Earlier this month the gun-rights blogosphere was ablaze with posts deriding what some media outlets said was a change in policy at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Specifically, reports said, the gun-regulation agency was rescinding a previous exemption for “green-tip” 5.56 ammunition – the caliber used in the popular AR-15 models – because ATF officials had changed their minds about its armor-piercing capabilities.
Fox News, among others, reported that the agency was rescinding its 1986 exemption “because handguns have now been designed that can also fire the bullets, police officers are now more likely to encounter them.”
“We are looking at additional ways to protect our brave men and women in law enforcement,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “This seems to be an area where everyone should agree that if there are armor-piercing bullets available that can fit into easily concealed weapons, that it puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk.”
Done deal then, right?
“No final determinations have been made and we won’t make any determinations until we’ve reviewed the comments submitted by industry, law enforcement and the public at large,” ATF spokesman Corey Ray told FoxNews.com.
At first blush, that might seem to be the case. At second blush, maybe not.
On March 6 Katie Pavlich, news editor for TownHall.com, published an exclusive story noting that the ATF “had already banned” the round – known as M855 – despite the agency announcing Feb. 13, late on a Friday afternoon, that it was opening a 30-day comment window to comment on what was supposed to be a proposed rule.
“But it turns out, ATF has been working on a ban of AR-15 ‘green-tip’ ammunition for quite some time and has already issued the ban in its new, 2014 Regulation Guide. For reference, ATF Regulation Guides come out approximately every ten years,” Pavlich wrote.
What gives? No one is quite sure just yet, because later Friday evening, the following notice was published on ATF’s Facebook page:
NOTICE OF PUBLISHING ERROR
On Feb. 13, 2015, ATF released for public comment a proposed framework to guide its determination on what ammunition is “primarily intended for sporting purposes” for purposes of granting exemptions to the Gun Control Act’s prohibition on armor piecing ammunition. The posted framework is only a proposal, posted for the purpose of receiving public comment, and no final determinations have been made.
Media reports have noted that the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide published online does not contain a listing of the exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, and conclude that the absence of this listing indicates these exemptions have been rescinded. This is not the case.
Please be advised that ATF has not rescinded any armor piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error which has no legal impact on the validity of the exemptions. The existing exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, which apply to 5.56 mm (.223) SS 109 and M855 projectiles (identified by a green coating on the projectile tip), and the U.S .30-06 M2AP projectile (identified by a black coating on the projectile tip), remain in effect.
The listing of Armor Piercing Ammunition exemptions can be found in the 2005 ATF Regulation Guide on page 166, which is posted here.
The 2014 Regulation Guide will be corrected in PDF format to include the listing of armor piercing ammunition exemptions and posted shortly. The e-book/iBook version of the Regulation Guide will be corrected in the near future. ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error.
In a follow-up to her exclusive, Pavlich noted:
Most importantly, if you're in possession of AR-15 “green tip” ammunition, legally you're good to go in most states and not in possession of “armor piercing” ammunition. Because of the “publishing error” in the 2014 Regulation Guide, ATF has advised FFL's and others to reference the 2005 Regulation Guidebook, where the ammunition is still exempted.
But does the ATF’s belated explanation wash? She’s not so sure, and neither are we.
For one, ATF clearly is looking at banning the round, as evidenced by the fact that the agency has opened a commentary period (which expires in a few days) for a proposed rule that would do just that.
For another, it would surprise no one that the Obama administration would resort to some sort of underhanded, out-of-the-limelight strategy to implement gun control in any manner possible.
“Considering the Office of Management and Budget must approve new Regulation Guides, which come out approximately every 10 years, are difficult to change and take months to review, that's quite the ‘publishing mistake,’” Pavlich wrote. “As ATF references, the exemption for AR-15 ‘green tip’ ammunition is in the 2005 ATF Regulation Guide. For this ‘publishing mistake’ to occur, someone would have had to delete an entire section from the guide, which just happens to be the section about ammunition the Obama administration is currently trying to ban.”
Like us, Pavlich believes this could just be a way to get rid of ammo the regime doesn’t much like, and do so without Congress’ input. That would certainly be par for the course for this White House.
A proposed rule to ban the very ammunition for which a previous exemption was “accidentally” deleted from a once-a-decade regulations manual last year is just too much of a coincidence. We’re not buying it.