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ATF Report on Importability of Certain Semiautomatic Rifles (1989), as mirrored on 3/4/2010










                     WASHINGTON, D.C. 20226
                           JUL 06 1989

MEMORANDUM TO:      Director

FROM:               Associate Director (Compliance Operations)

SUBJECT:            Report and Recommendation on the Importability
                    of Certain Semiautomatic Rifles

The working group has completed its evaluation of the semiautomatic
rifles whose importation was suspended pending a determination as
to whether these weapons are, as required by 18 U.S.C. section
925(d)(3), of a type "generally recognized as particularly suitable
for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes."

Attached for your review and approval is the report and
recommendation on the importability of these rifles.

                         Daniel R. Black


Approve: [signed] Stephen E. Higgins 7/6/89



                      SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLES


On March 14, 1989, ATF announced that it was suspending, effective
immediately, the importation of several makes of assault-type
rifles, pending a decision as to whether these weapons meet the
statutory test that they are of a type generally recognized as
particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting
purposes.  The announcement stated that ATF would not approve,
until further notice, the importation of AKS-type weapons, Uzi
carbines, FM/FAL-type weapons, FN/FNC-type weapons and Steyr Aug
semiautomatic weapons.  On April 5, 1989, the suspension was
expanded to include all similar assault-type rifles.

For purposes of this suspension, assault-type rifles were rifles
which generally met the following criteria:

          a.    military appearance

          b.    large magazine capacity

          c.    semiautomatic version of a machinegun

Based on these criteria, ATF suspended action on pending
applications and suspended outstanding permits covering certain
firearms listed in Attachment 1. These included both centerfire and
.22 rimfire caliber firearms.  At that time, ATF indicated that the
reexamination of these weapons would take approximately 90 days.

This ATF working group was established to conduct the reevaluation
of the importability of these semiautomatic rifles.  This report
represents the findings and recommendations of the working group.


                              - 2 -


Section 925(d)(3) of Title 18, United States Code, as amended,
provides in pertinent part that:

     The Secretary shall authorize a firearm. . . to be imported or
     brought into the United States . . .    if the firearm . . .

     (3) is of a type that does not fall within the definition of
     a firearm as defined in section 5845(a) of the Internal
     Revenue Code of 1954 and is generally-recognized as
     particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting
     purposes, excluding surplus military firearms . . .

This provision was originally enacted by Title IV of the Omnibus
Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, and was also contained
in Title I of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which amended Title IV
later that year.  According to the Senate Report on Title IV, this
provision was intended to "curb the flow of surplus military
weapons and other firearms being brought into the United States
which are not particularly suitable for target shooting or
hunting."  S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 80, 1968 U.S. Code
Cong. and Admin. News 2112, 2167.

Moreover, there is legislative history which indicates that
Congress intended the standard to allow the importation of
traditional sporting rifles, while excluding military-type rifles.
The Senate Report on the Gun Control Act observed that the
importation standards ". . . are designed and intended to provide
for the importation of quality made, sporting firearms, including
. . . rifles such as those manufactured and imported by Browning
and other such manufacturers and importers of firearms."  S. Rep.
No. 1501, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 38 (1968).  Significantly, the rifles
being imported by Browning at that time were semiautomatic and
manually operated traditional sporting rifles of high quality.
[footnote 1]

An explanation of the effect of this section by one of the sponsors
of the bill specifically stated that military firearms would not
meet the "sporting purposes" test for importation.  The mere fact
that a military firearm may be used in a sporting event does not
make it importable as a sporting firearm. [footnote 2]

There is a reference in the Senate Report on Title IV which notes
that the importation prohibition ". . . would not interfere with
the bringing in of currently produced

                              - 3 -

firearms, such as rifles . . . of recognized quality which are used
for hunting and for recreational purposes, or for personal
protection."  S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 80, 1968 U.S.
Code Cong. and Admin.  News 2112, 2167.  However, this language is
not inconsistent with the expressed purpose of restricting
importation to firearms particularly suitable for target shooting
or hunting since firearms particularly suitable for those purposes
can obviously be used for other purposes such as recreational
shooting and personal protection.

The determination of a weapon's suitability for sporting purposes
"rest[s] directly with the Secretary of the Treasury." 114 Cong.
Rec. 27465 (1968) (Statement of Sen. Murphy).  While the
legislative history suggests that the term "sporting purposes"
refers to the traditional sports of target shooting, trap and skeet
shooting, and hunting, the statute itself provides no criteria
beyond the "generally recognized" language of section 925(d)(3).
S. Rep. No. 1097, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 80, 1968 U.S. Code Cong. and
Admin.  News 2167.  The Senate Report on the Gun Control Act

     The difficulty of defining weapons characteristics to meet
     this target [of eliminating importation of weapons used in
     crime] without discriminating against sporting quality
     firearms, was a major reason why the Secretary of the Treasury
     has been given fairly broad discretion in defining and
     administering the import prohibition.

