LEGISLATIVE ALERT: BATFE Pushes to Ban Common Rifle Ammunition

In an action that can only be viewed as an attempt for further gun control in the United States, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) recently released their “Framework for Determining Whether Certain Projectiles are ‘Primarily Intended for Sporting Purposes’ Within the Meaning of 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(c)”. This proposed rule would eliminate the previous exemption that common M855 ball (5.56mm) ammunition received from the BATFE’s “armor piercing ammunition prohibition” and would therefore make it illegal to manufacture, import, and sell this ammunition that is used in some of the most common modern sporting rifles and other rifle platforms currently owned and used by sportsmen and women throughout the nation.

As noted in the BATFE’s Framework document, “Some ammunition that was previously exempted as ‘primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes,’ specifically 5.56mm constituent projectiles of SS109 and M855 cartridges, will again be regulated as ‘armor piercing ammunition.’ Except as provided by law, no person may manufacture or import such ammunition, and manufacturers or importers may not sell or deliver such ammunition.”

Previously, this common ammunition was granted an exemption to the BATFE’s “armor piercing rule” as it was recognized that the rounds are most commonly used for sporting purposes. Further, M855 ammunition does not meet either of the two criteria set forth in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) for being designated “armor piercing” in the first place:

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.

M855 ammunition is not constructed entirely of any of the aforementioned substances listed in (B)(i), as a significant portion of the core is made of lead. M855 also fails the criteria set forth in (B)(ii), as the round was not designed or intended for use in a handgun, though handguns have since been chambered to accept this round.

Should these new rules go into effect, there could be far-reaching consequences, not only for recreational shooters and hunters, but for state fish and wildlife agencies as well, as they rely heavily on excise taxes collected from the sales of firearms and ammunition through the American System of Conservation Funding to carry out their critical conservation work that benefits all Americans.

With the support of Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) House leadership, a letter opposing BATFE's proposed "armor piercing" ammunition Framework is being circulated to the House by CSC Member and Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA). Please contact your U.S. Representative and urge him or her to sign the letter by March 2.

Additionally, the BATFE is currently accepting comments on this proposed rule through March 16, 2015. All sportsmen and women are urged to submit comments in opposition to this proposal. Comments may be submitted to:

• Email:    APAComments@atf.gov
• 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

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