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Mossberg 500 (courtesy

There are a couple of outlets reporting that a deal is afoot to make some serious changes to federal gun laws. However, since these outlets quote no sources whatsoever besides things they’ve overheard in the NRA press room, we’ve held off on running with it. Since this seems to be getting some traction in social media, I’d like to bring y’all up to speed on what those outlets are saying and the current purported status of the deal. However, be aware that TTAG cannot independently verify this information . . .

We’ve known for a while that there’s a hole in the NFA, dear Liza. If a firearm that would otherwise be classified as a short barreled shotgun or rifle and regulated by the National Firearms Act is over 26 inches in overall length, it doesn’t come under the act’s restrictions. It’s a Title I firearm, not subject to registration and taxation. The classification of that item would not be as a shotgun, not a rifle, not even a handgun — just a “firearm.” It seems like an odd set of criteria to meet for very little gain, but we’ve reviewed one such firearm from Franklin Armory whose sole purpose was to cleverly circumvent California’s pistol laws. Also lumped into this category are a series of pistol grip shotguns.

In 2009, the ATF declared in its newsletter that shotguns with a pistol grip attached are Title I firearms in the same way as Franklin Armory’s rifle is a Title I firearm. Which seems to contradict the language in 26 U.S. Code § 5845 (f)(2), which states that a “Destructive Device” (which requires registration and a tax stamp under the National Firearms Act) is:

any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, except a shotgun or shotgun shell which the Secretary finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes;

So since the diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun is greater than 1/2 inch, unless the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury (overseers of the ATF)  finds that an applicable firearm is “particularly suitable for sporting purposes” the firearm is classified as a “destructive device” and regulated under the NFA. Note that this same caveat doesn’t apply to a short barreled rifle or short barreled shotgun, only a “destructive device.” That “sporting purpose” determination appears to never have been officially made. That would mean anyone who bought a Mossberg 500 Cruiser (a pistol grip-only shotgun available directly from the manufacturer with the ATF’s blessing) is an accidental felon.

What’s even worse is that the exemption might not even be possible. Remember that shotguns with pistol grips aren’t “shotguns” — they are simply “firearms.” So legally speaking, even if the ATF or the Secretary of the Treasury wanted to make that exemption, it is legally impossible due to the classification of these “firearms.” Yeah, I know, the NFA is a giant steaming pile of crap from start to end.

That’s all out in the open, public knowledge, that we can verify. From here, we slide down the rumor hole.

The story is that the ATF is looking to extricate itself from this position. They have accidentally declared that its A-OK to sell what should be an NFA firearm to the general public without all the extra rigamarole, and rather than reversing its decision as they did with how people may use the pistol arm brace and demanding that people turn in their shotguns, they want the legislators to step in and clean up their mess for them.

At the moment, word is that a deal has been struck that will greatly expand the “sporting purposes” definition to include a large number of guns and would possibly make them NFA exempt, and the NRA gets to take the credit for the win. But there’s a catch: the Democrats are demanding that more restrictions be placed on ammunition being imported into the United States. Specifically, they are demanding that “specialty” ammunition like tracers and perhaps steel core ammo be officially banned from importation.

Without seeing any of the rumored bill’s language (much less any public acknowledgement that a deal exists at all) its hard to judge whether this is a good thing. We might see AR-15 rifles get included in that “sporting purposes” definition which would derail much current and future attempts at an “assault weapons” ban. But the opening could also be just big tailored narrowly enough to include shotguns and nothing else while we lose a ton of ammunition availability in the deal.

One more time…it’s all rumor at this point. Stay tuned.

[UPDATE] We have reached out to our contacts within the NRA who responded by scoffing and declaring the whole thing “bullshit.” That’s also the response that our man Dean got when he talked to Chris Cox.

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  1. deals with the anti gun crowd will ever be a win. Just a stepping stone for them to refer to later..until I see it, no way I would ever trust them. When have they ever purposely improved the law or rules in favor of the 2nd Amendment? (I mean congress or ATF, Administration, politicians who are anti gun, etc..)

    What is so unbelievable to me is the fact that so many uninformed (regarding firearms) people think a right should be tightly controlled and legislated, if not banned altogether…truly amazes me.

    • ..and watch out for the last minute amendments.

      I have to think this would have huge risk all the way around though.

        • The irony is that Hughes put his amendment up to cause FOPA to get to not pass or get it vetoed. They knew with a Dem controlled House led be Tip O’Neil and Dem controlled Senate would not over ride the veto that most of them didn’t really like in the first place. Charlie Rangel slipped the Hughes Amendment by in a midnight voice vote.

    • How the Anti’s arguments have changed this is from the Wikipedia Page on the NFA. The argument used to be that it wasnt a weapon for the military so that is why it should be banned now adays it is the opposite…

      “In 1938, the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas ruled the statute unconstitutional in United States v. Miller. The defendant Miller had been arrested for possession of an unregistered short double-barreled shotgun, and for “unlawfully…transporting [it] in interstate commerce from Claremore, Oklahoma to Siloam Springs, Arkansas” which perfected the crime.[38] The government’s argument was that the short barreled shotgun was not a military-type weapon and thus not a “militia” weapon protected by the Second Amendment, from federal infringement. The District Court agreed with Miller’s argument that the shotgun was legal under the Second Amendment.”

      • What I have always found ironic is the Army used shotguns in the trenches in WWI. The army also used Mossberg 500 and Rem 870 in Nam and the pistol grip versions were used by the “Tunnel Rats.” The 1939 ruling has always left me scratching my head.

        • The ruling may have gone differently if Miller and his attorney had bothered to show up for court that day.

        • US v Miller (1939) is truly fascinating since it holds ONLY firearms suitable for military and militia use are protected by the 2A. The opinion itself, (yes it went by default, I guess that is the NRA’s fault too – sarcasm font off) totally ignores history of the military use of sbs’s. That’s what you get with progressive judges and lawyers that don’t know anything but law.

    • Given that this story was given life by David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh, I would say that it is not small potatoes. If you don’t know who those two are, I would suggest you inform yourself as to who broke the Fast and Furious scandal (hint hint). These two had to have some credible sources. They are not a fly-by-night click-bait traffic-seeking website. I’m glad Chris Cox has been forced to categorically deny it, because now his position is down on the record.

  2. Didn’t we recently see that the overall length is measured with any collapsible stock fully extended? If so, why is not just every SBR built on an AR receiver exempt under this reading? I just don’t understand any of this, it should be easy to build a collapsible stock which was over 26″ by itself, attach any length barrel you like.

    • Because overall length is only one of multiple requirements. Completely irrespective of overall length, any rifle with a barrel under 16″ is an SBR under the law.

      The OAL thing is just a “gotcha” on the other side, in that even if the barrel is 16″ or longer, if the OAL is under 26″ then it’s still considered an SBR. For example, the IWI Tavor with 16″ barrel is 26.125″ OAL. Were it any more than an eighth of an inch shorter, it would be an SBR even though the bbl is 16″+.

  3. NRA-ILA responded to my e-mail objecting to this rumored deal as follows:

    “Thank you for contacting NRA-ILA regarding recent negotiations between the National Rifle Association and the BATFE.

    The NRA-ILA is not sure where this internet rumor started or by whom, but it is completely untrue. I have attached the NRA-ILA sign up for legislative alerts. This is the best way to stay informed of the legislative activity within the NRA-ILA. We will continue to fight for your 2nd Amendment rights day in and day out.
    NRA-ILA Alert Sign Up
    Nick C

    NRA-ILA Grassroots
    [email protected]

  4. I want BOTH imported ammo and “assault” weapons. Screw compromise; embrace freedom.

  5. I hope that “sport purpose definition” would look like in my country (I live in Poland), everything with caliber smaller than 12 mm for rifles and pistol (bigger calibres for rifles is classified as hunting weapons and pistols and full-auto weapons as collecting firearms) and nobody cares about mags capability, “assault/felony-style firearms” and wider ammo bans because they can be used in various shooting disciplines recognized by international target shooting organizations and Olympic Committee…

  6. So just hypothetically, say I had a Mossberg 500 with an 18″ barrel and a pistol grip back in the 90s a) was I committing a felony for possessing it and b) have the statute of limitations run out by now?

  7. Found this, from yesterday..I am am still searching and reading, but this article says a bit more..
    I hope its just pure rumor and nothing else..we can’t compromise and lose little by little..It is a right. Not a privilige.

    Sunday, April 12, 2015
    SSI Exclusive: Negotiating Rights Away. Cynical Secret “Deal With The Devil” Confirmed. NRA, ATF& bi-partisan group of politicians agree to save ATF from itself and widen the definition of “sporting purposes.” “A hole big enough to drive Diane Feinstein’s limousine through.”

    And this one..Damn I hope they aren’t doing this crap..

    • Agreed. Trust no one when it comes to negotiating away gun-rights. Not even the NRA. There is no “balance” when it comes to negotiation gun-control issues, there is only gradual loss of gun-rights.

  8. “Sporting Purposes” = what you can do with your firearms if you lube them enough and fall on them just right.

    All rights described under the Bill of Rights are freedoms (protections from) government. The right to keep and bear firearms therefore has only one purpose and that is to prevent a-holes in ‘government’ [a/k/a your stupid neighbors needing jobs] from attempting to take away your other rights (history is nothing but an unbroken chain of such BS), so they have to attack that right first. Don’t bother with arguments of “precedent” either. “Precedents” are just the stupid crap you let escape your face before you asked me, or else I would have to spring from the womb fully formed and armed to the teeth to beat-back all the ways in which you are wrong.

    (It doesn’t matter what ELSE you do with them) Firearms of all kinds are there to ensure your ability to have a say and a stake in whatever comes after a-holes end America, and to prevent you from needing to ask permission from anyone to start, or defend against the next Civil War, or war with China.

  9. Can I keep my chinese Pardner Pump? BTW the only local gun range near me(Cook County ,Il.) that allows shotguns does NOT allow pistol grips/no stocks…why I guess it’s about lack of control from the shooter.

    • One of my local ranges will let you use stockless shotguns but they won’t let you use shot loads. Slugs only. That’ll leave a mark.

  10. It is WRONGFUL (not just wrong) for the ATF (or anyone in gov’t at any level) to claim that they can, or do, protect you from firearms, even from automatic weapons, explosive devices, etc. You are no more protected from people wielding such things than such people’s lack of immediately piqued desire to do you harm. [TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012]

  11. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again; There is no “Sporting Purposes” in the damn 2nd Amendment! That phrase needs to die! I own my firearms for express reasons NOT INCLUSIVE OF sporting purposes. Any use of them for sporting purposes is incidental and at my sole discretion.

  12. No thanks. Shove freedom down their throats. The popularity of NFA stuff is increasing and that could lead to good legislation. If the kourts have any integrity left, Hollis vs Holder will make the Nazi’s “sporting purposes”language meaningless.

    • I read what I believe is the latest document that the plaintiff filed in the courts for that case. It is astoundingly detailed and spot-on with all of its arguments. Any court which rejects the plaintiff’s assertions is absolutely corrupt and illegitimate — acting outside of both the U.S. Constitution and precedent.

  13. As soon as anything firearm related is defined, everything “deemed” to fall outside the definition is prohibited.

    I do not see anything in the Second Amendment that refers to the “sporting use” of firearms.

    People need to get it through their heads that as soon as terms like “sporting use” are allowed to be used to define what is a “reasonable” firearm for the public to own it opens up a huge hole that every anti-gunner will run through.

    I’m sure the argument will be “well, we have to go with what we’re given.” No, we don’t. As soon as we allow the people who would restrict firearms control the language of the debate, they’ve won.

    • Well, we might as well get used to it, because this kind of s**t will become the norm.

    • Possession of tracers is 100% illegal in Kalifornia. I think their excuse is related to wild fires…

  14. David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh are absolutely standing by their story, which is good enough for me. It’s operative until they say it isn’t.

    Just as in the Fast and Furious story they broke, there were a lot of denials. And it’s all turned out to be true.

    And neither is going to out a confidential source to satisfy the peanut galley, or the critics.

    Recognition of the “sporting purposes” language of the GCA for any amount of trinkets would be caving in to tyranny, and open a Pandora’s box of possibilities for anti-gun legislation.

    • “David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh are absolutely standing by their story, which is good enough for me. It’s operative until they say it isn’t.”

      Yup, what he says.

    • And for those who might wish to claim the Vanderbough-Cox video was selectively edited, bear in mind that it was shot by TTAG’s own Dean Weingarten.

  15. The original report came from the Sipsey Street Irregulars, which is a step down the credibility scale from Infowars. SSI is the John Birch Society of guns.

    The report might be true — a broken clock and all that — but given how much Mike Vanderboegh hates the NRA and everything else, probably it’s not.

    • Because the guys who broke the Fast & Furious story have no credibility with Ralph…

      In other words, Ralph, the ad hominem, “kill the messenger” attack in your comment makes your comment self-discrediting.

      • Those guys’ work on F&F is the reason we even ran the story. There’s no evidence to back any of this up, even from our own NRA-embedded sources. We’re going purely on their word.

  16. So am I missing something, or could/should a rifle (with barrel length less than 16 inches), with a stock to bring the overall length to over 26 inches thus be just a ‘firearm’, and not a stamp required item?

    If so would that not be a MP5A2?
    Just wikipedia-ing the dimensions its 9inch barrel variant has a length of over 26 inches.

    • Having the stock is what makes it a rifle. The key to the exception discussed here is that it can’t be a rifle without a stock, can’t be a pistol with a forward grip and can’t be an AOW with a length over 26″.

  17. I’m OK with a little compromise. Here’s the starting offer:

    1. Everyone is required to own a firearm and be proficient in its use.
    2. Criminal and Civil liability for failure to use in defense of self and others.
    3. Training will be offered at low or no cost to those who qualify.

    Area of compromise:
    Exclusions for conscientious objectors or infirm.
    Conditions for Limited Immunity for failure to protect.

    Lets start negotiating on the other side of the line. If it “saves only one” and all that.

    If it “saves only one” and all that

    • You’re missing an item:

      A $500 refundable federal tax credit for:

      – buying your personal self-defense gun of choice
      – buying your personal militia weapon of choice
      – buying your personal home defense gun of choice

      and a $350 refundable tax credit for:

      – successful completion of a course in personal defense
      – successful completion of a course in home defense
      – successful completion of a course in defensive use of personal weapon in crisis settings

      This tax credit could be obtained no more often than once for each every three years.

  18. In my mind, the proper use for a “sporting purpose” classification is to explicitly allow all the firearms which are not of sufficient utility for militia purposes.

  19. Remember the “new” machine gun ban in the firearm owners Protection Act of 1986 anyone?

    • It was in the Hughes Amendment to FOPA, and whether it was properly passed is a matter of controversy. This is what Wikipedia has to say, and it is correct:

      “Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), at the time presiding as Chairman over the proceedings, claimed that the “amendment in the nature of a substitute, as amended, was agreed to.” However, after the voice vote on the Hughes Amendment, Rangel ignored a plea to take a recorded vote and moved on to Recorded Vote 74 where the Hughes Amendment failed.”

  20. I want Congress to write into law my definition of whether a firearm is for “sporting purposes”: if 15% of people who regularly shoot guns think it would be fun to shoot.

  21. The problem isn’t that the “sporting purpose” exception was never officially made, it is that the exception **cannot** be made because ATF has backed itself into a corner.

    ATF has already determined that a “pistol gripped shotgun” is not legally a “shotgun” due to not having a shoulder stock. But the destructive device sporting purpose exception only allows the ATF to make exceptions for “a shotgun or shotgun shell”. Since they are not considered shotguns they are not eligible for an exception.

  22. I don’t think I want to file paper work for a Tax Stamp for a Mossberg Persuader I already own. I realize that the 7 round tube mag, pistol grip and cooling shroud may look scary. I would have put a Boyd Sterling stock on there and turned it into a Fudd gun if my boat hadn’t turned over. The ATF has agents that can attest that boating accidents happen when fishing.

  23. Gun owners’ willingness to “compromise” is mainly over, IMO. Trading freedoms is not what was intended when the framers designed this country. The NRA better watch their step, they’ve been mainly excused for their past mistakes in giving away our freedoms but they WILL have a full blown mutiny on their hands if they start giving up ground now.

  24. How about this definition of “Sporting Purposes”:

    Any lawful recreational activity conducted with a legally owned firearm. It MAY include, but NOT limited to, hunting, and formal and informal target shooting

  25. Congress needs to take the “sporting purposes” discretion away from the Secretary of the Treasury and replace it with a well-written law. The ATF has clearly abused that discretion by using the most possible (and sometimes impossibly) restrictive interpretation of “sporting”, consistently over the course of decades. There needs to be a law that defines it.

    In the M855 ban proposal, the ATF claimed something that nobody has any record of happening even one time in 29 years was “more likely” to occur than something that everyone agrees happens millions of times every year.

    In the “shotgun importability” document, they took up the question of whether “practical” target shooting competitions are “sporting”, and discuss relevant facts on which any reasonable person would base a decision. The answer is blindingly obvious. If events with trophies, entry fees and published rule books, sanctioned by national organizations with paid memberships larger than the memberships of the largest skeet shooting clubs aren’t “sporting events”, someone please provide an example of something that is. But they actually said (in essence), “That answer would require us to change not only the bullshit in this document, but some other bullshit we really don’t want to have to change, so we’re going to un-ask that question.”

    An agency that conducts itself in such a way clearly has betrayed the trust placed in it to reasonably and justly administer the law of the land.

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