S. Rep. No. 1501, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 38 (1968).

Following enactment of the Gun Control Act in 1968, the Secretary
established a Firearms Evaluation Panel to provide guidelines for
implementation of the "sporting purposes" test of section
925(d)(3).  This panel was composed of representatives from the
military, law enforcement, and the firearms industry.  The panel
focused its attention on handguns and recommended the adoption of
factoring criteria to evaluate the various types of handguns.
These factoring criteria are based upon such considerations as
overall length of the firearm, caliber, safety features, and frame
construction.  An evaluation sheet (ATF Form 4590) was developed
thereafter by ATF and put into use for evaluating handguns pursuant
to section 925(d)(3).  Attachment 2.

The 1968 Firearms Evaluation Panel did not propose criteria for
evaluating rifles and shotguns under section 925(d)(3).  Other than
surplus military firearms which

                              - 4 -

Congress addressed separately, long guns being imported prior to
1968 were generally conventional rifles and shotguns specifically
intended for sporting purposes.  Thus, in 1968, there was no cause
to develop criteria for evaluating the sporting purposes of rifles
and shotguns.  Until recently, all rifles and shotguns were
approved for importation so long as they were not otherwise
excluded by section 925(d)(3).  Only rifles and shotguns covered by
the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. section 5845(a) (for
example, machineguns and short-barreled rifles and short-barreled
shotguns), and surplus military rifles and shotguns had been denied

The Firearms Evaluation Panel did briefly comment on whether a
model BM59 Beretta, 7.62mm NATO Caliber Sporter Version Rifle was
suitable for sporting purposes.  Minutes of the Firearms Advisory
Panel, December 10, 1968.  Attachment 3. It was the consensus of
the Panel that this rifle did have a particular use in target
shooting and hunting.  Accordingly, it was recommended that
importation of the Beretta BM59, together with the SIG-AMT 7.62mm
NATO Caliber Sporting Rifle and the Cetme 7.62mm NATO Caliber
Sporting Rifle, be authorized for importation. (The Beretta RM59
and the Cetme, the predecessor to the HK91, are two of the rifles
whose importation has been suspended.  The SIG-AMT is no longer
being produced.) However, the Panel recommended that importation of
these weapons should include the restriction that they not possess
combination flash suppressors/grenade launchers.

The working group found the Panel's consideration of these rifles
to be superficial and unpersuasive.  The vast majority of the work
of the 1968 Panel was devoted to handguns and the establishment of
the factoring criteria for the importation of handguns.  Indeed, we
found compelling evidence that these rifles are not generally
recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes.

The first time that ATF looked beyond the restrictions on NFA and
surplus military rifles and shotguns and undertook a meaningful
analysis under the "sporting purposes" test was in 1984.  At that
time, ATF was faced with a new breed of imported shotgun.  It was
clear that the historical assumption that all shotguns were
sporting was no longer viable.  Specifically, ATF was asked to
determine whether the Striker-12 shotgun was suitable for sporting
purposes.  This shotgun is a military/law enforcement weapon
initially designed and manufactured in South Africa for riot
control.  When the importer was asked to provide evidence of
sporting purposes for the weapon, ATF was provided information that
the weapon was suitable for police/combat style competitions.  ATF
determined that this type of competition did not constitute
"sporting purposes" under

                              - 5 -

the statute, and that this shotgun was not suitable for traditional
sporting purposes, such as hunting, and trap and skeet shooting.
Accordingly, importation was denied.  Attachment 4.

Thereafter, in 1986, the Gilbert Equipment Company requested that
the USAS-12 shotgun be classified as a sporting firearm under
section 925(d)(3).  After examination and testing of the weapon,
ATF found that it was a semiautomatic version of a selective fire
military-type assault shotgun.  In this case, ATF determined that,
due to its weight, size, bulk, designed magazine capacity,
configuration, and other factors, the USAS-12 was not particularly
suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.  Again, ATF
refused to recognize police/combat competitions as a sporting
purpose under section 925(d)(3).  The shotgun was reviewed on the
basis of its suitability for traditional shotgun sports of hunting,
and trap and skeet shooting and its importation was denied.
Attachment 5. This decision was upheld by the United States
District Court in Gilbert Equipment Company, Inc. v. Higgins, 709
F. Supp. 1071 (S.D. Ala. 1989).  The case is currently on appeal to
the Eleventh Circuit.

These two cases involving shotguns represent ATF's first thorough
examination of the suitability of certain combat-type weapons for
sporting purposes.  In these cases ATF adopted an interpretation of
sporting as being limited to certain traditional sports and not
simply any lawful activity in which the weapons might be employed.


A. Defining the type of weapon under review.

As noted above, section 925(d)(3) expressly provides that the
Secretary shall authorize the importation of a firearm that is of
a type that is generally recognized as particularly suitable for
sporting purposes.  The legislative history also makes it clear
that the Secretary shall scrutinize types of firearms in exercising
his authority under section 925(d).  Specifically, in its
explanation of section 925(d)(3), the Senate Report on the Gun
Control Act stated:

     This subsection gives the Secretary authority to permit the
     importation of ammunition and certain types of firearms--(1)
     those imported for scientific or research purposes or for use
     in competition or training under chapter 401 of title 10 of
     the United States Code; (2) an unserviceable firearm other
     than a machinegun; (3) those firearms not coming within the
     purview of the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. 5801, et

                              - 6 -

     seq.) and suitable for sporting purposes (in the case of
     surplus military weapons this type is limited to shotguns and
     rifles) and those taken out of the United States. (Emphasis

S. Rep. No. 1501, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 38 (1968).

In light of the statutory mandate that types of firearms be
scrutinized, the working group first attempted to determine whether
the semiautomatic rifles suspended from importation fall within a
type of firearm.

