Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who wears short shorts?

In the US, short-barreled rifles and shotguns are strictly controlled at the federal level, making them an expensive headache to own even in the states that don't ban them outright. Yes, this makes very little sense in a nation where the people have a Constitutional right to own handguns. If I understand correctly, the argument in favor of the restriction consists mostly of jumping up and down shouting "SAWED OFF SHOTGUNS!" while waving around pictures of doe-eyed children.

I bring this up because at the NRA Annual Meeting, I had an opportunity to fall in love with the single-shot guns made by Thompson Center. The TC guns are wonderful little sporters that use a break-action mechanism with interchangeable barrels: you buy one gun, and can get additional barrels for any cartridge you want, from .22lr to .357 magnum to rifle cartridges*. They can be used in the standard pistol configuration, or fitted with a stock and long barrel to make a rifle.

You can see where this is going. The conversion kit's stock is stamped with a warning instructing the user not to attach the stock before attaching the long barrel, lest the Nanny Gods wax wroth. But as far as the ATF was concerned, owning that conversion kit at all constituted "constructive possession"--evidence per se that the owner intended to assemble a short-barreled rifle.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before the ATF was forced to back off.

Still, the Court didn't rule against the law itself, so to sum up:

--Rifle-caliber pistol: Perfectly legal
--Assembling rifle kit barrel-first: Perfectly legal


If you ever hear anti-gun advocates talking about how we need common-sense gun laws, understand that we hardcore gun nuts agree completely.

[* - I want a .45-70 shoggoth-pistol.]


  1. And then you get the thing where, if you take an AR15 rifle, and take off the rifle barrel and stock and attach a short barrel, you have an AR15 pistol, which can never, ever wear a rifle stock. (Unless you jump through the short barreled rifle hoops.)
    Having made an AR15 pistol out of that receiver, it can never, ever, wear a rifle barrel and stock, because it's a pistol.
    I figure the BATFEIEIO believes in sympathetic magick...

  2. And the Serbu shorty has some insane fiddly legal distinctions I don't begin to understand. The Remington 870 shotgun they use for the conversion ships from the factory with both a traditional inline stock and a stockless pistol grip. And there's some kind of complex situation where if it comes out of the box with one of those stocks attached, their conversion needs to be registered as a short-barreled shotgun (which is an expensive pain in the ass), but if the other is attached at the factory, it has to be registered as an "any other weapon" (which is a cheap pain in the ass). The distinction is hardly academic, given that the ATF and Federal Marshals are more than happy to murder your wife and son over barrel lengths.

    That's an awful high price to pay to uphold a law that, in this country, fundamentally can't do any good.

  3. Remember all the (theoretical) silliness I posted concerning various ways to become a felon with a couple of conversion kits last year?

  4. Yup. There's no way to pretend this has any function other than harassing gun owners and stepping-stoning to more restrictive gun control.

    I'm somewhat optimistic we'll get either the courts or the legislature to overturn the SBR and SBS restrictions eventually. The key question is just how much attention those hardcore anti-gun talking heads will get shouting "SAWED OFF SHOTGUNS" at the tops of their lungs.

  5. As long as the public perception of shorty shotguns is OMGWTFDETH killing wands...
    Though I could be wrong in thinking that no SCOTUS is going to read Miller's comment about shorty shotguns and military use honestly