Peeling Back the Pages on BAFTE Importability of Certain Shotguns Study

The BATFE has conducted a study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns and is asking for the public to weigh in on the matter through mid-May.  A quick look at the 34-page document by the U.S. Department of Justice reveals this study may not only affect shotguns, but handguns and rifles, as well, based on their design and their potential “use in sports.” This has been out for some time, but with May just around the corner, it’s worth bringing to the table: the study is billed as an exploration of the use and classification of shotguns and their legitimacy in the shooting sports.  This may well be but it also allows the ATF to speak in very broad terms when determining, a.) what constitutes a legitimate sport and b.) what specific guns can be made available to the public to participate in this sport.

Possibly the most pertinent section of the document describes features considered unnecessary for sporting purposes, classifying them only for military need. However, some of these features can be found on most modern home defense shotguns such as those used in matches like the 3-Gun, and others for specialized sporting functions. These “unnecessary” features include folding, telescoping and collapsible stocks, and integrated rail systems other than those mounted on top for sights. This would inherently exclude flashlights for night or low-light shooting, and anything adding extra width or weight to the piece like forward pistol grips and other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooter’s extended hand. Essentially, this covers almost everything under the sun outside of “bird guns.”

It is noteworthy, that this could in theory exclude any devices and additions used as assistive technology for individuals with mobility and other physical impairments if it is left unaddressed in the review.  As allowances for such devices may be an aspect of state or local games laws, laws forbidding the sale of such weapons could require such individuals to jump through hoops and bring undue focus and attention upon themselves just to gain a modicum of equal access.

And, the list could not stop there either because through this study, Attorney General, Erick Holder, reserves the option to list other characteristics or features that come with or can be added to a shotgun which can subsequently restrict their importation. This is a sore reminder for gun-rights advocates who lobbed major criticism at the Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 for language that informed indefinite limits of power.

But, before you cut your losses and run out to buy that Spas 12 or the Saiga AK-47 style 12-gauge shotgun (a semi-auto that accepts a magazine) realize nothing has been set in stone yet and, you have been invited to submit your opinions and comments via email at shotgunstudy@atf.gov, or via fax to (202) 648-9601 (The Justice department has asked that you keep your comments to five pages when sending any faxes). As always, comments must have your name and address, and they will be accepted up to May 1 of 2011. You are encouraged to contact them and let them know what you think. Restrictions on the importation and availability of shotguns based upon their features’ applicability as “sporting weapons,” would significantly affect the types available to you not just for hunting, but for home defense, competition and just for having fun with your friends and family.   For further information, you can read the full study here.