6 years ago
In January of 2011 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives authored what they call the Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns. The comment period ends on May 1, 2011, and my comments have been submitted to the pertinent e-mail address with name, address and other contact information. My comments are herewith submitted to my readers.
It really is a sad state of affairs at the ATF. With salient and pressing scandals that deserve attention (along with a need for a thorough house-cleaning and full disclosure by the ATF), lawyers and analysts have been focusing exquisite detail on the features that should be [dis]allowed on importable shotguns.
The ATF is working within the context of the decisions on the ban on assault rifles, a ban that had sunset provisions which are no longer applicable. Features such as a pistol grip, a forend grip, a rail system for things such as tactical lights (light enhancing devices), high capacity detachable magazines, etc., are deemed to be associated with military style weapons and as such (in the determination of the ATF study team) are not “readily adaptable for sporting purposes.”
But this judgment is arbitrary, and I charge the ATF with circular reasoning. Rather than appeal to facts which demonstrate whether a specific feature is adaptable for sporting purposes, the ATF study team apparently without reservation gives us the purpose around which their judgments are made, i.e., ensuring that the statutes codified in the Gun Control Act of 1968 remain useful. As I observe in one comment:
On page 4 the following statements are made: “The 1989 study then examined the scope of “sporting purposes” as used in the statute. The study noted that “[t]he broadest possible interpretation could take in virtually any lawful activity or competition which any person or groups of persons might undertake. Under this interpretation, any rifle could meet the “sporting purposes” test. The 1989 study concluded that a broad interpretation would render the statute useless.”
Wrapped up in this paragraph we have not only an amusing logical blunder but also the real crux of the problem. Authors have presupposed the answer (so-called circular reasoning) at which they must arrive, i.e., the statute must remain useful. Thus, all interpretations by ATF are biased to yield that result. It is not the responsibility of the ATF nor is it within the purview of their authority to ensure the continued usefulness of a statute, if in fact it is rendered useless by advances, common practices, evolution in sporting, or lack of wise crafting of the statute (such as the fact that nowhere in this discussion of “sporting purposes” is there any latitude given for personal protection and home defense under the second amendment to the constitution of the United States). This single paragraph renders the study itself as useless as the statute has become.
As to the issue of the usefulness of military style features on weapons, I remark:
Ask any skeet shooter if s/he enjoys stopping every five shells and the answer makes for easy dismissal of authors’ objections to these features on firearms. Another example might be feral hog hunting, which usually occurs at night since these are nocturnal creatures. Feral hogs are destroying the American landscape, causing many farmers in the American South to go out of business, attacking household pets and even humans. According to NFS and game control experts, they are multiplying more quickly than can be accommodated by lethal removal. Not only is feral hog hunting a sport involving guides and businesses specifically for that purpose, it may be necessary for lethal removal to be increased by an order of magnitude to save the American farmer. Nocturnal hunting requires enhanced or tactical lights on Picatinny or Weaver rail systems, and hunting feral hogs might require high capacity magazines. Finally, note that some shooters have medical problems such as arthritis. Pistol and forend grips used for any sport and with any weapon can not only make the weapon less painful to use, it can make the difference between whether the shooter can engage in the sport at all. So with three examples (skeet shooting, feral hog hunting and medical problems) it has been demonstrated that the list of firearms features supplied by authors as not adaptable for sporting make the firearms more adaptable for sporting, and it is the proposed ATF regulations that are directly contrary to the practice of sporting. Many more such examples could be supplied.
I conclude the comments with this summary:
In general I find that the study [a] appeals to authority without citation of those authorities, [b] engages in circular reasoning in that conclusions are fixed at the outcome of the discussion (i.e., ensuring the continued usefulness of a particular statute), [c] is dated and out of touch with current practice, [d] ignores legitimate uses of certain weapon features for various sporting functions and activities, [e] fabricates arbitrary categories, [f] makes what can be demonstrated to be material false assertions. As such, this study cannot be used for promulgating regulation without damage being done to the constitutional rights of citizens of the United States.
Regardless of the disposition of this particular set of proposed regulations, this action by the ATF is yet another warning shot. The ATF is working very hard to ensure that purchasing and using weapons – legally – is as hard as possible. And yet the bureau might just take an even harder turn to the left. If we learn nothing else through this study and related efforts, we learn that the Obama administration is no friend to second amendment rights.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.