The working group determined that the semiautomatic rifles in
question are generally semiautomatic versions of true selective
fire military assault rifles. [footnote 3] As a class or type of
firearm they are often referred to as "assault rifles," "assault-
type rifles," "military style rifles," or "paramilitary rifles."
[footnote 4] Since we are only concerned with semiautomatic rifles,
it is somewhat of a misnomer to refer to these weapons as 'assault
rifles." True assault rifles are selective fire weapons that will
fire in a fully automatic mode. [footnote 5] For the purposes of
this paper, it was necessary to settle on one term that best
describes the weapons under consideration, and we will refer to
these weapons as "semiautomatic assault rifles."  They represent a
distinctive type of rifle distinguished by certain general
characteristics which are common to the modern military assault
rifle, The modern military assault rifle, such as the U.S. M16,
German G3, Belgian FN/FAL, and Soviet AK47, is a weapon designed
for killing or disabling the enemy and, as described below, has
characteristics designed to accomplish this purpose.

We found that the modern military assault rifle contains a variety
of physical features and characteristics designed for military
applications which distinguishes it from traditional sporting
rifles. [footnote 6] These military features and characteristics
(other than selective fire) are carried over to the semiautomatic
versions of the original military rifle.  These features and
characteristics are as follows:

     1.   Military Configuration.

a.   Ability to accept a detachable magazine. virtually all modern
military firearms are designed to accept large, detachable
magazines. [footnote 7] This provides the soldier with a fairly
large ammunition supply and the ability to rapidly reload.  Thus,
large capacity magazines are indicative of military firearms.
While detachable magazines are not limited to military firearms,
most traditional semiautomatic sporting firearms, designed to
accommodate a detachable magazine, have a relatively small magazine
capacity.  In addition, some States have a limit an the magazine

                              - 7 -

capacity allowed for hunting, usually 8 rounds or less. [footnote
8] That a firearm is designed and sold with a large capacity
magazine, e.g., 20-30 rounds, is a factor to be considered in
determining whether a firearm is a semiautomatic assault rifle.

b. Folding/telescoping stocks.  Many military firearms incorporate
folding or telescoping stocks. [footnote 9] The main advantage of
this item is portability, especially for airborne troops.  These
stocks allow the firearm to be fired from the folded position, yet
it cannot be fired nearly as accurately as with an open stock.
With respect to possible sporting uses of this feature, the folding
stock makes it easier to carry the firearm when hiking or
backpacking.  However, its predominant advantage is for military
purposes, and it is normally not found on the traditional sporting

c. Pistol grips.  The vast majority of military firearms employ a
well-defined pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the
action of the weapon. [footnote 10] In most cases, the "straight
line design" of the military weapon dictates a grip of this type so
that the shooter can hold and fire the weapon.  Further, a pistol
grip can be an aid in one-handed firing of the weapon in a combat
situation.  Further, such grips were designed to assist in
controlling machineguns during automatic fire.  On the other hand,
the vast majority of sporting firearms employ a more traditional
pistol grip built into the wrist of the stock of the-firearm since
one-handed shooting is not usually employed in hunting or
competitive target competitions.

d. Ability to accept a bayonet.  A bayonet has distinct military
purposes. [footnote 11] First, it has a psychological affect on the
enemy.  Second, it enables soldiers to fight in close quarters with
a knife attached to their rifles.  We know of no traditional
sporting application for a bayonet.

e. Flash suppressor.  A flash suppressor generally serves one or
two functions.  First, in military firearms it disperses the muzzle
flash when the firearm is fired to help conceal the shooter's
position, especially at night.  A second purpose of 'some flash
suppressors is to assist in controlling the "muzzle climb" of the
rifle, particularly when fired fully automatic. [footnote 12] From
the standpoint of a traditional sporting firearm, there is no
particular benefit in suppressing muzzle flash.  Those flash
suppressors which also serve to dampen "muzzle climb" have a
limited benefit in sporting uses by allowing the shooter to
reacquire the target for a second shot.

                              - 8 -

However, the barrel of a sporting rifle can be modified by "magna-
porting" to achieve the same result.  There are also muzzle
attachments for sporting firearms to assist in the reduction of
muzzle climb.  In the case of military-style weapons that have
flash suppressors incorporated in their design, the mere removal of
the flash suppressor may have an adverse impact on the accuracy of
the firearm.

f. Bipods. The majority of military firearms have bipods as an
integral part of the firearm or contain specific mounting points to
which bipods may be attached. [footnote 13] The military utility of
the bipod is primarily to provide stability and support for the
weapon when fired from the prone position, especially when fired
fully automatic.  Bipods are available accessory items for sporting
rifles and are used primarily in long-range shooting to enhance
stability.  However, traditional sporting rifles do not come
equipped with bipods, nor are they specifically designed to
accommodate them.  Instead, bipods for sporting firearms are
generally designed to attach to a detachable 'sling swivel mount"
or simply clamp onto the firearm.

g. Grenade launcher.  Grenade launchers are incorporated in the
majority of military firearms as a device to facilitate the
launching of explosive grenades. [footnote 14] Such launchers are
generally of two types.  The first type is a flash suppressor
designed to function as a grenade launcher.  The second type
attaches to the barrel of the rifle either by screws or clamps. we
are not aware of any particular sporting use for grenade launchers.

h. Night Sights.  Many military firearms are equipped with luminous
sights to facilitate sight alignment and target acquisition in poor
light or darkness. [footnote 15] Their uses are generally for
military and law enforcement purposes and are not usually found on
sporting firearms since it is generally illegal to hunt at night.

