Why Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal?

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Sawed-off shotguns are deadly weapons. This is because the shot propels faster from the shorter barrel than it would from a complete one.

Another reason why sawed-off shotguns are illegal in most states is that they are concealable. This makes them dangerous, and there’s a law designed to protect the public and law enforcement personnel in extreme scenarios. 

It’s not that shotguns with short barrels as defined in the NFA Act of 1934 are in themselves illegal, no. it’s the process of obtaining a sawed-off shotgun, and being able to keep it that’s more highly regulated. 

What Does the Term ‘Sawn-Off Shotgun’ Represent?

According to the National Firearms Act Of 1936, a shotgun that has less than the least barrel length of 18 inches is a sawn-off or modified barrel shotgun. Being found in possession of one of these without the proper procedural paperwork is a federal felony. 

When found in the possession of a sawed-off shotgun attracts a penalty that includes 10 years’ incarceration plus a fine of 0,000.

A standard shotgun in comparison has a barrel anywhere from the minimum 18 inches to an overall length of 36 inches. 

Some sawn-off designs have been able to qualify inspection as AOWs or any other weapons instead of sawed-off shotguns. You can legally own these with a 5 dollar stamp tax through the ATF.

What follows next is waiting for what seems like forever for the processing of the paperwork and background check. 

You can also make your sawed-off shotgun, by sawing off a portion of a larger one’s barrel. Approval by the ATF is mandatory for any modifications you plan to do on the available standard shotgun.

To make a sawed-off shotgun, take a hacksaw, carbide chop saw, or Sawzall. Cut your shotgun’s barrel to the desired size, and also cut the buttstock to the desired size for conceal-ability, if that’s your goal.

Does Sawing off a Shotgun’s Barrel Increase Its Lethal Capacities?

Imagine a state trooper or county deputy pulling over a car in which a suspect has a concealed sawed-off shotgun. If the gun is a complete barreled shotgun, the officer might catch sight of it. It will also be more difficult for the shooter to maneuver a full-sized barrel shotgun in the confines of a vehicle.

With a sawn-off, a nefarious criminal has a lethal weapon due to the widespread use of pellets. A sawed-off shotgun shooter doesn’t even need to aim his weapon, especially for close range contact.

Sawed-off shotguns are the weapons of choice for drug dealers and armed robbers. Their restriction began in the 1930s, but they are also popular with police and military forces. 

It’s illegal to have a sawed-off shotgun in the US without a designated permit. This translates as a barrel length of fewer than 18 inches unless authorized and tax permitted by the ATF. 

The ATF or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is a federal agency. They perform background checks and charge excise tax for the shortened barrel shotguns. 

Different states have varying gun restrictions, and this is true for sawed-off shotguns. Some, like Indiana, have decided to legalize the lethal weapon, while others keep it illegal because it can be concealed easily.

Another danger that’s presented by sawed-off shotguns is how inaccurate they can be at a long-range.

Deadly Purposes for Sawing off a Shotgun’s Barrel

Compared to standard shotguns with normal-sized barrels, a sawed-off shotgun has a lower muzzle velocity. This makes for a short effective range but with a very wide shot spread.

It’s a powerful, compact, and deadly weapon; very much suited for use in restricted spaces. That’s why the sawed-off shotgun is a favorite for the military and other law enforcement entry crews. 

They use it as a breaching gun for making inceptions through doorways.

With an extremely short barrel, sometimes 14inches or less, these weapons undergo further modification. Either the buttstock is fully removed or a collapsing one added. 

Additional modifications include fitting the barrel with a muzzle brake. Not only is this useful in directing pellets at the target, but hot gasses that could interfere with a shooter’s recoils are also effectively reflected forward.

You’ve seen entry crews in movies and police documentaries using breach sawn-offs to shoot off door hinges. These fire special breaching shells,. 

The shells disengage door latches or deadbolts while limiting the over-penetration of pellets beyond the targeted entryway.

Only used by military and law enforcement personnel, these sawn-offs stay restricted under the National Firearms Act. 

In places like the UK where handguns are difficult to get, criminals convert legally obtained standard shotguns into sawn-offs. These mobsters have the advantage of available shotgun shells. 

Sawed-off shotguns also have street cred that comes with sporting one. This very sought after image by hoodlums is borne out of their portrayal in news crime reports and cinema.

What Endears Sawed-Off Shotguns to Criminals?

Characters of ill intention have a liking for sawn-off shotguns. This criminal underworld proliferation of this weapon has prompted many states to continue with strict gun control on the modified shotguns.

At close range, a sawed-off shotgun is a devastating splatter gun. You can fire any type of shot load with a sawn-off, from the target, small game, bird and buckshot.

The barrel of a sawed-off shotgun has a smooth bore, not a rifled one; so it doesn’t leave a forensic signature. Tool marks from projectiles fired from barrels act as forensic evidence when investigating a firearm crime.

When it’s a shot called No. 12 or ‘rat shot,’ human flesh can rip apart like canvas. This shot, with a sawed-off shotgun, blows off door hinges, and it will eradicate a victim’s features.

