Will a Royal Edict on Ammo Mock the Constitution?

Published March 5, 2015

By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold – 

The ATF’s move to ban ammunition in common use since before the 1986 ban on “armor piercing ammunition” is at the direct hand of President Obama. Having failed to secure an assault weapons ban after New Town, or even universal background checks, he is trying to dry up the most popular “plinking” ammunition for AR rifles, the most popular rifle style sold in America. He has already moved to ban importation of Russian ammunition on the pretense of sanctioning Putin’s supporters, and the importation of foreign made semi-automatic rifles. (The same rifles are made here under license.)

As related in the Washington Examiner:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this month revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track, immediately driving up the price of the bullets and prompting retailers, including the huge outdoors company Cabela‘s, to urge sportsmen to urge Congress to stop the president.

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, the group’s policy and lobby shop, likewise made this statement about the ammunition ban:

The Obama administration was unable to ban America’s most popular sporting rifle through the legislative process, so now it’s trying to ban commonly owned and used ammunition through regulation.” . . .  “The NRA and our tens of millions of supporters across the country will fight to stop President Obama’s latest attack on our Second Amendment freedoms.

In an effort to thwart BATFE’s attempted action, the National Rifle Associationhas worked with U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to draft a letter to BATFE expressing the lawmakers’ opposition to the proposed Framework.  So far the NRA, working with Goodlatte to gather co-signers, have enlisted 30 House members.  Goodlatte and the NRA are hoping to get a total of 100 House members as co-signers in the near future.  Bob Goodlatte asserts that the proposed ban is a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and has vowed to fight the measure in court. 

According to the letter being drafted to send BATFE by Goodlatte and the NRA:   

The idea that Congress intended [the ‘armor piercing’ ammunition law] to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.”  The letter goes on to state that the law “should be construed in accordance with the American tradition of lawful firearms ownership, as protected by the Second Amendment.” This includes due consideration of “the many legitimate uses Americans make of their firearms including target practice, hunting, organized and casual competition, training and skills development, and instructional activities.” The letter concludes with several pointed questions for the B. Todd Jones, BATFE’s director, including why the agency bypassed the Administrative Procedures Act in proposing such a radical change to its prior interpretation and enforcement of the law.

The Goodlatte letter also states:  

 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.

Democrats are distancing themselves from the BATF proposal, with the possible exception of Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin. The issue is unifying gun owners against Democrats to a degree not seen since the spring of 2013. 

At issue is so-called “armor-piercing” ammunition.  The inexpensive 5.56 M855 ammo, commonly called lightgreen tips, have been exempt for years, as have higher-caliber ammunition that also easily pierces the type of soft armor worn by police, because it’s mostly used by target shooters, not criminals. The agency proposes to reclassify it as armor-piercing and not exempt.  But now BATFE says that since the bullets can be used in semi-automatic handguns they pose a threat to police and must be banned from production, sale and use. But, as Goodlatte noted, the agency offered no proof. Federal agencies will still be allowed to buy the ammo.  

What do we know about M855 ammunition?

  • M855 is the most used for sporting purposes, because it is cheap and as military surplice, available in large quantities. Soldiers are issued mainly M193 (FMJ) and M855 (steel tip) bullets for combat, hence the wide availability of outdated or surplus military ammunition.
  • The bullet does not fall in the 1896 law’s classification of “armor piercing” bullets, “consisting entirely of brass, bronze, tungsten, steel or spent uranium.” The M855 round is mostly lead with a thin gilding metal jacket and a small, flat-tipped conical steel core in front of the lead and covered by the jacket
  • M855 doesn’t actually penetrate armor. The steel core is flat-tipped under the soft, pointed jacket. It will penetrate a steel helmet (not Kevlar) at 300 yards, but is stopped by 1/8″ hardened steel plate or 2″ of polycarbonate at any distance. The bullet is designed to tumble on striking a target, with only mildly enhanced penetration. Since the bullet is base-heavy, it tends to tumble when it encounters resistance. The bullet turns sideways in as little as two layers of wall board or 6 inches of ballistic gel.
  • There have been no documented cases of its use against law enforcement officers.
  • The 1986 law purports to protect law enforcement against armor piercing ammunition in HANDGUNS. Ammunition used for both handguns and rifles was classified as “rifle” ammunition. The only handguns firing 5.56×45 ammunition are either single shot only, or large and cumbersome devices, consisting of an AR rifle without the extra 3″ of a butt stock.
  • LEO armor is designed to resist handgun calibers. Any centerfire rifle and some common handguns will defeat the highest class of soft armor in use, IIIa, regardless of the construction of the bullet. That said, there are no documented cases of their use against officers in a typical encounter, like traffic or ID stops.

In reaction to the ATF’s plan to ban 5.56 mm steel-tipped bullets capable of penetrating a protective vest, customers are purchasing AR-15 ammo in volumes up to 20 times the normal rate in some gun stores across the country.  Numerous gun stores are reporting panic buying. Steve Ellis, owner of Top Guns in Terre Haute, Indiana, told WTHI that supplies were dwindling. “Everyone is selling out of ammunition, distributors are out, manufacturers are out, most dealers are out,” said Ellis  It was also reported that a Walmart in Anchorage, AK went from having plentiful supplies of the bullets to none whatsoever.  Meanwhile, Ryan Cook, manager of Eagle Armory in Springfield, said that suppliers were telling him “there was none available to order”.

Rick Moran, in an article published at the American Thinker on February 27 about the ban on AR-15 ammunition, concluded his article with these thoughtful but troubling statements: 

We’re getting used to asking the question, “Can he really do that?”. The answer is, unless the courts are of a mind to stop him, he can do pretty much anything he pleases. In this case, the overreach is so egregious, that a bi-partisan Congress may step in and stifle the BATFE.  If the president would veto congressional action opposing him on the ammunition issue, there may be more than a dozen Democratic Senators will to vote with the GOP to override. 

Until Obama came along, the Second Amendment had been enjoying something of a winning streak in state legislatures and the courts, with some notable exceptions in backwards blue states. But even Chicago and Washington, D.C. lost court cases that overturned some of their more draconian gun control laws.

This latest stealth assault on the Second Amendment is cowardly and unnecessary. The BATFE is bypassing Congress because such an ammunition ban wouldn’t have a prayer of passing. By relying on royal edicts to impose his will, the president is making a mockery of the Constitution.”  

Frédéric Bastiat  (30 June 1801 – 24 December 1850), an early free-market economist and classical liberal French author, had this warning which is applicable to the situation we face today, as a nation who has gradually forgotten from whence she came. 

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

[Originally published by Illinois Review]