Emboldened by the lack of blowback to their April 2014 ban on the importation of 7N6 5.45×39 rifle ammunition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has taken aim at a much larger target, the much larger market of American shooters who use M855 “green tip” ammunition as a practice and hunting round.

The ATF is attempting to claim (PDF) that M855 (also known as SS109) ammuntion is “armor piercing” because of the mild steel core of the bullet. They are further attempting to claim that because pistol variants of the AR-15 have been developed, that the 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington cartridge has suddenly and miraculously been transformed into a pistol cartridge.

The ATF even admits that they are perverting the intent of the law, citing one of its champions:

The early bills on the issue included a performance standard – i.e., the ammunition at issue must be capable of penetrating body armor – and applied only to handgun ammunition. In a hearing on one of these early bills, Senator Moynihan made clear that the intent of the bill was to ban only ammunition that both met the performance standard and was designed to be used in a handgun: Framework for Deciding Sporting Purpose Ammunition pursuant to 18 USC 921(a)(17) – 3 –

[L]et me make clear what this bill does not do. Our legislation would not limit the availability of standard rifle ammunition with armor-piercing capability. We recognize that soft body armor is not intended to stop high powered rifle cartridges. Time and again Congressman Biaggi and I have stressed that only bullets capable of penetrating body armor and designed to be fired from a handgun would be banned; rifle ammunition would not be covered.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, was very specific and clear that the intent of the law was never to ban rifle ammunition.

The ATF is attempting to stretch and pervert the language of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) of 1986 to ban rifle ammunition using the argument that:

When LEOPA was finally passed by Congress in 1986, however, the final bill did not include a performance-based standard, or limit the definition of armor piercing ammunition to ammunition “designed” for use in a handgun. Instead, the definition has two alternatives: the first focuses on the composition of the ammunition, and whether it “may be used” in a handgun; the second focuses on size, jacket weight, and the design and intention for the ammunition. Specifically, the definition of “armor piercing ammunition” in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) provides:

(B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—

(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium; or

(ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

Yes, the ATF seemed quite pleased with itself that it’s anti-gun lawyers found a loophole in the language of a 29-year old law in order to undermine the intent of the men who wrote it.

Fortunately, it is very easy for the current Congress to remedy this corrupt ATF attempt to cut off common rifle ammunition with a simple amendment to any bill, changing the existing definition of “armor piercing ammunition” cited above as follows:

(B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—

(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used designed for use in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium; or

Sometimes striking down tyranny is as simple as the stroke of a pen.

We expect the Republican-controlled Congress to make this correction (or a very similar one) almost immediately.

Such bureaucratic tyranny must not be allowed to stand.

 

[M855 cutaway image via MDShooters]