The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is apologizing for a “publishing error” in its regulations that suggested the agency had already banned AR-15 “green tip” ammo well before officials publicly announced a proposal to outlaw the armor-piercing bullets last month.
“ATF has not rescinded any armor piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error which has no legal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,” the agency said in a statement. “ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error.”
In January, the ATF published an online regulations guide that doesn’t contain a listing of the ammo exempted from a ban on armor piercing ammunition. By omitting the .223-caliber M855 ammo from the list, the agency led some to believe the government had already effectively banned it before the ATF’s announcement on Feb. 13 that it was seeking public comment on a proposal to do just that.
The regulations come out about every 10 years and must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The discrepancy was first reported by Townhall.com.
“They claim it wasn’t done on purpose. It’s a pretty egregious mistake to put the document out after a review by OMB and internal ATF staff, when they knew this issue about armor-piercing ammunition was of such importance to industry,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry based in Newtown, Connecticut. “They’ve ‘corrected’ it, and we’re glad they did.”
The ATF’s statement specified that the exemptions for 5.56 mm (.223) SS 109 and M855 ammo, and for the U.S .30-06 M2AP bullet, “remain in effect.”
But the agency is accepting public comment until March 16 on its proposal regulation to ban the ammunition. A majority of House lawmakers sent a letter to the ATF last week in opposition to the move.
The Obama administration says that the proposed ban will save the lives of law-enforcement officers, because the armor-piercing ammo can be chambered in newer AR-style “handguns” that have been on the market for a few years. Typically, the ammunition is used in AR-15 rifles for target practice or hunting.
Some Second Amendment supporters believe the proposed regulation is a backdoor attempt by the administration to phase out the use of AR-15 rifles. President Obama supported legislation in 2013 to ban the rifles.
At a town-hall meeting in South Carolina on Friday, Mr. Obama reflected on his failed efforts to enact gun legislation such as mandatory background checks on gun purchases.
“The courts and state legislatures … have greatly restricted the ability to put in place common-sense gun safety laws like background checks,” Mr. Obama said. “So what we’ve done is we have tried as much as we can administratively to implement background checks and to make sure that we’re working with those states and cities and jurisdictions that are interested and willing to partner with us to crack down on the legal use of firearms, particularly handguns.”
The president said there’s too much gun violence in America because legislators won’t stand up to the pro-gun lobby.
“In the absence of more, what I would consider, heroic and courageous stances from our legislators both at the state level and the federal level, it is hard to reduce the easy availability of guns,” Mr. Obama said. “And as long as you can go into some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book… we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence.”