A Cap Conn Column by State Political Reporter Matt Caulder
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released a statement Friday calling its plans to remove a longstanding exemption for the popular 5.56 mm “green tip” ammunition from a list of banned armor-piercing cartridges a “publishing error.”
ATF said the media misinterpreted the omission of a list of exempted “armor-piercing” rifle cartridges from the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide as a sign that the ATF was removing the exemption, when in reality media attention was focused on a 17-page report outlining why ATF planned to remove the 1986 “sporting purpose” exemption for M855 and SS109 green tip bullets.
The agency said in a five-paragraph statement released Friday, “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for armor-piercing ammunition, and conclude that the absence of this listing indicates these exemptions have been rescinded.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“Please be advised that ATF has not rescinded any armor-piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error, which has no legal impact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.”
Report contradicts subsequent ATF release
But the report, released Feb. 13, clearly states the intention of leaders at the ATF to remove the exemption for the popular green tip ammunition.
The report said, “Some ammunition that was previously exempted as ‘primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes,’ specifically 5.56 mm constituent projectiles of SS109 and M855 cartridges, will again be regulated as ‘armor-piercing ammunition.’ Except as provided by law, no person may manufacture or import such ammunition, and manufacturers or importers may not sell or deliver such ammunition. ATF will maintain the exemption for 30-06 M2AP cartridges.”
The report also made clear that the 5.56 mm green tip ammunition would be banned when it said, “To ensure consistency, upon final implementation of the sporting purpose framework outlined above, ATF must withdraw the exemptions for 5.56 mm ‘green tip’ ammunition, including both the SS109 and M855 cartridges.”
The report also said, “However, with few exceptions, manufacturers will be unable to produce such armor-piercing ammunition, importers will be unable to import such ammunition, and manufacturers and importers will be prohibited from selling or distributing the ammunition.”
ATF claims the above statements are only a proposal and do not reflect any concrete policy decisions, but the report is more than mere proposal.
The report released Friday said of the 17-page report, “(The) 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.”
But if the ATF intended to take public comments on whether or not to revoke the exemption given for green tip, back when the Law Enforcement Officer Protection Act (LEOPA) was originally passed in 1986, then why did it just solicit comments on how to institute a ban, not on whether to even do it at all?
The ATF report said, “ATF is specifically soliciting comments on how it can best implement withdrawal of this exemption while minimizing disruption to the ammunition and firearm industry and maximizing officer safety.”
If the ATF had moved forward with this decision, however, it would have gone completely against the intentions of the Democratic architects of the legislation, as well as going against legal aspects of LEOPA laid out in an article here.
ATF apologizes for confusion caused by “publishing error”
The ATF was kind enough to apologize to the American public for “any confusion caused by this publishing error,” but the question now is: When will the apology come for trying to sell this weak alibi to the American public?
I won’t be holding my breath.