Last Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed an amendment, originally introduced by Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) into the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, that would block the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from retroactively redefining common rifle ammo as “armor piercing” in an effort to use a legal loophole to ban bullets through the executive branch. The legislative push to protect rifle ammo comes on the heels of a failed Obama administration effort to direct the ATF to ban .223-caliber M855 “green tip” rounds, which are popular among AR-15 enthusiasts.
In addition to Massie’s amendment, two other pro-gun amendments were tacked on to the CJS appropriations bill. “Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) introduced an amendment that would prevent any M855 or SS109 (.223 caliber / 5.56mm x 45mm) type rifle ammunition from being treated as ‘armor piercing’ ammunition. This comes after the [ATF] backed off a controversial proposal in March to restrict the popular M855/SS109 ammunition. Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced an amendment that would overturn a 2014 administrative ban on 7N6 type (5.45mm x 39mm) ammunition. Both the Hudson amendment and the Gosar amendment passed by voice vote,” read a press release from Representative Massie’s office.
While the Gosar and Hudson amendments directly target the specific ammo bans recently attempted by the executive branch, Congressman Massie’s amendment more broadly prevents the ATF from redefining rifle ammo as armor piercing in the event that a firearms company manufactures a pistol capable of firing the type of rounds in question.
“The administration has banned, and threatens to ban, common rifle ammunition using an overly broad interpretation of a law that was written for handgun ammunition. My amendment uses the congressional power of the purse to defund ammunition bans from the executive branch,” said Congressman Thomas Massie.
The text of Representative Massie’s amendment states, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to treat ammunition as armor piercing for purposes of chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, except for ammunition designed and intended for use in a handgun (in accordance with 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(17)).”
Townhall notes that supporters of the abandoned ATF plan to ban common rifle ammo argued that the commercial development of AR-15 handguns transformed “green tip” rounds into armor piercing bullets and that banning them would save the lives of law enforcement officers.
According to The Washington Times, “AR-15 ‘handguns’ are nearly 2 feet long and weigh about 6 pounds, making them difficult to conceal [like a traditional handgun].”
The CJS appropriations bill passed the House by a vote of 242 to 183. The pro-gun amendments must pass the Senate before the appropriations bill would be sent to President Obama’s desk.