     2. Whether the weapon is a semiautomatic version of a

The vast majority of modern military firearms are selective fire,
i.e., they can shoot either fully automatic or semiautomatic.
Since machineguns are prohibited from importation (except for law
enforcement use) the manufacturers of such weapons have developed
semiautomatic versions of these firearms. [footnote 16]

                              - 9 -

     3. Whether the rifle is chambered to accept a centerfire
cartridge case having a length of 2.25 inches or less.

Modern military assault rifles and submachineguns are generally
chambered to accept a centerfire cartridge case of 2.25 inches or
less. [footnote 17] On the other hand, while many traditional
sporting rifles will fire a cartridge of 2.25 inches or less, such
firearms usually do not have the other military features outlined
in Items 1a-h.

These features and characteristics are not usually found on
traditional sporting firearms. [footnote 18] This is not to say
that a particular rifle having one or more of the listed features
should necessarily be classified as a semiautomatic assault rifle.
Indeed, many traditional sporting firearms are semiautomatic or
have detachable magazines.  Thus, the criteria must be viewed in
total to determine whether the overall configuration places the
rifle fairly within the semiautomatic assault rifle category.

Using these criteria, we determined that, on balance, all of the
firearms on the original suspension list are properly included in
the semiautomatic assault rifle category, with the exception of the
.22 rimfire caliber rifles and the Valmet Hunter.  While the .22
rimfire caliber rifles bear a striking resemblance to the true
assault rifle, these rifles employ, by and large, conventional .22
rimfire caliber semiautomatic mechanisms. [footnote 19] Moreover,
they are not semiautomatic versions of a machinegun and contain
only a few of the other relevant characteristics.  Further, the
working group determined that, in general, .22 caliber rifles are
generally recognized as suitable for small game hunting.  The
Valmet Hunter, while based on the operating mechanism of the AK47
assault rifle, has been substantially changed so that it is now
akin to a traditional sporting rifle and does not properly fall
within the semiautomatic assault rifle category.  More
specifically, its receiver has been modified and its pistol grips,
bayonet, and flash suppressor have been removed.  The trigger
mechanism has been moved to the rear of the modified receiver to
facilitate its use with a traditional sporting stock.  Also, its
military-style sights have been replaced with traditional sporting-
style sights.  See Attachment 6.

B. Scope of "Sporting Purposes."

The second step of our process was to determine the scope of
"sporting purposes" as used in the statute.  This is a critical
aspect of the process.  The broadest interpretation could take in
virtually any lawful activity or

                             - 10 -

competition which any person or groups of persons might undertake.
Under this interpretation, any rifle could meet the "sporting
purposes test.  A narrower interpretation which focuses on the
traditional sports of hunting and organized marksmanship
competition would result in a more selective importation process.
[footnote 20]

To determine the proper interpretation, we consulted the statute
itself, its legislative history, applicable case law, the work of
the original Firearms Evaluation Panel, and prior interpretations
by ATF.  In terms of the statute itself, the structure of the
importation provisions would suggest a somewhat narrow
interpretation.  In this regard, firearms are prohibited from
importation (section 922(j)) with certain specific exceptions
(section 925(d)(3)).  A broad interpretation which permits
virtually any firearm to be imported because someone may wish to
use it in some lawful shooting activity would render the statute

As discussed earlier, the legislative history suggests a narrow
meaning and indicates that the term "sporting purposes" refers to
the traditional sports of target shooting, skeet and trap shooting,
and hunting.  Moreover, the history discussed earlier strongly
suggests that Congress intended the provision to allow the
importation of traditional sporting type rifles while excluding
military type rifles.  There is nothing in its history to indicate
that it was intended to recognize every conceivable type of
activity or competition which might employ a firearm.  To the
contrary, the history indicates that mere use in some competition
would not make the rifle a sporting rifle.

Finally, the 1968 Firearms Evaluation Panel specifically addressed
at least one informal shooting activity and determined that it was
not a legitimate sporting purpose under the statute.  The panel
addressed what is commonly referred to as "plinking" (shooting at
randomly selected targets such as bottles and cans).  It was the
Panel's view that "while many persons participated in this type of
activity and much ammunition was expended in such endeavors, it was
primarily a pastime and could not be considered a sport for the
purposes of importation. . . "  See Attachment 3.

Based on the above, the working group determined that the term
"sporting purpose" should properly be given a narrow reading.  It
was determined that while hunting has been a recognized rifle sport
for centuries, and competitive target shooting is a recognized
rifle sport, the so-called activity of plinking is not a recognized
sport.  Moreover, we believe that reference to sporting purposes
was intended also to stand in contrast to military and law
enforcement applications.  Consequently, the working group does not

                             - 11 -

believe that police/combat-type competitions should be treated as
sporting activities.  This position is supported by the court's
decision in Gilbert Equipment Company, Inc., v. Higgins, 709 F.
Supp. 1071 (S.D. Ala. 1989) and is consistent with prior
interpretations of ATF as noted on pages 4 and 5 in discussing the
Striker-12 shotgun and USAS-12 shotgun.

