Government & Politics

ATF Aims to Ban Popular AR-15 Ammo

No decision yet, but military surplus ammo is under fire.

Feb. 16, 2015

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a white paper to determine whether certain ammunition is “primarily intended for sporting purposes.” At issue is 5.56mm M855 ammo, which is considered “armor piercing,” and therefore the ATF says it’s of questionable merit for the average citizen. The ATF will accept comments until March 16, but, if the bureau carries through as it intends, the net effect would be a ban on one of the most common and affordable types of military surplus AR-15 ammo.

It’s no surprise that the ATF is way off target – down and to the Left.

The white paper begins: “To protect the lives and safety of law enforcement officers from the threat posed by ammunition capable of penetrating a protective vest when fired from a handgun, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as amended, prohibits the import, manufacture, and distribution of ‘armor piercing ammunition’ as defined by the statute. The GCA, however, allows for the exemption of ammunition that would otherwise be considered armor piercing if the Attorney General determines that the specific ammunition at issue is ‘primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.’”

Because of the growing popularity of AR-style handguns capable of firing 5.56mm projectiles from M855 casings, the ATF says, “To ensure consistency, upon final implementation of the sporting purpose framework outlined above, ATF must withdraw the exemptions for 5.56 mm ‘green tip’ ammunition, including both the SS109 and M855 cartridges.”

SBR = short-barrel rifle

Of course, if you’ve ever seen an AR “pistol,” you’d know that calling it a pistol is a joke. Besides, the first AR pistol was manufactured in 1993. Are we supposed to believe it took the ATF 22 years to catch on?

Going forward, the ATF is considering granting a “sporting purposes” exemption in only two categories: one for .22 caliber ammo, and another for all other calibers only “if the projectile is loaded into a cartridge for which the only handgun that is readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade is a single shot handgun.”

First, and most important, the Founders did not craft the Second Amendment to protect “sporting purposes.” It reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The purpose was to codify our God-given right (yes, rights do come from God) of self-defense, not just against crime but against a tyrannical government. It is and will always be an inalienable right.

In more recent history, after the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling, how does “sporting purposes” pass constitutional muster at all?

Second, the ATF’s move is a cynical one. M855 was developed for a Cold War scenario in which Soviet troops in hard body armor would pour through the Fulda Gap in once-divided Germany. American troops were supplied with it to defend the West. (All full metal jacket 5.56mm rounds can penetrate soft armor. In fact, most rifle rounds can.)

But M855 has well-documented shortcomings against soft targets (see Somalia, Iraq, etc.) The other common loading, M193, is more effective against soft targets. So the side effect of this ruling would be that more AR-15 owners would buy rounds that are more effective in the typical domestic shooting. The only people this rule change protects is the government, whose varmints wear Kevlar.

Not that this should undermine Second Amendment restraints on the government, but how many deaths in the U.S. occurred last year because these rounds were used to “pierce armor”? How many deaths occurred due to AR-15s, period? Not many.

The ATF’s move is yet another straw man diversion from Barack Obama’s failed policies. It could also be a consolation feather in the cap for outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently lamented that his only failure was the inability to pass major gun control.

But it’s more than a diversion or a feather. It’s an incremental “boiled frog” move to limit the Second Amendment. This is backdoor gun control via ammunition control. When states like California have gone after lead ammunition as environmentally “unsafe,” and the ATF considers rounds made of anything else to be “armor piercing,” there isn’t much left.

So what can you do? Contact the ATF. The bureau will not acknowledge receipt of comments, but you can submit them in the following ways:

ATF email: [email protected]

Fax: (202) 648-9741

Mail: Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments.

On a final note, good luck finding any M855 on the shelves. It took only a couple of days after the ATF floated the proposed ban for the ammo to sell out. Evidently, Obama hopes to maintain his string of six years as “Gun Salesman of the Year.”

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