American 2nd Amendment supporters are doubling down on criticism of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to reclassify certain types of 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition as armor-piercing. If the plan moves forward, critics say it could amount to the de facto completion of the Obama administration’s plan to enact an extrajudicial ban on AR style rifles.
The ATF has released its proposal (available here) and opened a public comment period on the matter lasting until March 16.
The agency’s ban would affect specifically SS109/M855 ammunition — one of the most common ammo options for 5.56 NATO chambered AR-15 rifles.
For years, the ammo has been exempt from ATF ammo bans because of its popularity among target shooters and outdoorsmen. But the agency is now claiming that the “green-tipped” ammo poses a threat to law enforcement officers because it can be used in certain types of semi-automatic handguns.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation last week urged “all industry employees, target shooters and gun owners” to contact lawmakers and ATF officials to express opposition to the plan.
“ATF’s proposed ‘framework’ for applying the ‘sporting purpose’ exemption test rewrites the law passed by Congress to disregard the manufacturer’s intention that a projectile or cartridge is ‘primarily intended for a supporting purpose,'” the group said. “ATF inappropriately places the focus on how criminals might misuse sporting ammunition in a handgun.”
In other words, ATF officials are ignoring the fact that the ammunition has a widely used and perfectly legal purpose and effectively suggesting that ammo manufacturers produce the round solely for sale to criminals.
Other critics of the ATF plan note that the agency has failed to provide any evidence to back its claim that the “green-tipped” rounds are sought out by criminals.
That’s the gist of a recent Guns.com column penned by Jeffery Denning, a shooting expert and law enforcement officer.
“Viewing the ATF proposal through cop glasses, I understand law enforcement’s need and desire to keep armored-piercing ammo out of the hands of dangerous people,” he wrote. “I don’t want to get shot with armor-piercing rounds. I don’t want my buddies to get shot either.
“But the truth of the matter is that all my friends in law enforcement that have been shot were NOT shot by armor-piercing rounds,” Denning continued. “They were shot — and unfortunately one of them was killed — by everyday ammo, so singling out green-tip ammo simply makes no sense to me.”
Other 2nd Amendment supporters with law enforcement backgrounds have expressed similar sentiments.
“Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” a Missouri gun store owner and former police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “And as a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”
That the ATF wants to ban a class of ammo based on conjecture has many critics worried about a slippery slope to bans on other ammo.
“Manufacturers will face serious limitations in their ability to develop and market alternative ammunition in other popular hunting rounds, such as .308 rifle hunting ammunition, if ATF’s so-called ‘framework’ is adopted,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation predicts.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, meanwhile, is telling supporters that the ATF effort is clearly the result of the Obama administration’s desire to “suppress the acquisition, ownership and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifle.”
The NRA is working with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to produce a congressional plan to halt the proposed ammo ban.
In a letter to ATF officials, Goodlatte is asking for clarification on what authority the agency believes it has to usurp federal law and the 2nd Amendment by reclassifying the popular ammunition option.
“[T]his round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” the lawmaker wrote. “The idea that Congress intended [the ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition law] to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.”
Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has also weighed in on the proposed ammo ban, saying supporters should call it what it is rather than pushing it as an officer safety issue.
“Banning ammo is the same as banning guns,” Jindal said via Twitter, adding, “Except it’s less honest.”