C. Suitability.

The final step in our review involved an evaluation of whether
semiautomatic assault rifles are a type of rifle generally
recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to the
traditional sporting applications discussed above.

The criminal misuse of semiautomatic assault rifles is a matter of
significant public concern and was an important factor in the
decision to suspend their importation.  Nevertheless, the working
group did not consider criminal misuse as a factor in its analysis
of the importability of this type of rifle.  Instead, the working
group confined its analysis to the question of whether this type of
rifle meets the test provided in section 925(d)(3).

Rather than criminal misuse, our comprehensive examination of this
issue focused on the legal analysis and technical assessment of
these firearms discussed earlier.  In addition, the working group
used the information gathered under Items 1-7 outlined in the next
section in determining whether this type of firearm is generally
recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes.  These
items take into account technical and marketing data, expert
opinions, the recommended uses of the firearms, and data on the
actual uses for which the weapons are employed in this country.

In evaluating these firearms, we believe that all rifles which are
fairly typed as semiautomatic assault rifles should be treated the
same.  Therefore, the fact that there may be some evidence that a
particular rifle of this type is used or recommended for sporting
purposes should not control its importability. [footnote 21]
Rather, all findings as to suitability of these rifles as a whole
should govern each rifle within this type.

This is consistent with the approach taken with respect to handguns
since 1968.  Although certain handguns may be used or recommended
for sporting purposes, they may fall within the type of easily
concealable handguns barred from importation by the administrative
factoring criteria used

                             - 12 -

by ATF to determine the importability of handguns.  Furthermore, a
pistol specifically designed for target shooting, but lacking a
safety as required by the factoring criteria, would be a type of
handgun prohibited from importation as not particularly suitable
for sporting purposes for this reason.  Finally, just as ATF allows
handguns to be modified so as to meet the factoring criteria, a
semiautomatic assault rifle could be modified into a sporting
configuration and be importable, as was done in the case of the
Valmet Hunter referred to earlier.

D. Evaluation of Information from Outside Sources

As part of our comprehensive analysis as to whether semiautomatic
assault rifles meet the statutory criteria for importation, the
following sources of information were also considered:

     1.   How has the weapon been advertised, marketed and
     categorized by the manufacturer and/or importer?

     2.   How has the use of the rifle been described by firearms
     technical writers?

     3.   What is the rifle's reported use by importers?

     4.   Do hunting guides recommend the rifle?

     5.   Do editors of hunting magazines recommend the rifle?

     6.   Is the rifle used in target shooting competitions?

     7.   Do State game commissions allow the use of the rifle to

Items 1-6 focus upon how the rifles are marketed, advertised, and
recommended for use.  Item 7 addresses the legal restrictions
pertaining to the use of the weapons for sporting purposes.

The working group reviewed the advertising and marketing literature
concerning each of the weapons (Item 1) and reviewed evaluations of
the firearms by technical writers (Item 2).  In addition, the
working group solicited information from the importers of the
weapons and other knowledgeable sources (Items 3-6).

Questionnaires were drafted and sent out to licensed hunting
guides, State game and fish commissions, local hunting
associations, competitive shooting groups, and hunting/shooting
magazine editors to determine the extent to which the weapons are
used for sporting purposes or recommended for such use.  The
working group believed that the actual uses of the weapons for
sporting purposes

                             - 13 -

would be a factor to be considered in determining whether this type
of rifle meets the sporting purposes test.

The review of advertising and marketing literature indicates that
these rifles are not generally marketed for hunting or competitive
shooting.  The review of the technical evaluations revealed that
these rifles are not regarded as suitable for these sporting
activities. [footnote 22]

To the extent that the technical evaluations made recommendations
with respect to the use of the rifles suspended from importation,
the majority recommended them for law enforcement or military use
or for activities such as collecting, plinking, home and self-
defense, and combat target shooting.  Only 5 of over 50 evaluations
reviewed contained recommendations for the use of these firearms
for hunting purposes.

The importers were asked to submit information concerning the
sporting uses of the semiautomatic rifles they import.  Thirty-nine
importers were asked to submit this information and 19 responded.
In general, their comments were conclusory and stated that their
weapons could be used for sporting purposes.  A small number of
importers, e.g., Gun South, Inc., and Heckler & Koch, Inc.,
provided more specific data showing the sporting uses made of their
firearms by their customers.

Of 3 hunting associations to whom questionnaires were sent, 2
responded.  They stated that they place no restrictions on the use
of semiautomatic rifles by their members, on the minimum caliber of
ammunition used to hunt large game, or on the number of rounds
allowed in semiautomatic rifle magazines.  However, over 1,800
hunting guides were sent questionnaires and, of these, 706
responded.  Over 73 percent of those responding indicated that
their patrons used either bolt or lever action rifles for hunting.
Only 10 of the 706 guides indicated that their patrons had used any
of the rifles whose importation had been temporarily suspended.

