Today, it’s legal. Tomorrow, it might not be.
By executive fiat, the Obama administration intends to eliminate one of the most common types of .223-caliber ammunition, used by the AR-15 and other general-purpose rifles.
Why? Ostensibly because a type of handgun developed in recent years is also capable of firing the so-called “armor-piercing” or “green-tipped” rounds traditionally fired only by rifles.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced on Feb. 14 a proposed ban on the manufacture, sale or importation of a popular form of ammunition used by thousands of law-abiding gun owners. Within hours of the announcement, the prices on the green-tipped .223-caliber rounds started skyrocketing.
The rule change affects the Gun Control Act of 1968 as amended by Congress in 1986. Under pressure from the law-enforcement lobby, Congress in 1986 inserted language into the law designed to prevent so-called “cop killer” bullets from being used by pistol-toting criminals.
The law was never intended in its original form to affect ammunition for rifles, as it was a given that rounds from any high-powered hunting rifle could penetrate the soft armor worn by officers.
“This is just another example of the Obama administration using executive authority to attack the rights of gun owners,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “Obama thinks he is ‘dictator in chief’ and can go around Congress to ban ammunition and punish legitimate gun owners. The Obama administration has doubled down on their war on gun owners.”
The Conservative Tribune said the move was an obvious political ploy.
“Obama is really stretching saying that M855 ammunition is an ‘armor piercing’ round being used in a handgun. The goal is obviously political… to ban common ammo to undermine the Second Amendment,” the Tribune said. “The White House knows that it can’t ban the firearms so going after the ammunition is the next best thing.”
Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, was equally outraged by the announcement.
“This move is nothing less than this administration taking the law into their own hands, bypassing Congress and their constitutional duties of writing and passing legislation,” Henry told WND.
As was the case with amnesty for illegal immigrants, Obama is using executive action to adopt a controversial agenda that lacks support in Congress or among the American people, Henry said.
“This administration has failed to pass gun-control legislation through the constitutional process. They have failed at the polls to pass meaningful gun control, and they have failed to win in the courts,” he said. “The only way left is through illegal processes and backdoor regulations. The American people have spoken to the gun-control antics of this administration, but this administration refuses to listen.”
Henry said the “master-servant” relationship between American citizens and those who hold the reins of government power is slowly being reversed. The people, who used to be the master, are now becoming the servants of those in government.
“If this is not stopped and stopped now, this administration will continue to push their agenda to disarm the American citizens with the goal of making them slaves to the U.S. government,” he said. “Citizens have the right to be armed. Slaves to the U.S. government will have no such right.”
The bullet in question is the ubiquitous M855 ball ammunition, which would be reclassified into the realm of “armor-piercing.” Currently, the M855 ball, .223-caliber round is under the exemption from the “armor piercing” category because it is “primarily intended for sporting purposes.”
The National Rifle Association said in a statement the M855 ball should have never been classified as “armor piercing” to begin with.
The original rule defined armor piercing as “a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely … from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium.” Because there are now handguns capable of firing M855, it “may be used in a handgun.” It does not, however, have a core made of the metals listed in the law; rather, it has a traditional lead core with a steel tip, and therefore should never have been considered “armor piercing,” the NRA said.
More executive actions coming?
The decision continues the Obama administration’s use of his executive authority to impose its agenda and bypass Congress.
It also illustrates the government’s expert use of incrementalism. First, the Congress and then-President Ronald Reagan banned “armor piercing” bullets in 1986, with certain exceptions. Then a later president comes back decades later and removes one of the most common exceptions.
“If he gets by with this, I believe he will not stop in his efforts to disarm us via regulations,” Henry, of GeorgiaCarry, told WND.
The NRA also noted the trend.
“It isn’t even the third week of February, and the BATFE has already taken three major executive actions on gun control,” according to the NRA statement. “First, it was a major change to what activities constitute regulated ‘manufacturing’ of firearms. Next, BATFE reversed a less-than-year-old position on firing a shouldered ‘pistol.’ Now, BATFE has released a ‘Framework for Determining Whether Certain Projectiles are ‘Primarily Intended for Sporting Purposes’ Within the Meaning of 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(c),’ which would eliminate M855’s exemption to the armor-piercing ammunition prohibition and make future exemptions nearly impossible.”
Dan Cannon of GunsSaveLives.net said online prices for affected .223-caliber ammo started soaring within 48 hours of when the government’s proposed rule change was announced. That’s if you could even find an online vendor that had the rounds in stock at the new “low” price of 50 cents per round.
“Online prices are up to around $0.50/round shipped, although very few vendors still have ammo in stock at that price. Other vendors are charging upward of $1.00/round shipped,” Cannon wrote in his blog Sunday. Before the rule was announced on Friday night, M855 could be found “fairly readily for about $0.34-38/round if you bought a full case,” Cannon said.
Gottlieb said his guess is as good as anyone’s as to where Obama will strike next in his war against gun ownership. But he has proven one thing: He doesn’t need Congress.
“Obama will use his executive powers to do as much damage as he can get away with,” he said. “This is not the end of his attack on Second Amendment rights.”
And ordinary American gun owners are beginning to take notice.
Paul Glosser, a captain at the Marion, Ohio, Fire Department, posted on the Facebook site of Guns Magazine, that concerned gun owners should contact their members of Congress and ask them to “defund” the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
“Get on the phone, write/email your senator(s)/rep, make sure your voice is heard,” Glosser posted. “Ask them to defund ATF and to passing legislation that either permanently exempts M855 or better yet clarifies the AP law as intended to include only rounds designed for use in handguns (per intent).”
Once the new rule goes into effect, the Bureau says it will grant the “sporting purposes” exception to only two categories of projectiles:
Category I: .22 Caliber Projectiles
A .22 caliber projectile that otherwise would be classified as armor piercing ammunition under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) will be considered to be “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” under section 921(a)(17)(C) if the projectile weighs 40 grains or less AND is loaded into a rimfire cartridge.
Category II: All Other Caliber Projectiles
Except as provided in Category I (.22 caliber rimfire), projectiles that otherwise would be classified as armor piercing ammunition will be presumed to be “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” under section 921(a)(17)(C) 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. ATF nevertheless retains the discretion to deny any application for a “sporting purposes” exemption if substantial evidence exists that the ammunition is not primarily intended for such purposes.
How to file public comment
ATF said in its announcement it “will carefully consider all comments, as appropriate, received on or before March 16, 2015, and will give comments received after that date the same consideration if it is practical to do so, but assurance of consideration cannot be given except as to comments received on or before March 16, 2015.”
Submit comments in any of three ways (but do not submit the same comments multiple times or by more than one method):
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.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Denise Brown, Enforcement Programs and Services, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226; telephone: (202) 648-7070.