Banning Guns by Changing Definitions, Part 2

As we saw in Part 1, the Obama administration is seeking to ban the importation of some popular shotgun models that are made overseas. The method being used is borrowed from Humpty Dumpty:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Unable to get legislation passed, the administration seeks to master us with their mastery of words. In this case the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is seeking to master the definition of the term “sporting use” to “traditional” sports, things similar to what might have been found in 1934 when the Treasury Department first began regulating firearms. The ATF “Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns” (PDF) limits “sporting purpose.”

However, consistent with past court decisions and Congressional intent, the working group recognized hunting and other more generally recognized or formalized competitive events similar to the traditional shooting sports of trap, skeet, and clays.

In order to decide what shotguns fit the “sporting purpose” definition the study comes up with a list of characteristics that aren’t sporting. Nobody has yet taken to bayoneting deer or skeet as far as I know, so I’m not going to raise a big stink about bayonet lugs being on the list of features that aren’t particularly suited for sporting purposes. (Please stop shouting that the Constitution of the United States says nothing about “sporting purpose.” We’ll look at why the “sporting purpose” rule violates the constitution in Part 3.)

One major problem (aside from the constitution) is that many of the features the ATF study group settled on make a shotgun particularly useful for self defense, especially home defense. Here are the characteristics that the study has decided are unsuitable for sporting use:

(1) Folding, telescoping, or collapsible stocks;

(2) bayonet lugs;

(3) flash suppressors;

(4) magazines over 5 rounds, or a drum magazine;

(5) grenade-launcher mounts;

(6) integrated rail systems (other than on top of the receiver or barrel);

(7) light enhancing devices;

(8) excessive weight (greater than 10 pounds for 12 gauge or smaller);

(9) excessive bulk (greater than 3 inches in width and/or greater than 4 inches in depth);

(10) forward pistol grips or other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooter’s extended hand.

Some of these features, such as folding stocks and larger capacity magazines clearly are useful in sports if you include practical shooting sports. But as we’ve seen, Humpty Dumpty said that “sporting purposes” means what HE means it to mean, and practical shooting sports are Right Out. But some of the features are important to people who don’t want to hop over obstacles, shoot through simulated windows, or have their shooting timed and scored. Several of the features on the list are important to people who want to defend their home.

A house often has narrow doorways or hallways, and furniture can interfere with the movement of a long gun. By federal law, a shotgun barrel must be at least 18 inches long. So the place we can easily shorten a shotgun to make it easier to navigate confined spaces is at the stock end. A folding or collapsible stock lets you maneuver in confined spaces but still be able to shoulder the weapon for better accuracy when you have time and space. So this feature that the ATF wants to ban from import by regulation is applicable to home defense.

If you’re operating in a confined space with the stock folded then you need to really grip the front end. This helps with both aiming and controlling the recoil if you have to shoot. A vertical or pistol grip can also help you swing the front of the gun faster when you identify an intruder. Again, a forward pistol or vertical grip can be an effective part of a home defense shotgun.

It’s 3 am. The wake up call you got wasn’t on the phone, it was the sound of a window breaking, or the sound of someone moving around downstairs. Odds are that if you pause to get dressed at all it’s just to grab a pair of pants. More likely you’re wearing whatever you were sleeping in, and don’t have any place to carry extra ammunition. Whatever ammunition you have in or mounted on the gun is all you’ve got. Probably there’s only one or two intruders, and maybe you’ll hit each one with the first shot, but do you really want to bet your family’s life on it? I hope you never need to defend your family at 3 am, but if you do wouldn’t you rather have a few rounds left over rather than run out? Having more than five rounds will enhance the safety of your family.

Since it’s 3 am, you’ve probably turned the lights off in most of the house. One hand is on the rear pistol grip of the shotgun, the other is on the forward grip (vertical or not.) Your third hand then holds the flashlight.

No third hand? There’s are a couple of simple solutions. One is a light enhancing device, that is, a night sight. Those are rather expensive for a shotgun that only gets fired in practice, so another form of light enhancement is more common in the form of a flashlight. But there’s still that third hand problem. The solution is an accessory rail mounted to the side or beneath the barrel. Flashlights just clamp on there, and the flashlight shows you exactly what you are aiming at. Seeing what you are about to shoot seems like a reasonable precaution when investigating an odd noise in your house, but that’s not sporting, so the Obama administration doesn’t want you to do that.