Of the 20 hunting/shooting editors to whom questionnaires were
sent, 14 responded.   Nine of the fourteen editors recommended
semiautomatic rifles for use in hunting large game, including 5 who
recommended use of any of the rifles subject to the temporary
suspension.  Eleven of the fourteen editors recommended
semiautomatic rifles for target competitions, including 7 who
recommended semiautomatic assault rifles for such use.

The recommendations of editors were contradictory.  One editor
pointed out that what made the assault rifle successful as a
military weapon made the semiautomatic

                             - 14 -

version totally unfit for any other use.  On the other hand,
another editor stated that semiautomatic rifles had certain
advantages over conventional sporting rifles especially for the
physically disabled and left-handed shooters.  While this may be
true, there appears to be no advantage to using a semiautomatic
assault rifle as opposed to a semiautomatic sporting rifle.

A total of 54 competitive shooting groups were sent a questionnaire
and 53 groups responded (some of the responses were from
unsolicited groups).  Fifty of these groups indicated that they
sponsor high power rifle competition events.  While none of the
groups prohibited the use of the semiautomatic assault rifles in
their competitions, none stated that any of the rifles covered by
the temporary suspension were used in a specific event.

Finally, the information gathered under Item 7 reveals that most of
these weapons could legally be used in most States for most hunting

The working group reviewed all of the information gathered under
Items 1-6 and determined that while these weapons may legally be
used for sporting purposes in most States, the evidence was
compelling that, as a type of firearm, the semiautomatic assault
rifle is not generally recognized as particularly suitable for
sporting purposes.  The working group found persuasive the
technical and expert evaluations of these firearms which generally
did not recommend them as particularly suitable for sporting
purposes.  The group was also impressed by the comments of the
hunting guides which showed that these rifles were not widely used
for hunting purposes.  The comments of the hunting guides are
consistent with the opinion of the technical experts who generally
do not recommend the rifles for hunting purposes.

The opinions of the editors were fairly divided with respect to the
sporting uses of these rifles.  The importers generally recommended
their own weapons for such uses.  The competitive shooting groups
indicated that the rifles could be used in certain shooting events.
Thus while there was some evidence that these rifles could be used
for hunting and target shooting, there was no evidence of any
widespread use for such purposes.  The mere fact that they are not
generally prohibited from use for sporting purposes does not mean
that the rifles meet the test for importation.

                             - 15 -


The working group has dealt with a complex issue, the resolution of
which has required the group to take into account interpretations
of law, technical assessments of firearms and their physical
characteristics, marketing data, the assessment of data compiled
from responses to questionnaires and, finally, Bureau expertise
with respect to firearms. we fully recognize that particular
findings as well as the results will be controversial.

From the cross section of representation within ATF, we have
brought to bear our technical, legal, and administrative expertise
to resolve the issues in what we believe to be a fair manner,
taking into consideration all points of view.  While some of the
issues were difficult to resolve, in the end we believe that the
ultimate conclusion is clear and compelling.  These semiautomatic
assault rifles were designed and intended to be particularly
suitable for combat rather than sporting applications.  While these
weapons can be used, and indeed may be used by some, for hunting
and target shooting, we believe it is clear that they are not
generally recognized as particularly suitable for these purposes.

The purpose of section 925(d)(3) was to make a limited exception to
the general prohibition on the importation of firearms, to preserve
the sportsman's right to sporting firearms.  This decision will in
no way preclude the importation of true sporting firearms. It will
only prevent the importation of military-style firearms which,
although popular among some gun owners for collection, self-
defense, combat competitions, or plinking, simply cannot be fairly
characterized as sporting rifles.

Therefore, it is the finding of the working group that the
semiautomatic assault rifle is not a type of firearm generally
recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to
sporting purposes and that importation of these rifles should not
be authorized under 18 U.S.C. section 925(d)(3).

Based on our evaluation, we recommend that the firearms listed on
Attachment 7 not be authorized for importation.  For the reasons
discussed in this report, we recommend that the firearms listed on
Attachment 8 be authorized for importation.  These are the .22
rimfire caliber rifles and the Valmet Hunter which we do not
believe are properly included in the category of semiautomatic
assault rifles.  Attachment 9 is a compilation of the responses
from the questionnaires.  Attachment 10 combines the criteria for

                             - 16 -

identifying semiautomatic assault rifles and the items considered
in assessing suitability.  Attachments 11 and 12 contain the data
compiled for each of the criteria listed in Attachment 10.
Finally, Attachment 13 contains the source materials used in
locating persons and organizations who were sent questionnaires.


1. Paul Wahl, ed., Gun Trader's Guide, 13th Edition, (South
Hackensack, NJ. 1987), 155-162.

2. Although a firearm might be recognized as "suitable" for use in
traditional sports, it would not meet the statutory criteria unless
it were recognized as particularly suitable for such use.  Indeed,
Senator Dodd made clear that the intent of the legislation was to
"[regulate] the importation of firearms by excluding surplus
military handguns; and rifles and shotguns that are not truly
suitable for sporting purposes." 114 Cong. Rec. 13325 (1968)
(Statement of Sen. Dodd) [emphasis added].

