The term “sporting purpose” is imbedded throughout U.S. gun control laws, and its use is a violation of the Second Amendment. That has been my position for decades. My brother Chris raised the issue in a speech before the Gun Rights Policy Conference some three years ago, and our dad, Neal Knox, was making an issue of the language in the 1980s. The “sporting purpose” language has been a plank in federal gun laws dating back at least to the National Firearms Act of 1934. The 1968 Gun Control Act, down to its current incarnation, institutes broad restrictions and prohibitions on a variety of firearms and ammunition, then exempt items that are deemed to be “particularly suitable for sporting purposes,” or are primarily intended for “lawful sporting purposes.”
As Dad used to say, “The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are not about Americans’ right to keep and bear sporting goods.” The right to arms enumerated in the Constitution is about self-defense and self-determination, not about trap and skeet or taking game. It also sticks in the craw that much of the actual languages in our gun laws, including the “sporting purpose” clauses, appear to have been lifted verbatim from the German gun control laws of the late 1930s, during the run-up of Nazi power. We all know how well those laws protected Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other minorities.
So, for over 30 years we have been calling for legislation to remove “sporting purpose” exemptions and repeal or change the laws so that the exemptions are unnecessary. Finally, on June 10, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced H.R.2710, titled the “Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act,” which, if passed and signed into law, would be the most sweeping reform of the Gun Control Act since Neal Knox’s gun de-control plan that became the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986.
Bishop’s bill accomplishes major reforms by simply swapping out a few words and phrases in the current law. The core involves replacing the idea of “sporting purposes” with the idea of “lawful purposes.” We’re thrilled to see it finally introduced. There is simply no room in the Second Amendment for the words “sporting purpose.” We’re also pleased with the timing, as it gives gunvoters a rallying point and presidential and congressional candidates something unambiguous to support or oppose leading into the 2016 elections.