It was under the Barack Obama administration that bureaucrats in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to ban ammunition for AR-15 rifles, which are among the most commonly used in America.
The move failed when intense resistance developed from majorities in the House and the Senate.
But the details of that campaign have remained hidden over the intervening years, and Washington watchdog Judicial Watch says the secrecy needs to end.
The organization filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the BATF over about 1,900 pages of records regarding the proposed reclassification that would have banned certain types of AR-15 ammunition.
The proposed change in the technical definition would have moved AR-15 into a category of ammunition reserved for “armor-piercing,” which is much more restricted that ordinary ammunition.
“Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a May 14, 2018, FOIA request for the 1,900 documents about the Obama administration’s AR-15 ammo ban efforts. The documents include ATF talking points about the ‘Armor Piercing Ammunition Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’ and other records discussing ammunition classification,” Judicial Watch said.
It’s the latest in a three-year effort to get documents from the ATF. The cache of documents was uncovered during separate litigation over the ammunition ban.
It was in March 2015 that more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF Director B. Todd Jones to express their “serious concern” that the proposal to reclassify the ammunition types as armor-piercing may violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.”
The move would not have met “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,” the letter said.
“Simply put, the ATF refuses to comply with federal open records law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The ATF has withheld records for over three years concerning the Obama administration’s shady attempt to institute gun control by restricting ammunition instead of guns.”
WND reported Judicial Watch also sued the BATF in 2017 over related issues.
At that time, Jill Farrell, public affairs director for Judicial Watch, noted: “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. 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.”
SAF general counsel Miko Tempski informed ATF Director B. Todd Jones at the time, “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.”