BATFE Modifies Shotgun Import Ban Study & Still Gets It Wrong

ammoland Tuesday, July 17, 2012  BATFE Modifies Shotgun Import Ban Study & Still Gets It Wrong   Charlotte, NC --( In January 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released its “Study on the  Importability of Certain Shotguns.”  Using the unconstitutional and oft-abused “sporting purposes” test as  justification, BATFE concocted a list of ten popular shotgun features  and determined that “shotguns containing any of these features are not  particularly suitable for nor readily adaptable to generally recognized  sporting purposes.” Guns with any of these features will therefore be  prohibited from importation.  A public comment period followed the study’s release. NRA-ILA submitted  extensive commentsand encouraged gun owners to do the same. After  receiving roughly 21,000 comments, with approximately 15,000 of them  challenging the constitutionality and efficacy of the “sporting  purposes” test, BATFE has been compelled to reverse two of its more  onerous determinations.In an update to the shotgun importation study,  the BATFE determined that it will no longer consider forward pistol  grips or integrated rail systems as features barring importation.  To justify its change of opinion on forward pistol grips, BATFE stated,  “there is a convincing argument that this feature is generally  recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting  purposes because it permits accuracy and maneuverability even for  activities such as bird hunting or skeet shooting.” The update also  mentions public comments explaining the importance of forward pistol  grips for disabled shooters. BATFE goes on to explain that its  determination of forward pistol grips as sporting necessitates their  acceptance of integrated rail systems, as rail systems are the primary  way in which shooters mount forward pistol grips.  However, gun owners shouldn’t confuse BATFE’s shift on these features  with a newfound respect for Second Amendment rights. The reversal is  couched in language justifying the change under the “sporting purposes”  test and most of the update is dedicated to justifying the agency’s  previous report.  In response to the thousands of commenters who suggested the sporting  purposes test violates their constitutionally protected right to keep  and bear arms, BATFE is dismissive. The agency pays lip-service to  Second Amendment rights, citing a central piece of the Heller decision,  but then states with no further explanation, “concerns about the  constitutionality of [the sporting purposes test] or ATF application of  this statute are without legal basis.” But even a casual reading of the  Heller decision proves such concerns do have basis. Rather than duck  hunting, Justice Scalia found self-defense to be “the central component  of the right itself.”  Similarly strained is BATFE’s continued defense of the position that  shotguns with the remaining banned features are not “generally  recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting  purposes.” The agency notes that it received numerous comments regarding  shooting sports such as three-gun, in which the features banned by BATFE  are commonly used. BATFE compares the United States Practical Shooting  Association’s 19,000 members who participate in three-gun, to the 10.7  million licensed hunters nationwide and comes to the conclusion that  since this measure of the three-gun community is .18% the size of the  hunting community, three-gun equipment is not “generally recognized” as  suitable for sporting purposes.  This argument is disingenuous and exposes BATFE’s bias against certain  popular firearms. In determining “generally recognized,” BATFE treats  hunting as a single widely practiced sport, while breaking the shooting  sports into bite-size categories small enough to ban the equipment the  agency finds objectionable.  In downplaying the ban’s burden on gun owners, BATFE says, “it should be  noted that the sporting purposes test under 18 U.S.C. § 925(d)(3)  applies as a limitation only on the importation of shotguns.” Not  mentioned is that under federal law an individual is also barred from  assembling a semi-automatic shotgun that that would otherwise be  prohibited from importation. Under BATFE’s scheme, a person who mounts a  flashlight or telescoping stock on an imported semi-automatic shotgun  could be in violation of federal law.  BATFE’s partial reversal shows the positive impact determined gun owners  can have on the regulatory process. But this battle is far from over. In  the short-term, NRA-ILA will continue to work with its friends in  Congress, using the appropriation process to prohibit the BATFE from  enforcing this ban, as has been the case since 2011. In the long-term  NRA-ILA will work for the repeal of the unconstitutional “sporting  purposes” test.