Similarly, it is apparent that the drafters of the legislation did
not intend for "sports" to include every conceivable type of
activity or competition which might employ a firearm; otherwise a
"sporting purpose" could be advanced for every firearm sought to be
imported.  For example, in response to Sen. Hansen's question
concerning the meaning of "sporting purposes" in the bill which
became section 925(d), Senators Dodd and Hansen engaged in the
following colloquy:

     Mr. HANSEN.  Would the Olympic shooting competition be a
     "sporting purpose?"

     Mr. DODD.  I would think so.

     Mr. HANSEN.  What about trap and skeet shooting?

     Mr. DODD.  I would think so.  I would think trap and skeet
     shooting would certainly be a sporting activity.

     Mr. HANSEN.  Would the Camp Perry national matches be
     considered a "sporting purpose?"

     Mr. DODD.  Yes; that would not [sic] fall in that arena.  It
     should be described as a sporting purpose.

     Mr. HANSEN.  I understand the only difference is in the type
     of firearms used at Camp Perry which includes a wide variety
     of military types as well as commercial.  Would all of these
     firearms be classified as weapons constituting a "sporting


     Mr. DODD.  No. I would not say so.  I think when we get into
     that, we definitely get into military type of weapon for use
     in matches like these at Camp Perry; but I do not think it is
     generally described as a sporting weapon.  It is a military
     weapon.  I assume they have certain types of competition in
     which they use these military weapons as they would in an
     otherwise completely sporting event.  I do not think that fact
     would change the nature of the weapon from a military to a
     sporting one.

     Mr. HANSEN.  Is it not true that military weapons are used in
     Olympic competition also?

     Mr. DODD.  I do not know.  Perhaps the Senator can tell me.
     I am not well informed on that.

     Mr. HANSEN.  It is my understanding that they are.  Would the
     Senator be inclined to modify his response if I say that is
     true? (27461)

     Mr. DODD.  It is not that I doubt the Senator's word.  Here
     again I would have to say that if a military weapon is used in
     a special sporting event, it does not become a sporting
     weapon.  It is a military weapon used in a special sporting
     event.  I think the Senator would agree with that.  I do not
     know how else we could describe it. . . .

     Mr. HANSEN.  If I understand the Senator correctly, he said
     that despite the fact that a military weapon may be used in a
     sporting event, it did not, by that action become a sporting
     rifle. is that correct?

     Mr. DODD.  That would seem right to me . . . As I said
     previously the language says no firearms will be admitted into
     this country unless they are genuine sporting weapons . . . I
     think the Senator and I know what a genuine sporting gun is.

114 Cong. Rec. 27461-62 (1968).  (Emphasis  added.)

                              - 3 -

3. Ken Warner, ed., Gun Digest 1989, (Northbrook, Il. 1988), pp.
293-300; William S. Jarrett, ed., Shooter's Bible, (Hackensack, NJ.
1988), pp. 345-363; Edward Clinton Ezell, Small Arms of the World,
(Harrisburg, Pa. 1983), p. 844; Pete Dickey, "The Military Look-
Alikes," American Rifleman, (April 1980), p. 31.  Also, see
generally, Ian V. Hogg, ed., Jane's Infantry Weapons, 1987-88, (New
York 1987); Jack Lewis, ed., The-Gun Digest Book of Assault
Weapons, (Northbrook, Il. 1986).

4. Art Blatt, "Tomorrow's State-of-the-Art Sporting Rifle," Guns &
Ammo, (July 1981), P. 48; Jarrett, pp. 345-363; Warner, pp. 293-

5. Daniel D. Musgrave and Thomas B. Nelson, The World's Assault
Rifles, (Virginia, 1967), P. 1.

6. See generally, Angus Laidlaw, ed., Paul Wahl's Big Gun
Catalog/1, (Bogota, NJ. 1988); Musgrave and Nelson; Hogg; Jarrett;
and Warner.

7. Ibid.

8. Arizona, 5 rounds; Colorado, 6 rounds; Michigan 6 rounds; New
Hampshire, 5 rounds; New York, 6 rounds; North Carolina, 6 rounds;
North Dakota, 8 rounds; Oregon, 5 rounds; Pennsylvania,
semiautomatic rifles prohibited; Vermont, 6 rounds.

9. See generally, Hogg; Musgave and Nelson; Ezell; Warner; Jarrett;
Laidlaw; and Lewis.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ezell, P. 844; Dickey, p. 31.

17. Musgrave and Nelson, pp. 11-29; and, see generally, Hogg; and

                              - 4 -

18.  Ezell, pp.844-866; and, see generally, Warner; Jarrett;

19. See, for example, Walter Rickell, "The Plinker's AK," Guns
Magazine, (July 1986) p. 21; John Lachuk, "Bantam Battle Rifles,"
Guns & Ammo, (January 1987), p. 37; John Lachuk, ".22 Erma
Carbine," Guns & Ammo, (May 1968), p. 58; Jack Lewis, "Something
New: The AX in Twenty-Two," Gun World, (July 1985), p. 32; Roger
Combs, "A Most Unique Carbine," Gun World, (December 1985), p. 28;
Garry James, "Mitchell Arms AK-22," Guns & Ammo, (November 1985),
p. 72.