Many times shot up bodies are difficult to identify, and deceased loved ones are often buried close to the casket. 

Sawed-off shotguns are easy to make, conceal and cheap to dispose of, when necessary.

All that said, sawed offs are not great at range, even at distances across a room for instance. Recoil on say, a 12 gauge double-barreled sawn-off will be pretty serious.

Although it’s an old school gangster thing to take a sawn-off shotgun, it’s slower on follow up shots than a handgun for instance. 

Legal Implications of Possessing a Sawed-Off Shotgun

The minimum barrel-length for shotguns in many US states is 18 inches. Since the early years of the 1900s, most gun makers have not offered the public sawed-off shotguns.

Before that, sawed-off shotguns were common on the market. These came straight from the factory without any illegal modifications.

At the moment, you can only own a sawed-off shotgun through aftermarket enterprises. They convert most market brand shotguns into sawn-offs.

A special occupational tax arrangement converts ownership of these weapons to buyers. This is after the payment of taxes and federal ownership transfer fees

A sawn-off shotgun translates as any type of rifle-like weapon whose barrel has been shortened.

I have been asking the question ‘why are sawed-off shotguns illegal?’ for a while now. I once came across a post by a law enforcement officer and shooting instructor from 2008. 

I could make out that the individual was from Artesia New México, but with no name or designation. His story describes the legal systems mindset when confronted with what to them is a sawn-off shotgun.

While on patrol, the officer and part-time shooting instructor arrested a young man from what he termed ‘another country’. This gentleman had a vehicle within which they discovered a .22 rimfire rifle whose barrel and the stock had been sawed-off. 

This made it practically a pistol.

All went well until the officer received the charge report from the Assistant District Attorney, much to his surprise. To his amusement, the main charge wasn’t what he’d arrested the said foreigner for; ‘read Mexican drug courier’. 

Instead, the ADA was particularly interested in charging the guy with the possession of the sawed-off rifle. The unfortunate trespasser received more time that he would have if he hadn’t carried that weapon.

Debunking the Conundrum Surrounding Sawed-Off Shotgun Restrictions

Many people mistake the lethal qualities of sawed-off shotguns, mistaking the weapon for some kind of death ray. They do offer the ability to conceal and to fire from inside vehicles or within buildings. 

Their accuracy and effectiveness are less than their full-barreled counterparts.

Their affinity to scatter pellets is only effective at close ranges. The shot doesn’t have time to pick up velocity within the barrel, which makes pellets to expend muzzle energy quicker.

The buttstock-less variety of sawed-off shotguns that criminals prefer are also hard to sight and control recoil.

Should the Ability to Conceal Be Sufficient to Make Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal?

Conceal-ability alone shouldn’t make sawed-off shotguns illegal, right? After all, handguns are very concealable. 

And yet aside from a concealed carry permit, and your gun license, you’ll have no problem with authorities for handgun concealment.

This is because sawed-off shotguns are an item for the NFA or National Firearms Act, under the NFA Act of 1936. When this law was being passed, handguns included weapons banned alongside short-barreled shotguns.

At the last minute of the bills passing, pistols and handguns were taken off from the concealment restriction. Sawed-off shotguns remained in the NFA Act as an oversight, due to the arbitrary system of gun regulation. 

My instructor at training school, an avid pro-gun agitator once told me the reason why firearm laws don’t make sense sometimes. He said they purposefully make obtaining a weapon so mired with bureaucracy such that a class system naturally exists. 

People with wealth can afford to navigate this red tape, owning weapons that would be inaccessible to the poor. The common American, particularly minorities, is left to fend for themselves with sticks and stones. 

How to Go About Legally Acquiring a Sawed-Off Shotgun 

Can you buy a sawed-off shotgun and own it legally? Yes, but first your state must allow it, and then there’ll be triplicate forms to fill.

Your fingerprints will be procedurally taken, and then your mug-shot will go on file. Some of these records will go to the ATF while others dropped off for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s scrutiny. 

After this, you will give the FBI approximately 90 days to conduct a conclusive background check. Any speck of misdeed from your past that mars this investigation will see your application tossed into the denial bin. 

Locational Jurisdiction That Menace Sawed-Off Shotgun Ownership

Another factor that can contribute to your application being turned down is where you live. Sawed-off shotguns may be less frowned upon by authorities in the countryside than in an urban setting.

Once again, bureaucracy rules the day with jurisdictional gun restrictions. City dwellers in most jurisdictions, middle-income earners, have difficulties owning sawed-off shotguns for self-defense.

Rich landowners with grounds to hunt, and the closest neighbor a mile off, get easier access. 

To underscore this disparity is another NFA item, muzzle suppressors. Gunshot sounds aren’t completely reduced to silence. 

However, equal restrictions exist for silencers as those facing sawn-off ownership. 

In the late 1920s depression, private landowners weren’t going hungry and lining up for bread like most city folk. They had acres of forestland full of wildlife, aside from the large herds of cattle and sheep.

Suppressor restrictions started after hungry town and village people hunted or shot landowner’s animals for food. Using a suppressor reduced a gun’s report, making it difficult for the ‘poacher’ to be tracked.

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