Why are so many enthusiasts in the shooting sports angry about the proposed ATF ban on some seemingly obscure military surplus ammunition (5.56 x 45mm M855 Ball)?
You may be asking yourself, “What’s wrong with those people – what’s the big deal?” Even President Obama’s Press Secretary said last week that the ban was a good step toward better protection for law enforcement personnel.
Some background – on Friday afternoon of the February 2015 Presidents’ Day Federal holiday, the ATF (common label for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) released to the public its “ATF FRAMEWORK FOR DETERMINING WHETHER
CERTAIN PROJECTILES ARE ‘PRIMARILY INTENDED FOR SPORTING PURPOSES’ WITHIN THE MEANING OF 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(C)”, a long title (that I will abbreviate as “Framework”) for a long tome presenting the ATF’s justifications for its intent to ban M855 Ball surplus ammunition.
The applicable laws are the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) and the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 (LEOPA). These acts say if the projectiles from a certain type of ammunition can penetrate “armor” (a protective vest) when fired from a handgun, it’s up to the Attorney General (AG) to determine if the ammunition is “primarily intended for sporting purposes.” By the way, the acts originally gave this authority to the Treasury Secretary, but after the ATF was transferred to the Justice Department, the acts were amended to give authority to the AG. The AG delegated responsibility to the ATF Director, subject to direction by the AG and Deputy AG. I quote from the “Framework,” (from 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B)) :
“(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.”