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Watchdog Group Sues ATF to Find out why They attempted to Classify AR-15 Ammo as “Armor Piercing”

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Published on: April 12, 2017

In February 2015, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) attempted to ban a popular AR-15 ammunition, 5.56/.223 (SS109/M855) green tips.  Though they had no constitutional authority to ban any ammo, much less be an actual agency, they backed down due to the outrage of American patriots.  Now, government watchdog Judicial Watch is suing the ATF for records related to the bureau reportedly reconsidering reclassification of ammunition as “armor piercing.”

Judicial Watch announced on Monday that it had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the ATF in which it seeks “records of communications related to a proposed reclassification that would effectively ban certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing.”

The lawsuit was filed after the bureau failed to respond to the March 9, 2015 deadline on the ban effort.  The lawsuit seeks, “all records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., ‘green tip’ AR-15) ammunition from the definition of ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition.”

“In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director Todd Jones expressing their ‘serious concern’ that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for ‘sporting purposes,” reports Judicial Watch.  “The letter asserts the ATF’s move ‘does not comport with 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 statutory definition of “armor-piercing ammunition” is found at 18 U.S.C §921(a)(17).

(17)(A) The term “ammunition” means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.

(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.

(C) The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.

There are several things in the statute to consider.  First, this is with regards to bullets, not that cartridge.  Additionally, you will note that the specification would be that these rounds were made for “handguns.”

Second, the round must be made entirely of the metals mentioned in the list.  It also must be 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.” SS109/M855 do not fall into this category as the core of the round is partially lead and part steel.  Not that lead is not even included in the statute.

“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban.  Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

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