When you think of the Obama administration's stalled threat to ban popular rifle ammunition under the rubric of prohibited "armor-piercing" handgun ammunition, think of the movie "The Terminator," and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line—"I'll be baaaack."
Because they will be back.
After the massive February and early March outcry from gun owners, led by National Rifle Association members and bipartisan majority opposition in both houses of Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) delayed its ban on M855 5.56 mm ball rifle ammo.
News media headlines in coverage of the stand-down used words like “drops,” “scraps,” “abandons” and “pulls,” giving the impression that the ban is dead. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In suddenly halting this latest assault on gun owners, BATFE used an ominous phrase, “at this time.” Additionally, the agency said the action “deserves further study.”
Bank on this—“further study” will almost certainly result in even harsher action in the future.
In fact, a renewed attack on common AR-15 ammunition came just two days after the announced stand-down. On March 12, BATFE Director B. Todd Jones told a Senate Appropriations Committee that he considers all 5.56 ammo to be a threat to law enforcement officers. That same day, a draft of a letter to BATFE from a group of congressional Democrats was made public that called on BATFE to quickly revive plans to ban M855 ammo.In the upside-down world of the Obama administration, obsession with disarming peaceable citizens by any means apparently takes precedence over all other issues.
The fraudulent nature of BATFE’s outside-federal-law process, which ignored the Administrative Procedures Act—mandatory for such regulation changes—was proven in the March 10 stand-down announcement referring to the 80,000-plus letters and emails of opposition as “informal comments.” Yet there was nothing “informal” about the impending bullet ban.
And there is nothing uncertain about President Barack Obama’s hatred of Americans for owning and using guns. In the upside-down world of the Obama administration, obsession with disarming peaceable citizens by any means apparently takes precedence over all other issues.
As NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre succinctly put it, “The president gives more attention to banning peaceable Americans from access to bullets than he does keeping the insane mullahs in Iran from possessing the atomic bomb.”
Fact is, as long as Obama and his radical minions control the federal government, they will carry out a guerilla campaign to liquidate the Second Amendment by any stealth means within their power. The president’s petulant attempt to force “gun control” votes in the Congress did not succeed, so he now wields his royal scepter of stolen executive power.
There is no better example of the unlawful nature of Obama’s regime than the conduct of his BATFE, now legendary for the Fast and Furious debacle. For the most recent proof, look no further than the history of the now-stalled ammo ban.
BATFE’s February 2015 decree, proposing to ban one of the most popular rounds for America’s most popular rifle, the AR-15, came in the form of something the agency calls a “Framework.”
By applying the “sporting purposes” provisions in the onerous 1968 Gun Control Act, BATFE has reversed a 30-year exemption for importation and manufacture of M855, 5.56 mm “green-tip” ammunition. Those 62-grain rifle rounds, designed with a solid lead core tipped with a steel point (painted green), have been consumed by the tens of millions of rounds by civilians for whatever peaceable purpose individual Americans might choose.
Now, BATFE has simply declared M855 as “armor-piercing” so it would, therefore, be banned under a contorted application of a 1986 amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act. The key to this is that the 1986 “armor-piercing” handgun cartridge prohibition was never meant to apply to rifle ammunition.
The convoluted rationale for the Obama 5.56 rifle ammo ban goes like this: Since a factory-made version of the AR-15 minus a shoulder stock is legally designated as a pistol, rifle ammunition used in such a firearm—not designed to be fired from the shoulder—becomes ipso facto pistol ammunition. And pistol ammunition that has been declared by ATF to be “armor-piercing” is prohibited unless otherwise declared suitable for “sporting purposes.”So BATFE—after 30 years of green-tip M855 ball ammo use being considered perfectly “sporting”—now declares it unsuitable for that purpose...
So BATFE—after 30 years of green-tip M855 ball ammo use being considered perfectly “sporting”—now declares it unsuitable for that purpose, which would render import or manufacture illegal. Were this ban to ultimately have the effect of law, the current exponential run on that ammunition by consumers would, no doubt, mean the end of M855, period.
Headlines about the ban repeatedly referred to 5.56 and .223, but the BATFE’s power to ban ammo is significantly greater. Today, AR-15 pistols are barreled in a variety of military and proprietary cartridges from the 6.5 Grendel, to the 6.8 SPC, to the .50 Beowulf. And there will likely be many new cartridge additions in the future.
