The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has announced it is seeking to ban commonplace 5.56 M855 ball ammunition as "armor piercing ammunition." ATF is seeking public comment on the proposal, so all industry employees, target shooters and gun owners should contact ATF to oppose this unnecessary ban, which is truly a solution in search of a problem and that raises serious questions about executive agency attitude and overreach. Stopped cold on Capitol Hill, this action appears to be the Obama administration's attempt to pursue gun control by other means.
Commonly available steel-core, "green tip" M855 and SS109 rifle ammunition that is primarily intended and regularly used for "sporting purposes," like target shooting, has been exempt from federal law banning armor piercing ammunition for decades. There is no question that the 5.56 ball ammo has been in wide use by law abiding American citizens for sporting purposes.
It is with the increasing prevalence of handgun versions of rifle platforms, that ATF now apparently sees an opening to now ban the widely used M855 and SS109 ammunition.
It would be legally permissible to continue to possess and use so-defined "armor piercing" ammunition currently possessed. However, rescinding the decades-old exemption will have a major impact. It will become illegal to manufacture, import, distribute or sell at retail this very popular rifle target ammunition.
ATF's proposed "framework" for applying the "sporting purpose" exemption test rewrites the law passed by Congress to disregard the manufacturer's intention that a projectile or cartridge is "primarily intended for a supporting purpose." ATF inappropriately places the focus on how criminals might misuse sporting ammunition in a handgun.
Just as disturbing, language used by ATF in its long white paper refers to criminals as a "consumer group." The implication that the industry purposely sells firearms and ammunition to criminals is misleading and echoes the shopworn charges of the gun control lobby.
Manufacturers will face serious limitations in their ability to develop and market alternative ammunition in other popular hunting rounds, such as .308 rifle hunting ammunition, if ATF's so-called "framework" is adopted. This will have a detrimental effect on hunting nationwide, especially in California where a total ban on traditional ammunition for hunting is being phased in now.
ATF is soliciting comments on how it can best implement withdrawal of this exemption while "minimizing disruption to the ammunition and firearm industry and maximizing officer safety". Under the proposed framework, 30-06 M2AP cartridges would continue to be exempt because there are no multi-shot handguns generally available that accept such ammunition.
The proposal is useless since standard lead-only 5.56 ammunition is "armor piercing" simply due to the round's velocity. Rifles in this caliber, or any caliber for that matter, are rarely used in crimes.
ATF will accept comments on this proposal until March 16, 2015. Email or write ATF today and tell them you oppose this unnecessary, misguided and damaging ban on commonly used ammunition for America's most popular sporting rifles.
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.