Most gun owners already know that the Obama administration is looking to ban one of the most popular sporting rounds in the country by getting rid of an exemption that would reclassify it as “armor-piercing” ammunition.
As reported last week by the Washington Examiner:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this month revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track, immediately driving up the price of the bullets and prompting retailers, including the huge outdoors company Cabela’s, to urge sportsmen to urge Congress to stop the president.
At issue in particular is the 5.56x45mm M855/SS109 “green tip” projectile, which the ATF has exempted from classifying as armor-piercing under Title 18 U.S. Code,§ 921(a)(17). That section reads:
(A) The term ‘ammunition’ means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.
(B) The term ‘armor piercing ammunition’ means—
(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
(ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.
(C) The term ‘armor piercing ammunition’ does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.
Early reaction about removing the exemption from the gun community was quick and harsh.
“The Obama administration was unable to ban America's most popular sporting rifle through the legislative process, so now it's trying to ban commonly owned and used ammunition through regulation,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, organization’s policy and lobby shop. “The NRA and our tens of millions of supporters across the country will fight to stop President Obama's latest attack on our Second Amendment freedoms.”
Critics of the ban also note that other rifle calibers – especially the larger hunting calibers – can more easily pierce body armor used by police officers, but for some reason those rounds are not being targeted by ATF.
For its part, the agency says that a ban is now necessary because the 5.56mm/ M855/SS109 round can now be fired from AR-model pistols, like the Radical Firearms 7.5″ 1:9 Quad Rail M4 AR Pistol with Sig Brace 5.56 and the Extar EXP 5.56, or with conversion gear like the SigTac PSB-AR-BLK SB15 Pistol Stabilizing Brace.
ATF says that while sale of the green tips will be banned to the general public, law enforcement and government agencies will still be able to buy them.
Some lawmakers in Congress have begun an opposition campaign. Many have signed onto a letter from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to the ATF opposing the ban.
“This 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,” said Goodlatte’s letter.
Some police are also opposed to it.
“Criminals aren't going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” Brent Ball, owner of 417 Guns in Springfield, Mo., and a 17-year veteran police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “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.”
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.
At this point we, like everyone else, are awaiting clarification.
This far, at least 238 members of the House have written letters to the ATF opposing the ban. And the agency is still insisting it was all just a publishing error.
We wanted to keep you up to date.