Consider that there is a now-legal factory version of the FN-FAL semi-auto in handgun configuration. And then there are factory AR-10 handguns (the AR-15’s steroidal big brother) that can be, and are, configured in virtually any mid-length caliber.
That could easily make all manner of cartridges—say, with solid brass or bronze composition, or even the nearly century-old Remington Bronze Points—into “armor-piercing handgun” rounds.
In fact, if a manufacturer were to design and sell a pistol version of a .50 BMG semi-auto—or a multi-shot, bolt-action rifle in that caliber—the mighty .50 BMG could even be reclassified as “handgun” ammo subject to the arbitrary scrutiny of militant BATFE bureaucrats.
This insanity, under BATFE’s “Framework,” doesn’t yet apply to single-shot pistols like the Thompson Contender, but that could change. And, under the multi-shot definition, it can be interpreted to apply to revolvers marketed in rifle calibers.
There is also another factor that makes the danger even greater in terms of access to all ammunition for American gun owners. This ban could become a “universal” bullet ban.
Environmentalists, both within and outside of government, want to ban lead projectiles—including all hunting bullets—as hazardous.
It started with the California ban on lead bullets used for hunting, which radical environmentalists claimed might be eaten by the endangered California condor. The notion is that a condor, while feasting on the carcass of a deer that had been shot but not recovered, might ingest a bullet and might die from lead poisoning. That has never happened, but the anti-lead crowd claims that it could, so all hunters should pay the price.
At the national level, environmental groups have filed petitions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—so far defeated in the federal courts—to ban lead ammunition as an environmental hazard.
So if lead ammo were banned, what would hunters and shooters use to replace it? The answer is non-lead “green ammo,” with a solid core of some other metal: brass, bronze, copper or combinations of the same.
Yet those projectiles, by the very definition the Obama administration BATFE bullet-banners are already using, gives them the power to ban all of those “environmentally safe” bullets under their combination “sporting purpose”/“armor-piercing” legalese. They can ban any projectile or bullet core constructed entirely from “tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium-copper or depleted uranium.”Many other common, “green-friendly” bullets that would meet the environmental standards would be illegal under the “sporting purpose” and “armor-piercing” standards.
Given that definition, many other common, “green-friendly” bullets that would meet the environmental standards would be illegal under the “sporting purpose” and “armor-piercing” standards. For Obama’s gun-banners, this amounts to, “Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.”
So when LaPierre tells the media that all ammunition is ultimately at stake, he is right on the money.
Despite the BATFE’s call for public comment on its now-stalled ban, there is ample evidence that the agency had considered this decision to be already in the bag. As the always-alert Katie Pavlich reported on Townhall.com, the September 2014 ATF publication of its compendium of laws and regulations did not include the 30-year-old exemption on M855. BATFE called that omission a “typo.”
Another indication that the call for public comments is fraudulent is a BATFE raid on a precision ammunition maker way back in July 2011, as reported by Robert Farago on the Web. During a swat-style lockdown of Elite Ammunition in Harvard, Ill., BATFE agents confiscated all of that federal licensee’s solid bullets—reshaped from ordinary Barnes solids.
The owner, Jay Wolf, told Farago:
“The agent in charge stated that .223, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC were now handgun cartridges. Since our bullets were made of brass they were AP [armor-piercing] and prohibited. The agent told me I could no longer sell or manufacture these bullets or loaded rounds. They produced an FTB [Firearms Technology Branch] order dated the day before [July 8] stating the above change in cartridge classification. They would not provide a copy or let me make a copy.”
Note that BATFE’s trickery involving factory pistols built on rifle designs isn’t just the alchemy of suddenly turning rifle ammo into banned pistol ammo. Another recent example of the agency suddenly flip-flopping on matters concerning legal rifles in pistol configuration is important to note.
This January, BATFE reversed—sort of—a 2014 letter on the subject of “stabilizing braces” mounted on legal AR factory pistols fired from the shoulder. Last March, the agency informed owners of such items that they could legally shoulder them in use. Adding a normal shoulder stock to an approved rifle-cum-pistol makes it a short-barreled rifle subject to a tax stamp and registration and approval under the National Firearms Act, which regulates such things as machine guns.
In the second advisory, in an “Open Letter on the Redesign of Stabilizing Braces” issued in January, BATFE again said the installation of a “stabilizing brace” on any such factory pistol was perfectly legal. However, the agency stated that the manner in which it is used by the shooter—even once—determined whether that handgun was transformed into a regulated short-barreled rifle.
