendment and the Supreme Court through rulings in Miller & Heller. Arms with features such as folding/telescoping/collapsible stocks, flash suppressors, integrated rail systems, forward grips & light enhancing devices while they may have law enforcement, military uses, they have collateral personal protection and sporting uses and are most certainly features that all citizens benefit from.
Accordingly, the ATF shotgun importability study should be revised to reflect the modern definition of sporting purposes; inclusive of features that are in common use by citizens for self defense in the home, used by sportsmen to compete in multi-gun competitions, action competition shooting sports in leagues, organizations or informally. Further, ATF must expand the definition of 'sporting purposes' from it's 1980's era of sporting first.
See also Commenting on the ATF shotgun study