It appears that our ammo and guns are being attacked secretively. David Codrea Gun Rights Examiner ATF classification compromise to redefine sporting use, ban certain ammo imports Next: ‘Armed American Radio’ launches ‘Daily Defense’ program April 10, 2015 4:15 AM MST Sources say a deal in the works includes a push to expand definitions to allow for further importation bans on certain types of presently legal ammunition. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ classification of pistol grip only firearms with 14” barrels that fire shotgun shells and are over 26” in overall length as neither “shotguns” nor National Firearms Act “Destructive Devices” or “Any Other Weapons” has created a situation wherein the agency must either quietly save face or have it exposed that untold numbers of good faith gun owners currently legally possess firearms problematic for the government to allow. In order for that status quo to continue, ATF, in conjunction with certain members of Congress and lobbying interests, is working at “tweaking” its definition of the arbitrary “sporting use” term, insider sources tell Gun Rights Examiner. And with that will come a push to expand definitions to allow for further importation bans on certain types of presently legal ammunition. While many of the details of the deal being worked on are sketchy, informed sources are of the opinion that the “tradeoff” is a backroom effort that includes undisclosed “bipartisan” members of Congress, ATF acting on behalf of itself, the Department of Justice and the administration, and firearms lobbyists who have traditionally been part of the behind-the-scenes development, if not outright “ghostwriting” of classifications and rules affecting the industry and gun owners. This is hardly the first time ATF has found itself needing to reverse prior decisions. The entire Heller Foundation-supported machine gun case currently making its way through the courts was set up by the Bureau first ruling that NFA trusts are not “persons” as defined by law, and were therefore eligible to manufacture and possess post-1986 machine guns typically reserved for military, law enforcement and properly licensed members of the firearms industry. They changed their minds and demanded their tax stamp back despite no statutory provision for doing that. And with the current state of disorganization and unknown numbers of contradictory decisions, further disconnects where band aid “solutions” are applied will be practically guaranteed, as a recent ATF industry circular demonstrates. “Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked,” ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch declared in its “Open letter on the redesign of ‘stabilizing braces.’” This is tacit admission that conflicting classifications and rulings force firearms makers and owners to face decisions that could land them in life-altering trouble. This reaffirms that ATF only gets around to addressing those conflicts on a haphazard and sporadic basis when individual circumstances bring them to the fore. The scope of that problem is unknown, but quite possibly massive and severe, as a 2005 Congressional Research Services report concedes. “It is significant to note that ATF regulations, rulings and classifications are based upon the agency’s best interpretation of current law and reported case law,” the report observes. “As such, ATF determinations are subject to the Administrative Procedures Act and can be challenged in federal court, after all other administrative remedies have been exhausted.” “According to ATF, the agency has over 300 cubic feet of classification letters stored in file cabinets,” the report elaborates. As noted in my latest GUNS Magazine “Rights Watch” column, none of these have been scanned into a searchable database so that consistency of interpretations can be assured and conflicts identified and resolved. As that report was published 10 years ago, the thought of what it must look like today evokes nothing so much as the government warehouse at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” As an aside, the APA requirement was directly contradicted by ATF in its aborted (for now) attempt to seek a ban on “green tip” ammo using a “sporting purposes” rationale. As first reported in this column, the Bureau’s Enforcement Programs and Services spokesperson maintained its proposal was merely a “framework” and would “not actually be a [regulatory] change, more of a policy along those lines.” This morning, citizen journalist and blogger Mike Vanderboegh, who first reported on allegations at the CleanUpATF whistleblower website that Operation Fast and Furious weapons were involved in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, will be attending various seminars at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Nashville. He’ll be asking questions to include if NRA knows anything about a “sporting use” tweak and a potential specialized ammo import ban. His findings will be posted on the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog when he makes his report from the convention press room. With this level of uncertainty, it’s always a judgment call on whether or not it’s too early to issue a report. Admittedly, there’s always a risk involved in doing so, especially with issues capable of generating a lot of passion, and particularly to the credibility of anyone who stirs people up for no good reason. The decision to file this one was made after consultation with knowledgeable insider sources who have a track record of professional accomplishments and of providing reliable information that has borne out in the past. On the “to do” list at this writing will be efforts to determine the exact scope, nature and language of the proposed changes alleged to be in development, and to identify all parties involved, including members of Congress who reportedly have commissioned a research and feasibility study, as well as any lobbyists who may be helping steer the process. Whether that can be accomplished is unknown, as cooperation on the part of people being asked questions is not a given. Perhaps inferences will need to be made based on “No comment” replies, or outright denials. Regardless, three clear points remain valid and ought to be priorities for advocates of the right to keep and bear arms no matter how this story shakes out. First and foremost, the entire concept of “sporting purposes” is not only arbitrary, in addition to having documented 1938 German law origins, it is offensive to the core purpose behind the Second Amendment. It is past time members of Congress who have enjoyed gun owner endorsements and contributions acknowledged that and worked to eliminate it as a criterion -- and that’s something those GOP presidential candidates vying for NRA member support at this weekend’s annual meeting leadership forum could make a point of pledging to sign if elected. Second, it must be made more than clear that no “tradeoffs” or “compromises” on any kind of ammunition are acceptable. Marginalizing hobbyists and enthusiasts like those who fire off tracers at Knob Creek and throwing them under the bus is unacceptable, and part of a “divide and conquer” strategy that all gun owners must stand fast against and refuse to cede ground to. As seen every time the gun-grabbers advance, far from being satisfied, they always use their new position of advantage from which to launch their next deeper incursion. Third, and this is something well within the powers of Congress to require, this business of 300 cubic feet of files, or whatever it is 10 years after that report was made, is unacceptable, and lends itself to further disastrous reversals with gun owners paying the price for ATF’s disorganized laziness. It’s like something we would expect from a police station in a Third World country, not from the government of the United States. Those files need to be scanned and placed in a searchable data base accessible to all, and then audited for consistency, with contradictory classifications and rulings identified and openly resolved with public input and Congressional oversight. This column and Sipsey Street Irregulars will continue to monitor and report on developments. UPDATE: I have been advised to emphasize that per statute, this will apply to all “pistol grip shotgun-like firearms” ever made with a bore diameter greater than one-half inch. See ATF’s 2009 FFL newsletter.