Use the stabilizing brace on your wrist, you are legal. But put the brace to your shoulder, and you’ve committed a federal felony. In the collective wisdom of BATFE, shouldering the gun equals a “redesign.”
As for those individuals who wrote BATFE earlier and received permission to shoulder their firearms, they never received any follow-up correspondence on the reversal. The agency’s “open letter” to the world at large simply declared that, “Individual letters stating otherwise are … hereby revoked.”
What might come next? Perhaps hordes of federal agents spending their days combing through YouTube videos looking for stabilizer brace violators? In Obama’s “transformed” government, anything’s possible.
Throughout the proposed ammo ban controversy, the White House used false talking points designed to feed an increasingly gun-ignorant media, claiming that legal AR pistols are a danger to police because they are “easily concealable.”
In a late-February White House briefing, Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the bullet ban on M855 “seems to be an area where everyone can agree that if there are armor-piercing bullets available that can fit into easily concealable weapons, that puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk.”The White House used false talking points designed to feed an increasingly gun-ignorant media, claiming that legal AR pistols are a danger to police because they are “easily concealable.”
The “cheap” and “easily concealable” memes concerning legal pistol versions of the AR-15 have been repeated time and again. Mark Glaze, the former head of various gun-ban outfits funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, pontificated about the M855 ban when he appeared on Fox News.
“You know, you don’t worry so much if you are a police officer in the street about the rifle that has that ammunition in it because you know what people are doing with it,” Glaze said. “They are going out to shoot animals and they are going out to do target practice. In an urban environment, you don’t want small, compact cheap things that can carry that kind of power.”
A note to Earnest and Glaze: Try stuffing a $1,500 AR-15 pistol, sporting a standard buffer tube and a 12-inch barrel with a full 30-round mag, into your pants. “Easily concealable” likely won’t be the words you use to describe the results.
While Obama is just the latest—and currently most dangerous—politician dead set on destroying the Second Amendment by any means possible, there is something even bigger to consider.
Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute For Legislative Action (ILA), put it succinctly:
“Our fundamental constitutional freedoms are not secure as long as federal law gives government bureaucrats unlimited power to apply the subjective term ‘sporting purpose’ to ban the products law-abiding Americans use to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Cox is right.
For the last nearly 50 years, that phrase and its variations have empowered the federal government and anti-civil rights zealots in their step-at-a-time war to degrade and destroy the Second Amendment. The term is a sticky trap, meaning whatever the latest unelected bureaucrats or gun-banners say it means.
In 1968, it meant banning the importation of military surplus—ending a dream period for collectors. It was also the criteria for banning importation of many small pistols and revolvers.
It was used again during the 1970s and ’80s, under the guise of banning the domestic production, sale and possession of so-called “Saturday Night Specials.” An entire category of handguns, which Americans peacefully owned and used, were to be declared contraband as “non-sporting.”
Had it not been for NRA-ILA’s efforts, Congress might well have enacted a ban on possession of many handgun models.
Then there was the 1989 ban on imports of all manner of semi-autos, creating a truly absurd set of physical criteria that included characteristics like bayonet lugs. All of this was possible because the feds said those firearms had no “sporting purpose.”
That “sporting purposes” import ban was also the model for President Bill Clinton’s so-called “Assault Weapons” ban, enacted in 1994. Thanks to provisions insisted on by the NRA, that ban automatically sunsetted in 2004.
The phrase “sporting purposes” has become the favorite assault weapon of drive-by politicians bent on curtailing private firearm ownership. Unless those words are erased from law, such attacks will never end.
In the meantime, gun owners must deal a final blow to the back-door bullet ban. Obama’s now-stalled action has once again caused consumers to speak with their pocketbooks. For those lucky enough to find M855 ball—or for that matter, any .223 ammunition—on the shelves at their local gun shop, that ammo is far more expensive than before the ban proposal.
America’s 1st Freedom readers who hear friends and acquaintances complaining about the higher price of ammo should remind them that an annual NRA membership costs less than the price of 100 rounds of 5.56 ammo. Remind them that the only way such proposals will be defeated is through the good efforts of the NRA, which will grow even stronger with their membership.
All gun owners should agree that the amount they would pay for a few rounds of ammo is a small price to pay to help preserve American freedom.
Photo by Michael Ives