ATF holsters plan to ban popular rifle ammunition

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has backed down from a proposal to ban specific ammunition used in AR-15 hunting rifles.

The ATF released a notice Tuesday stating it had already received more than 80,000 comments during an informal public comment period that closes on Monday, March 16.

"Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen, the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study," the ATF stated.

Despite the change in course, the ATF has left the option open to proceed with plans in the future.

"Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework. After the close of the comment period, ATF will process the comments received, further evaluate the issues raised therein, and provide additional open and transparent process before proceeding with any framework."

The agency sought to ban the manufacturing, importing, distributing and selling of M855 5.56 x 45mm cartridge commonly used in the AR-15 rifle.

The claimed concern of the agency was that some handguns can now use the rifle round and pose a threat to law enforcement officers because the bullet is capable of penetrating body armor.

Critics of the proposed ban quickly pointed out that most rifle ammunition has the ability to pierce light body armor because of required velocity used to propel rifle rounds at long distances.

U.S. Representative Joe Barton, R-Ennis, joined 237 of his colleagues in sending a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones on March 4 opposing the ban.

"As you know, the ban on 'armor piercing' ammunition was created by the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) of 1986," the bipartisan letter stated.

"Congress therefore incorporated an exemption into LEOPA for projectiles 'which the Attorney General finds [are] primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes' to protect ordinary rifle ammunition from being swept up in the ban."

The congressmen continued with their criticism calling the ban "preposterous."

"The idea that Congress intended LEOPA to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous," the letter continued.

"This round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer," the letter stated.

Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz joined 51 of their Republican colleagues in signing a letter to the ATF dated March 9 stating Second Amendment rights would be at risk.

"Second Amendment rights require not only access to firearms but to bullets. If law-abiding gun owners cannot obtain rifle ammunition, or face substantial difficulty in finding ammunition available and at reasonable prices because government entities are banning such ammunition, then the Second Amendment is at risk," the senators wrote.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, issued a statement shortly after the ATF released its notice.

"I am pleased that the Obama Administration has abandoned its planned ammo ban and attack on the Second Amendment," Goodlatte wrote.

"Such an abuse of power would impact many law-abiding gun owners and restrict the American people’s ability to legally and responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights."