When Is A Sporting Gun Not A Sporting Gun? When It’s A Gun.

One of the issues that pervades and distorts the ongoing debate about gun violence is whether guns are designed for ‘sporting’ as opposed to ‘non-sporting’ use.  This attempt to differentiate between ‘sporting’ and ‘non-sporting’ goes to the heart of the 2nd Amendment because the courts have always held that this difference is the basis upon which Constitutional guarantees of gun ownership rest; namely, civilian ownership of ‘sporting’ guns are protected by the 2nd-Amendment, ‘non-sporting’ (meaning military) guns are not.

chinese-gun           Since 1968, the ATF has been granted the authority to classify guns as ‘sporting’ or ‘non-sporting’ when it comes to allowing the import of gun manufactured overseas.  Most of the criteria that ATF uses to determine whether an imported gun does not meet the criteria for ‘sporting’ use ended up being incorporated into the 1994 assault weapons ban and these design features (rifles with pistol grips, flash hiders, etc.) effectively keep many types of what are generally called ‘assault rifles’ from being shipped in from overseas.  But ever since the assault weapons ‘ban’ ended in 2004, with the exception of a few states that opted to maintain the ban, or have subsequently reinstated it, the question of what really constitutes a ‘sporting’ as opposed to ‘non-sporting’ weapon remains confused.

Ten years ago or so, when the gun makers realized that hunting, a true sporting activity, was dying on the vine, they began promoting the idea that ‘black’ guns like the AR-15 were no different from any other type of ‘sporting’ gun.  And their rationale for this argument was that the civilian version of the AR lacked one essential feature of the non-sporting (i.e., military) gun, namely, that it could not be fired in full-auto mode.  And because the AR could only be fired in semi-auto mode, this made the gun no different from any other traditional semi-auto hunting gun, many of which had been around for 50 years or more.

The problem with this argument, of course, is that it’s not true.  Oh well, oh well, just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say it anyway. Right, Mr. Trump?  But the truth is that the current battle gun allows its user to set the firing mode as either a 3-shot burst or semi-auto pull.  So if a soldier decides that the particular tactical situation of the moment requires that his gun operate in semi-auto mode, should we say that he or she is now going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?  Give me a break, okay?

The gun industry has always claimed that ‘sporting’ guns, are not designed to be used for shooting humans, as oppose to ‘non-sporting’ (military) guns that are considered weapons of war. This is also not true.  The first gun that was ever invented came out of China in the 13th Century, utilizing a new technology called gunpowder to push a solid, ball-shaped object, out of a metal tube with the gases created by igniting the powder creating the necessary pressure to put the cannon ball into flight.  This technology and the corresponding weapons began to appear in Europe in the 15th Century, and very quickly the same technology appeared in weapons that could be used by individual soldiers – which is how and why the small arms industry was born.

In this country, some of these military designs were adapted for hunting use, but non-commercial hunting was and never has been more than a marginal social and sporting activity, and commercial hunting was generally outlawed because otherwise the various species would have been killed off – and some like the bison almost disappeared.

The point is that what the gun industry calls ‘sporting arm’ were never designed to be used for sporting purposes at all.  The fact that a relatively small population enjoys shooting their guns at paper targets on a range or trying to bag that elusive White Tail doesn’t change the fact that guns were designed and are still designed to do one thing, and we all know what that one thing is.

 

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2 thoughts on “When Is A Sporting Gun Not A Sporting Gun? When It’s A Gun.

  1. Agree with you that the argument of civilian vs military ARs was a distinction without a difference as is the argument for many guns. Its in my North Mesa Mutts blog.

    Not so sure of the difference between sporting and non-sporting as far as the 2A. Miller simply said “…The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon…”

    Heller said the 2A protected lawful ownership of a handgun for defense in the home. Shooting a crook is hardly a sporting use and I think as many handguns are designed for self defense (i.e., shooting people) as for pure sport, unless one considers shooting home invaders to be sport. The venerable 1911 was a military sidearm and has since become a sporting piece, some examples are the Colt Gold Cup or Springfield Range Officer, but those are basically accurized versions of military hardware.

    So implicitly, both Miller and Heller (and its expansion in MacDonald vs whoever that was) went far beyond sporting use.

    Of course in the early part of the last century, the bolt action Springfield military issue rifle became the sporting 30/06 deer rifle in many incarnations. Charles Whitman used a spinoff, a Remington bolt action in, I think, 7 mm, to mow down people at UT. There really is not a major difference between guns and guns as far as killing things, including people. Its just that a semiauto with a thirty round magazine is pretty good at providing suppression fire at first graders as one mows them down under their desks. Interjected a bit of sarcasm here.

    The real question is not the gun, but the sanity and decency of the owner.

  2. The problem with this argument, of course, is that it’s not true.

    And, another canard. An AR is functionally no different than any other semi-automatic rifle previously used for hunting. The author is arguing in search of relevancy.

    Beyond that, Khal handles the rest quite well.

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