On Sunday, May 1, the NRA filed its formal comments on the "ATF Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns." The "study," (http://www.atf.gov/publications/firearms/012611-study-on-importality-of-certain-shotguns.pdf) published in January, proposed to ban the importation of any shotgun, regardless of action type, if it has one or more supposedly non-"sporting" features.
In a cover letter accompanying the comments, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox made clear that the NRA strongly disagrees with the "sporting purposes" test for firearm importation: "We believe that fundamentally, the study asks and answers the wrong question, because the Supreme Court has now made clear that 'sporting purposes' are only one reason the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms," Cox wrote.
Even if the "sporting purposes" test was the right standard for firearm importation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "working group" that produced the study continued a long agency history of abusing that test to ban guns that actually are "particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes." Specifically:
- In 1989, the BATF suspended the importation of several dozen types of semi-automatic rifles it had previously approved for importation, and that had been imported for many years. The BATF ultimately banned the rifles' importation because they external attachments such as a pistol-type grip, a folding stock, or a flash suppressor.
In its attempt to justify the ban, the bureau's report took a remarkably narrow definition of "sporting purposes," arguing that "target shooting" meant only "organized marksmanship competition" and did not include "combat-type competitions." The report also excluded all recreational target practice, which it dismissed as "plinking" -- defined, in turn, as shooting at "bottles and cans."
- In 1993, the BATF banned the importation of the Heckler and Koch SP89 and Uzi Pistol. Both had previously been imported, and each gun easily qualified for importation under the bureau's longstanding "Handgun Factoring Criteria," under which points are awarded for "sporting features such as size, weight, caliber, and adjustable sights.
- In 1998, the BATF expanded the 1989 rifle import ban by banning guns that had been made specifically to comply with the earlier ban. The Clinton White House boasted at the time, "We're taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns."
The new ban was based on the rifles' ability to use magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, although rifles of the same type are overwhelmingly used in organized marksmanship competitions such as the National Rifle Championships and National Rifle Matches every year. As in 1989, the BATF ignored extensive comments from organizations and individuals documenting the widespread use of the banned rifles for competition and hunting.
To read the NRA's comments, click here (http://www.nraila.org/media/PDFs/ShotgunBanCommenttoBATFE_FINAL.pdf). The NRA strongly opposes any new import ban, and we'll keep you informed of any agency or congressional action on this issue.