Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Protect the right to own and use imported military-type shotguns

Passed during a period of national hysteria following some high-profile shootings in the '60s, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) generally prohibits the importation of firearms into the United States. The statute exempts four narrow categories of firearms including those that are "generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has announced a study to establish criteria that its bureaucrats will use to determine the importability of certain shotguns under these provisions of the GCA.

A similar 1989 study concluded that a broad interpretation of "sporting purpose" would render the GCA meaningless. The study therefore arbitrarily concluded that neither plinking nor “police/combat-type” competitions would be considered "sporting" activities under the statute. Yet, these activities are very popular among gun owners and they help maintain "a well regulated militia" -- a stated intent of the Second Amendment.

The 1989 study concluded that semiautomatic so-called assault rifles were “designed and intended to be particularly suitable for combat rather than sporting applications.” With this, the study determined that they were not suitable for sporting purposes and should not be authorized for importation. I see the possibility that the new study could result in a similar ruling for military-style shotguns. Again, what is the "militia" clause of the Second Amendment about, if not for military-type arms?

The Second Amendment is only partially about "sporting" guns or hunting ducks as implied in the GCA and current ATF rules. It protects our right to own any arm, especially militia arms.

Detachable magazine shotguns such as the Saiga 12 are indeed popular for sporting shotgun “police/combat-type” competition such as "Three Gun Match" events. The popularity of this type of competition is growing rapidly nationwide and internationally.

Magazines holding over 5 rounds and drum magazines are also very popular in this type of competition.

Pistol grips and folding, telescoping, and collapsible stocks are also popular for shotgun competition and to enable a single firearm to readily fit persons of different sizes.

Forward pistol grips and other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooter’s extended hand are also popular for shotgun competition because they improve control over, and safety of, shotgun handling during the stress and speed of competition.

Other military firearm features such as bayonet lugs, grenade launcher mounts, integrated rails, and flash supressors clearly have no "sporting purpose." But, like all the above-mentioned features, they do serve Constitutionally-protected "militia" and self-defense purposes.

I accept the reality that there are some people and organizations that have an irrational fear of firearms, especially those with any or all of these features. The simple fact is that a shotgun blast can be deadly whether it comes from a fine $2,500 walnut-stocked gold-engraved double-barreled Browning Citori or a crude-looking imported Saiga 12 shotgun with a black plastic stock. Both are perfectly safe when used wisely. Their availability must be determined only by demand in a free market -- not by political or bureaucratic edict and especially not by hysteria.

I urge Congress, the Whitehouse, and the ATF to fully protect the right of all responsible Americans to own and use any Constitutionally-protected domestic or imported firearm -- no matter how ugly or menacing it may appear to be. The "sporting use" test and restrictions on imports are only a couple of restrictions that must be removed from federal law in order to bring the law into compliance with the US Constitution.

Note: Interested persons may submit comments on this study. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to shotgunstudy@atf.gov or by fax to (202)648-9601. All comments must include name and mailing address. ATF encourages submission of comments no later than May 1, 2011.

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