The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has retracted a published ban on M855 5.56 NATO and other ammunition that had appeared in electronic versions of the agency’s 2014 ATF Regulation Guide earlier this year.
According to reporting by Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com, BATFE’s recent proposal to ban commonly used M855 “green tip” AR-15 ammunition under the guise of law-enforcement safety has apparently been in the works far longer, since the sporting-use exemption for the ammo was already removed in electronic copies of the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide, which was available in January 2015.
Pavlich reported on Friday, March 6 that the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide clearly showed where “the exemption for the ammunition in question has already been stripped out of the 2005 regulation handbook moving forward and ‘green-tip’ has been reclassified as ‘armor piercing.’” She produced copies of the affected areas showing how M855 and SS 109, along with U.S. .30-06 M2AP black tips, were no longer given a sporting exemption.
Further, she wrote, “ATF is going to have to explain why the change was made under the radar and will also have to explain what this means for people in possession of ‘green-tip’ ammunition after January 2015 when the new ATF Regulation Guide was published with the exemption [for M855] missing.” Obviously, this regulatory language was in place well before March 16, 2015, the date for which the comment period about the proposed ban on AR-15 “green-tip” ammunition closes. Meaning, ATF had already decided to ignore what were likely to be tens-of-thousands of comments because the agency was never going to consider them in the first place, Pavlich wrote.
Responding to the Pavlich story only a few hours later, ATF Tweeted at 6:12 p.m. on March 6: “Nothing to analyze here folks, just a publishing mistake. No AP ammo exemptions revoked….” Included in the Tweet was a link to a longer statement, reproduced in its entirety below: NOTICE OF PUBLISHING ERROR On Feb. 13, 2015, ATF released for public comment a proposed framework to guide its determination on what ammunition is “primarily intended for sporting purposes” for purposes of granting exemptions to the Gun Control Act’s prohibition on armor piecing ammunition. The posted framework is only a proposal, posted for the purpose of receiving public comment, and no final determinations have been made. Media reports have noted that the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide published online does not contain a listing of the exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, and conclude that the absence of this listing indicates these exemptions have been rescinded. This is not the case. Please be advised that ATF has not rescinded any armor piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error which has no legal impact on the validity of the exemptions. The existing exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, which apply to 5.56 mm (.223) SS 109 and M855 projectiles (identified by a green coating on the projectile tip), and the U.S .30-06 M2AP projectile (identified by a black coating on the projectile tip), remain in effect. The listing of Armor Piercing Ammunition exemptions can be found in the 2005 ATF Regulation Guide on page 166, which is posted here. The 2014 Regulation Guide will be corrected in PDF format to include the listing of armor piercing ammunition exemptions and posted shortly. The e-book/iBook version of the Regulation Guide will be corrected in the near future. ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error. The regulations come out about every 10 years and must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Tweets in response to the ATF HQ Tweet were overwhelmingly skeptical: “Sure it isn’t,” “The ATF obviously thinks gun owners are gullible and stupid,” and “Yeah, we super believe you,” were some of the sentiments.
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