The ATF is taking comments on their report until the end of April 2011. You can submit comments by sending a fax of not more than 5 pages to (202)648-9601 or sending e-mail to All comments must include your name and mailing address.

In Part 3 of this report we’ll look at some of the constitutional objections to the “sporting purposes” test and some of the other gun control implications of the administration’s effort to do gun control by regulation that it’s unlikely they could currently get through congress.

Originally posted at Landmark Report.


12 Responses to “Banning Guns by Changing Definitions, Part 2”

  1. TechAskew says:

    Great series Tom. It was only a matter of time before they try to change the meaning of the words to suit their agenda.

    Sadly they simply create more criminals because nobody is going to obey these idiotic and unconstitutional “adjustments”.

    If only they would enforce the hundreds of laws on the books they would accomplish so much more.

  2. [...] of  ”sporting use” in order to ban certain  shotguns. But as we’ll see in Part 2, many of the features that the ATF working group’s study (PDF) says should lead to a shotgun [...]

  3. [...] “sporting purpose” to exclude the popular action and practical shooting sports. In Part 2 we saw how several features that would cause an imported shotgun to be banned are useful in home [...]

  4. [...] Part 2, which notes that the administration and the ATF’s definition of “sporting use” includes a list of things that cannot apply to such use. Things that are common in hunting and self-defense: In this case the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is seeking to master the definition of the term “sporting use” to “traditional” sports, things similar to what might have been found in 1934 when the Treasury Department first began regulating firearms. The ATF “Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns” (PDF) limits “sporting purpose.” [...]

  5. Blanman says:

    I get that your angry, but Ive only ever fired stock guns, I don’t really see a problem with the few things you quoted from the change. 5 round limit, its a shot gun if you need 5 shots to take down a burglar there’s something really wrong and if there 6 of them breaking in to your house, I am pretty sure they brought there own guns, hell some might even have bought them all legal. And if you didn’t have a pistol grip you could use a small flashlight while holding the stock. Heck for the price of the mount you could by headgear for the light.

    I never seen a sport where your allowed to customize and modify your equipment so much, few times I saw skeet shooting the pros used an over under double barrel. Using a drum mag with a slide rail and a launcher attachment sounds more like decoration shooting then sport, its like going hunting at a place you could walk up and pet the deer before you shoot it. Meanwhile if they catch your burglar with a fancy shotgun after you put buck shot in his ass and he runs he will get in trouble for caring a gun he meant to do harm with, on top of braking and entering and attempted murder if he fired a round off in the house.

    To me this is kind of silly if you need all that to take down a burglar I would be ranting more about the local police, and the ability for the some one to get there hands on some serious stuff.

    • Blanman says:

      Also note I keep a bat for protection my house has a lot of close quarter places, and I met the local riff-raff when I was a gas station attendant only one has a gun and I doubt he even has ammo, if he broke in he would have to shoot my dogs first, and in the time it took him to do that he would find his arm broken if not his head. Taking some one down with a bat not only lets them live, but is way more scaring. If busted up one of the local tweakers around here with a bat, they would all stay the hell away from her for some time.

      Not saying its ideal for every one, but with my limited army training I know the person is more scary then the gun, most people hesitate unless they have shot some one before, and if they don’t the first shots are impulsive its part of how gun accidents happen, hell I almost got shot at an ammo dump once becuase a girl got off the firing line and decided to wave a loaded gun in a area marked with no firearms signs, saying “I think I got a round jammed in here,” never seen grown men hit the dirt so fast lol Sick thin is she wasn’t a half bad shot, but I still wouldn’t trust her with a loaded gun. The second I would hear the round hit the chamber I would be edgy.

      • dano says:

        Tell that to my wife. 5’3″, 125 pounds and she’s going to be able to beat someone with a bat while she’s peeing herself from fright? A firearm is a much better equalizer. No matter how big or bad the thief is, a gun in well trained hands will prove the winner. If you want to use that bat, so be it. But trust me, there is someone out there big and bad enough that they take that bat from you and stuff it up your arse. Take my advice, get a gun, learn how to use it well and be prepared.

