CRPA Foundation Submits Comments on ATF Study That Could Restrict Importability of Shotguns

CRPA Foundation Submits Comments on ATF Study That Could Restrict Importability of Shotguns
More Public Comments Encouraged

California Gun Laws Research

Washington, DC –-( The California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation (CRPAF) has submitted a letter correcting and clarifying some of the areas of California firearm law addressed in a draft ATF Study that could result in banning the importation of self-defense shotguns.

Other issues raised by the Study are being addressed by organizations like the National Rifle Association.

In January 2011, BATFE published a preliminary Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns.” The study addresses the federal law that restricts the importation of firearms, with an exception for firearms that are generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to “sporting purposes.” 18 USC § 925(d)(3). As part of the process of finalizing the report, ATF has invited comments from the public.

It is important for activists and members to submit comments. This preliminary study, if adopted by ATF, would restrict the importation of a large quantity of currently importable shotguns. And Legislatures may use this study as a jumping off point to ban other shotguns within the United States with these features. Since the law conditions a firearm’s ability to be imported on whether it is “generally recognized” as meeting the law’s sporting purpose test, it is important that the BATFE hear from the general public. Particularly relevant will be the comments of people who use shotguns equipped with one or more of the features for hunting or any form of competitive or recreational target shooting, and people who adapt such shotguns to a sporting purpose by simple modifications, such as attaching or removing a flashlight, attaching or removing a forward grip, or installing or removing a magazine extension or magazine plug.

A working group within the BATFE has recommended that any shotgun (semi-automatic, pump-action or any other) that has any one of 10 specific features should be banned from importation, on the grounds that such shotguns are not “generally recognized as particularly suitable for a readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

The working group report lists features that it contends make shotguns “non-sporting:” a folding, telescoping, or collapsible stock; a magazine of over five rounds or a drum magazine; a flash suppressor or a muzzle brake that also suppresses flash; an integrated rail system other than on top of the receiver or barrel; a light enhancing device; a forward pistol grip or similar protruding part; an “excessive” weight of over 10 pounds; an “excessive bulk” of over three inches width and/or over four inches depth; a bayonet lug; or “a grenade-launcher mount.”

The working group considers “sporting purposes” to be limited to hunting, skeet, trap and sporting clays, but not to include practical shotgun matches or recreational target shooting. To have considered practical matches, the working group said, could have led to conclusions that would undercut the BATFE’s 1989 and 1998 bans on the importation of semi-automatic rifles, and its 1993 ban on the importation of various semi-automatic pistols. The working group also indicated a reluctance to accept practical matches because they test defensive firearm skills, which the working group believes are of military and police orientation.

The working group surveyed shotgun laws of all fifty states, and addressed California’s “assault weapon” law which lists certain shotguns as “assault weapons.” ( Due to the fact that “short-barreled shotguns” are regulated in almost all fifty states and by federal law, the study did not address the laws concerning these items.) The Study also notes discusses a San Diego municipal ordinance that defines certain shotguns as “assault weapons.” (San Diego, Cal., City of San Diego Municipal Code Chapt. 5 Art. 3 Div. 00 § 53.31).

CRPAF’s letter discusses the five shotguns that are listed as “assault weapons” by make and model under California law. These are the Cobray: Streetsweeper – S/S Inc., SS/12, and Striker 12 and the Franchi: SPAS 12 and LAW 12. Cal Pen § 12276 and 11 CCR 5495. In addition, the CRPAF letter clarifies California law defining certain shotguns as “assault weapons” by virtue of their features. Cal Pen § 12276.1(a)(6)-(8).

Notably lacking from the Study’s description of California “assault weapon” laws is the exception for “antique firearms,” meaning firearms manufactured prior to January 1, 1899. Cal Pen § 12276.1(c)(1) and (d)(3). The CRPAF letter clarified this point for the ATF.

The CRPAF letter also explained that the San Diego municipal ordinance defining certain shotguns as “assault weapons” is illegal.

This is not the first time ATF has reviewed what makes a firearm “non-sporting.” In 1989, the ATF published the “Report and Recommendation of the ATF Working Group on the Importability of Certain Semiautomatic Rifles.” In the 1989 Report, ATF determined that certain rifles that were semiautomatic versions of full-automatic rifles and rifles with certain features (“military configuration”) were “non-sporting” rifles. Many members of the firearm community look to this study and the one that followed it the “Department of Treasury Study on the Sporting Suitability of Modified Semiautomaic Assault Rifles” (published in 1998) as the precursors to the various federal and California “assault weapon” bans.

Comments to the BATFE may be submitted by e-mail to [email protected], or by fax to (202) 648-9601, and must be received by May 1, 2011. Faxed comments may not exceed 5 pages. All comments must include name and mailing address.