20. See note 2, colloquy between Senators Dodd and Hansen.

21. Ibid.

22. See generally, bibliography.



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     Beretta AR. 70 Rifle," American Rifleman, (March 1988), 64-66.

     Blatt, Art. "Beretta M-70/Sport Rifle," Guns (December 1983),

     Blatt, Art.  "Tomorrow's Sporting Rifles," Guns & Ammo, (July
1981), 48-57, 78, 79.

     Bruce, Robert. "The AUG Assault System," Guns Magazine,
(September 1986), 37-39, 42,43, 57-61.

     Clapp, Wiley. "Great To-Do With the Daewoo," The Gun Digest
Book of Assault Weapons, (1986), 82-87.

     Combs, Roger. "A Most Unique Carbine," Gun World, (December
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     Combs, Roger. "Galil 7.62mm Nato Rifle", Gun World, (October
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     Combs, Roger. "The Avtomat Kalashnikov Goes .22," The Gun
Digest Book of Assault Weapons, (1986), 182-195.

     Combs, Roger. "The Uniquely Unique F-11," The Gun Digest Book
of Assault Weapons, (1988), 188-195.

     Cooking and Heckling with H & K 's HK94A3," Gun World, (August
1984), 18-20.

     Davis, Russ. "Have Your AK and Shoot it, Too," Guns Magazine,
(February 1987), 39, 62-64.

     Dickey, Pete. "The Military Look-Alikes",  American Rifleman,
(April 1980), 30-31, 76.

     Egolf, Dick.  "Heckler & Koch's Super Semi-Auto," American
Rifleman, (June 1985), 29-32, 65-67.

     Ezell, Edward Clinton.  Small Arms of the World.  Harrisburg:
Stackpole Books, 1983.

     "FN FNC Rifle," American Rifleman, (January 1988), 58-60.

                              - 2 -

     Ferguson, Tom.  "A Hard Look at The AR-180," The Gun Digest
Book of Assault weapons, (1986), 121-127.

     French, Howard.  "H & K's 9mm Paracarbine," Guns & Ammo,
(November 1983), 42-44.

     Grennell, Dean A. "The Mitchell AK-47," Gun World, (September
1986), 40-41.

     "Heckler & Koch 91," American Rifleman, (October 1981), 56-58.

     "Heckler & Koch Model 94 Carbine," American Rifleman,
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     Hogg, Ian V., ed.  Janes' Infantry Weapons, 1987-1988.  New
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     Hunnicutt, Robert W. "The Bullpups Have Arrived," American
Rifleman, (March 1987), 30-35, 70-71.

     James, Frank W. "The Springfield Armory SAR-3," Special
Weapons and Tactics, (July 1989), 42-46.

     James, Garry. "Australian L1A1A Rifle," Guns & Ammo, (December

     James, Garry. "Chinese AX-47 .223," Guns & Ammo, (August
1986), 84-86.

     James, Garry.  "Mitchell Arms AK-22," Guns & Ammo, (November
1985), 72-73, 97.

     James, Garry.  "Mitchell Heavy Barrel AK-47," Guns & Ammo,
(November 1986), 83-84.

     James, Garry.  "PTK Chinese M-14S Rifle," American Rifleman,
(July 1988), 81-82.

     James, Garry.  "The SAR-48 Rifle, Springfield Armory
Reproduces a Classic," Guns & Ammo, (August 1985), 64-66.

     Jarrett, William S., ed.  Shooter's Bible, No. 80.
Hackensack: Stoeger Publishing Company, 1988.

    Kapelsohn, Emanuel.  "Steyr's Space-Age AUG," The Gun Digest
Book of Assault Weapons, (1986), 45-49.

                              - 3 -

     Karwan, Chuck.  "The Fetching-Famas," Gun World, (October
1988), 18-21, 78.

     Karwan, Chuck.  "The Rugged Rifles of Springfield Armory," Gun
World, (March 1989), 72-76.

     Karwan, Chuck.  "Valmet's Assault Family," The Gun Digest Book
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     Lachuk, John.  ".22 Erma Carbine," Guns & Ammo, (May 1968),

     Lachuk, John. "Bantam Battle Rifles," (January 1987), 36-39,

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     Lewis, Jack, ed.  The Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons.
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     Lewis, Jack.  "A Family Affair," The Gun Digest Book of
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     Lewis, Jack.  "EMP's Look-Alike AP-74," The Gun Digest Book of
Assault Weapons, (1986), 166-171.

     Lewis, Jack.  "Something New: The AK in Twenty-Two," Gun
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     Lewis, Jack. "Springfield's S.A.R. 48," The Gun Digest Book Of
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    Lewis, Jack.  "The Why and How of Rimfires," Digest Book of
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     Mason, James D. "The Maadi in America," Guns Magazine,
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     Musgrave, Daniel O. and Nelson, Thomas B. The World's Assault
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     O'Mbara, Robert.  "The Guns of Israel," Guns Magazine,
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     Paige, Alan.  "The AK-47 As A Bullpup" Firepower, (January
1989), 48-53.

                              - 4 -

     Rees, Clair.  "Valmet M71-S," Guns & Ammo, (October
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     Rickell, Walter.  "The Plinker's AK," Guns Magazine, (July
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     Sanow, Ed.  "National Match AK-47/S," Firepower, (January