NRA’s “Big Wins” for Gun Owners Might Not Be So Big

Unclear reporting muddies the water on shotgun import bans and “sporting purpose”

An article recently released by the NRA-ILA entitled “Rumor Alert: Appropriations Bill Blocks New Shotgun Ban—Does Not Repeal ‘Sporting Purposes’ Test” doesn’t go far toward clearing up “inaccurate reporting”.  The earlier article, Twelve Big Wins for Gun Owners, Nov 18, 2011, described “big wins” for gun rights provided by the conference report on the combined Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science and Transportation/Housing/Urban Development Appropriations bills (also known as the “mini-bus”).

The article states that the conference report added two new provisions that bolster gun rights and protect the Second Amendment.  One such provision touted by the article was listed under the heading of “Shotgun Importation Protections”, where the NRA states that the report “Prohibits the Department of Justice from requiring imported shotguns to meet a ‘sporting purposes’ test that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has used to prohibit the importation of shotguns.”

A more recent NRA-ILA article states that “some inaccurate reports have claimed that this provision would repeal the ‘sporting purposes’ test for importation of firearms,” which is not the case.  The article goes on to say that the provision touted as a “big win for gun owners” is simply a short term measure to prevent the expansion of shotgun bans under the BATFE’s “sporting purpose” test.  This provision, as the NRA puts it, merely preserves the status quo, something many gun owners would certainly not consider to be a big win.

For those not familiar with the “sporting purpose” test, the provision in question was prompted by the BATFE’s recent Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns, which outlines the scope of a “sporting purpose” test for shotguns and describes numerous features that they consider undesirable and would prevent a shotgun from being considered “suitable for sporting purposes.”  Failure to meet such qualifications would prevent a shotgun’s importation into the United States.  Such “undesirable” features include folding stocks, collapsing or telescoping stocks, flash suppressors, magazines over five rounds, drum magazines, integrated rail systems, light enhancing optics and vertical forward grips.  Shotguns deemed to be “too heavy” or “too bulky” would also fail the sporting purposes test as they would be “too durable.”

The House Appropriations Committee summary of Mini-Bus finally starts to add some clarity to the situation in the second amendment rights policy issues section.  The summary reports that “the conference agreement contains numerous one-year firearms protections, and new language prohibiting DOJ from requiring imported shotguns to meet a ‘sporting purposes’ test.”  Specifically, the bill (H.R. 2112) reads: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to deny, or fail to act on, an application for the importation of any model of shotgun if – (1) all other requirements of law with respect to the proposed importation are met; and (2) no application for the importation of such model of shotgun, in the same configuration, had been denied by the Attorney General prior to January 1, 2011, on the basis that the shotgun was not particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

So, there we have it.  Some of these so-called “big wins for gun owners” may be nothing more than temporary protections and a means to prevent funds specifically addressed by the minibus spending bill from being used to apply the sporting purpose test to new applications for importation.  It appears that this “big win” does nothing for the untold number of shotguns whose importation has already been blocked based on largely cosmetic or other arbitrary features.

One Response to NRA’s “Big Wins” for Gun Owners Might Not Be So Big

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