A government watchdog agency has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives seeking records related to a proposed rule change that would ban certain types of AR-15 ammunition.
The ATF backed off its February 2015 proposal to revise regulatory rules by reclassifying the so-called “green tip” ammunition for the AR-15, which is manufactured as both a rifle and a handgun. These rules of enforcement fall under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
If reclassified as proposed in February 2015, the green-tip rounds would be considered “armor piercing” and, therefore, illegal.
In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director Todd Jones expressing “serious concern” that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for target shooting, hunting and other “sporting purposes.”
President Trump campaigned on a strong platform of gun rights. To date, the ATF has shown no interest in renewing the push to ban the .223 “green-tip” ammo.
But the watchdog agency Judicial Watch is taking no prisoners, filing a lawsuit against the ATF and claiming that it can’t be trusted to not renew its crusade against the AR-15 weapon so popular among Americans.
“It doesn’t seem to be as front burner as it has been during the previous administration, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away,” said Jill Farrell, public affairs director for Judicial Watch. “There is a big anti-gun movement that is still afoot, and they would like to see this ammo, and frankly more, banned. So the AR-15 has been the lightning rod between the left and the right for some time. It’s very popular, which makes it a good boogie man.”
But Cherie Duvall-Jones, social media program manager for the ATF, told WND in an email Thursday that the ATF decided not to proceed with finalizing the proposed framework in 2015 and at this time has no plans to resurrect it.
“In 2015, ATF proposed a framework for the evaluation of requests to exempt certain ammunition defined to be armor piercing under the provisions of the Gun Control Act, and posted the proposal for public comment,” she said. “After receiving extensive public comment, ATF decided not to proceed with finalizing the proposed framework, including a provision in the framework that would have revoked an existing exemption for .223 ‘green-tip’ ammunition.”
The 2015 congressional letter asserts the ATF’s move “does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law-abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes.”
Judicial Watch told WND that it wants clarity on how the proposed ammo ban ever saw the light of day, as this is the only way to assure it never finds new life.
That’s why JW filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit April 4 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice).
“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban. Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”
JW first requested the documents relating to the ammo ban on March 9, 2015, but the ATF never responded. JW’s FOIA request sought the following information on the ammo-ban effort:
All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., “green tip” AR-15) ammunition from the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition.
“We want communications on how that whole discussion came to be. But here you have this proposed reclassification that’s not going through normal channels,” Farrell said. “There are certain guidelines proposed for changing regulations, and those are being bypassed. It’s black-letter law: There is a clear statutory definition of ‘armor piercing ammunition’ in existence.”
The statutory definition of “armor-piercing ammunition” can be found in the federal code, 18 U.S.C §921(a)(17).
Thomas Brandon has been acting director of the ATF since April 1, 2015, when he replaced Todd Jones following the last push to ban the controversial bullet.
“There is talk of them reconsidering the ban, but they have not taken it off the table as far as we have heard,” Farrell said.
Like Judicial Watch, Gun Owners of America is also distrustful of the ATF.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said if ATF should renew its crusade against the Second Amendment by going after AR-15 ammo, “we may be seeing a terminal case of inability to realize that elections have consequences.”
In an email to WND, Pratt added:
“The ATF can make no convincing case that AR-15 ammo is more dangerous then many other rifle rounds. Constitutionally, the ATF should not even exist. It is amazing that they might be considering restricting AR-15 ammo after the last election. We already knew the ATF does not respect the Constitution. An ATF assault against AR-15 ammo would be a signal to voters in the last election that ‘we don’t care about your stinking elections.'”
The ATF is a unit of the U.S. Department of Justice under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Pratt said Congress should defund the ATF.
“If the ATF moves against constitutionally protected ammo, perhaps that would be the last straw and Congress could be persuaded to cut all funding for the ATF,” he told WND.
“If the ATF were to succeed in this assault on the Constitution, the U.S. should send an apology to England for our having been so rude to George III,” he added. “After all, we started shooting when British troops tried to steal our ammunition stored at Lexington Green in Massachusetts.”
Pratt’s organization, Gun Owners of America, is a national grassroots organization representing more than 1.5 million Americans dedicated to promoting their Second Amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.