In its never ending goal to ban modern sporting rifles, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has proposed new regulations banning common AR-15 ammunition, arguing it's necessary to protect the safety of law enforcement officers. The NRA sounded the alarm late last week:
In a move clearly intended by the Obama Administration to suppress the acquisition, ownership and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifles, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unexpectedly announced today that it intends to ban commonplace M855 ball ammunition as “armor piercing ammunition.” The decision continues Obama’s use of his executive authority to impose gun control restrictions and bypass Congress.
It isn’t even the third week of February, and the BATFE has already taken three major executive actions on gun control. 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.
By way of background, federal law imposed in 1986 prohibits the manufacture, importation, and sale by licensed manufacturers or importers, but not possession, of “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 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.” Nonetheless, BATFE previously declared M855 to be “armor piercing ammunition,” but granted it an exemption as a projectile “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.”
And analysis from Bob Owens at BearingArms:
The “logic” behind the ATF reclassification attempt it is that recent prevalence of AR-15 pistols means that the SS109/M855 cartridge is now an armor-piercing pistol bullet according to the absurd definitions crafted by politicians and bureaucrats who can’t tell a bolt-face from a “shoulder thing that goes up.”
The bizarre reality of the ATF letter is, that if it goes into effect, the ruling would have the opposite effect of its stated purpose.
The ban on “armor-piercing pistol ammunition” is a great idea in theory, but is utterly absurd as a practical matter. Rifle caliber bullets are much more powerful than true pistol calibers, and all will easily penetrate Level IIa, Level II, and Level IIIa “soft” body armor worn by police, even fired from rifle-class “pistols.” The key difference is velocity, not the metals used in bullet construction.
You can read the bureaucratic language justifying the proposal here.
The new proposal will allow Attorney General Eric Holder to determine if the ammunition in question qualifies under the broad definition of "sporting purposes." Current law gives ATF unfettered justification or power to decide what is and what is not “sporting” and therefore regulated or banned.
A few questions come to mind as this new proposal gets more attention. 1) Why now? 2) Is "armor piercing" .223 ammunition really being used at epidemic rates against our law enforcement officers? The answer is no.
Over the years, pro-gun control, big city police chiefs have argued that "assault weapons" are the main firearm being faced by law enforcement officers everyday. That just isn't true. In fact, when Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2013, he grossly misled the country when he said his officers were regularly facing this type of firepower in the streets. As I reported at the time:
After the hearing Johnson told reporters, "Police officers face these weapons either in seizure cases or crimes of violence everyday. Dozens of police officers have lost their lives due to an assault weapon and a criminal adversary."
According to a Baltimore County Police Department report obtained and requested by Townhall, Johnson misled the public with his statement about assault weapons seizures. Townhall requested detailed documentation of weapons retrieved by Baltimore County Police Officers between October 1, 2012 and January 30, 2013, the day of Johnson's testimony. The department provided data from September 28, 2012 through February 5, 2013. The report not only shows that firearms aren't being seized on the streets "everyday" in Baltimore County, but that assault weapons in particular are hardly ever found in criminal seizures.
Out of approximately 600 guns seized only 26 of them were assault weapons under the Clinton era definition, of which included AR-15s, a few AKs/SKSs and a TEC-22. Less than 5 percent of guns seized in Baltimore County are assault weapons, despite Chief Johnson's statement to the press and implied statements before Congress.
ATF is accepting comments about this proposal through March 16, 2015.