    • Beregond says:

      Not everyone lives in a city. The current sheriff has knocked 10 minutes off of the average response time to my area, now it’s only 17 minutes. That’s not a fault with the department, but rather due to the fact that one of the ways that I exercise my rights as a free man is to not live in an ant hill. But even if I did live in town, the police can’t be everywhere at once; nor would we want to live in the kind of society that would result from a cop on every block. The bottom line can be summed up in the expression “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” (Even if a cop was right outside, the supreme court has ruled that he is under no obligation to protect you, but that’s another discussion.)

      Muzzle control is ALWAYS an issue with a gun. You should never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. If you don’t live alone do you want to lessen the amount of control you have over your weapon and maybe point it at your kids because you need a hand to hold the flashlight?

      When you mention sports you fall into the trap of the gun grabbers. There is NOTHING in the Constitution about “sporting purpose.” But even if you were to grant a sporting purpose test, the ATF has repeatedly tortured it by limiting sports to things like skeet, hunting, and sporting clays, and specifically excluding the practical and action shooting sports that have international organizations with tens of thousands of members in the US alone.

      The sporting purpose test is applied by the government in a way intended to create class warfare within the ranks of gun owners. People with beautiful (and often expensive) over/under guns are exempt, and say “What’s the matter? After all, they’re not coming for *MY* shotgun.” The sad fact is they don’t need to. They’ve isolated a large number of participants in legacy shooting sports from the main body of gun owners, allowing defeat in detail. When they’ve picked off everyone else there won’t be anyone left to fight for your second amendment rights by your side.

      Lastly, the baseball bat assumes that you are within baseball bat range of an intruder. If I’m at one end of a twenty foot hall with a bat and a bad person is at the other end of the hall with a gun then I’m in trouble. I may go down fighting, but the odds are that it’s me that will go down.

      That was the way to bet even when my body was whole. I sort of thought about the idea that one day I would be old and feeble, but it snuck up on me twenty years sooner than I ever thought it might for reasons we don’t need to address here. Sure, as a strapping 6’3″ healthy male I’d have bet on myself against most others if we were in reach of each other with both having baseball bats- But I’ve lost bets before.

      Forget trying to imagine that you’re a 5’3″ woman, illness and/or injury can strike down anyone. It can happen to you, leaving you unable to defend yourself without a firearm. What’s that you say? You can still have a firearm, you just can’t have THAT firearm. Tomorrow we’ll add more to the list, especially inexpensive guns from overseas that ordinary people might be able to afford to defend themselves.

  6. Joe says:

    The idea that people are ignorant of existing shooting sports that are not limited to trap, skeet, and sporting clays does not negate the fact that those shooting sports, such as 3 and 2 gun competitions, exist and have existed for multiple years. In those events items like extended magazine capacity is not just a nicety, it is a requirement. These shooting sports are not just a few guys going out into the “back 40″ to plink. These shooting events are nation wide, with national championships. One example of participants in these events are the Army Marksmanship Unit. So these are valid shooting sports with a wide following and the administration is playing games. Ones opinion that these are “unneeded” features is irrelevant.

  7. PJS says:

    Pointing out that the practical shooting sports are mainstream enough that the USAMU participate is good. but do not harbor the illusion that the Army will be of any help whatsoever.

    The moment there is any pressure at all, the Army will yank the AMU teams from practical shooting.

    They have to. If the civilian leadership says “jump” the services ask how high on the way up. Only when there is something really, really important on the line will they drag their feet.

    Practical shooting isn’t important enough to them to aid us in any way.

  8. Someothername says:

    Third Amendment:
    No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    Got that?

    “without the consent of the Owner”

    If an armed militia soldier holds a family member who went for a walk outside the house hostage, that’s duress, not consent.


    Second Amendment:
    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    I’m not seeing sports here …

    I do not hunt and kill animals for sport
    I do not compete in shooting events competitions
    I don’t watch sports on TV, and have no interest in sports.
    I have a gun to defend myself and my family
    Who cares if a self-defense tool can also be used in a sport or not?
    Second Amendment as it relates to third Amendment is about consent and being forced under duress to do something by a government’s militia.
    If a person’s family member was held captive by the militia, your consent wouldn’t be genuine.
    So, it’s about a person’s right to protect themselves and family wherever they go, not just inside the home.

    What the heck has that got to do with sports?
    In other words, infringing upon “shall not be infringed” by bringing up what kind of ball they use in football versus tennis really is a joke.

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