Firing back: Shootout over ammo ban gets serious

By Leo Hohmann


The AR-15 rifle is one of the most popular firearms in the U.S. for target shooting and hunting.
The AR-15 rifle is one of the most popular firearms in the U.S. for target shooting and hunting.

President Obama’s drive to ban a popular form of ammunition used in the AR-15 and other rifles is drawing new fire from conservative groups representing gun owners as well as members of Congress.

A lawsuit has been threatened by the Second Amendment Foundation, which says the ploy is a backdoor attempt to do what the administration has failed to do through legislation — ban the AR-15.

But the battle is heating up on both sides of the issue in Congress.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has sent a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, demanding an explanation for the proposed ban. Goodlatte’s letter opposing the ban has the support of 238 House members. He called the ban “preposterous.”

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., a proponent of efforts to curb “gun violence,” is circulating a letter to members in support of the bureau’s bid to classify the 5.56mm M855 round as “armor piercing” and take it off the market, the Washington Examiner reported.

“It is prudent to consider the likely use of ammunition in these non-sporting handguns, and the danger they present to law enforcement officers and our communities,” Maloney said in the letter.

Maloney fought to ban the AR-15 rifle and similar weapons in a failed attempt back in 2013. Conservatives see the latest move by the Obama administration as a sneaky attempt to do the same thing, rendering the weapons effectively useless by removing ammunition from the market.

The Second Amendment Foundations’ general counsel sent a letter to the ATF Director B. Todd Jones Wednesday warning that legal action will be taken to bar any change in the law regarding the ammunition used in America’s most popular sporting rifle.

Writing for SAF, general counsel Miko Tempski informed Jones:

“This proposal is just an attempt to limit firearms rights because the president’s other such attempts have been blocked through constitutional checks and balances on his power.

“Should the BATFE lawlessly proceed on this path,” Tempski warns, “SAF intends to call on those checks and balances to stop the administration’s executive overreach again.”

Tempski’s three-page letter dissects the BATFE proposal, noting repeatedly that the .223-caliber, M855 ball ammunition at the center of this controversy “is not armor piercing pursuant to the definition in the statute.”

The technical definition of “armor piercing” is a bullet with a steel core. The M855 ball round has a steel tip, but the core is made of lead.

The federal provisions requires that a cartridge fire a “full jacketed projectile large than .22-caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun,” or to otherwise be fit for use in a handgun and have a core “entirely constructed” from a specific list of prohibited metals, including steel, bronze, brass, iron, copper or depleted uranium.

Tempski explained in his letter that the M855 round does not meet either of these criteria. He said the first definition, “fails immediately as the 5.56 x 45 mm round is not designed and intended for use in a handgun,” and he questioned the ATF’s honesty with regard to the second definition, noting that a “small tip of steel making up less than one-sixth of the projectile cannot be used to claim the bullet or its core are ‘entirely’ steel.”

The intention of Congress in writing the legislation in 1986 was to prevent so-called “cop-killer” bullets from being used in easily obtained handguns. Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the sponsors, said it was never intended to affect sporting rifles.

The semi-auto AR-15 handgun is larger than a typical street gun and difficult to conceal.
The semi-auto AR-15 handgun is larger than a typical street gun and difficult to conceal.

While there is a handgun version of the AR-15 rifle, it is very expensive and not easily concealed. It weighs about six pounds and is two feet long.

The White House, joined by Maloney and other Democrats in Congress, have said the .223-caliber or 5.56mm ammo should be banned because it can be fired from a handgun platform and is a danger to police officers.

WND reported previously that no police officer has ever had his soft-body armor penetrated by a criminal using an AR-15 handgun in the United States. In fact, police themselves are not in favor of the ban.

The executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, James Pasco, said police aren’t threatened by the ammo or pistol because none have been used against police.

“Any ammunition is of concern to police in the wrong hands, but this specific round has historically not posed a law enforcement problem,” said Pasco, whose organization represents 325,000 law officers.

“The proposed framework,” Tempski writes to the ATF, “intends to define the intended purpose of ammunition based on the availability of certain types of handguns made for it. Such a circular definition is highly illogical in any context.”

WND also reported Gun Owners of America Chief Counsel Michael Hammond says the citizen revolt is already underway.

“The Second Amendment community is really all fired up on this,” he told WND.

A description of the proposed rule change can be found on the ATF’s website.

The public comment period remains open through March 16. Comments may be submitted comments in several ways:

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.

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