Only two days after the Obama administration to tabled its ban on M855-type ammunition, BATFE gave gun owners notice that the battle over popular AR-15 ammunition isn’t over. On Thursday, BATFE Director B. Todd Jones testified before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, during which he alluded to BATFE’s continuing interest in reevaluating the legal status of a broad range of common ammunition.
In a leading question, the reliably anti-gun Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked the BATFE director, why the agency reviewed the status of M855 and other steel-component bullets. Jones’s response included this ominous assertion: “But as we see more and more of the firearms that could be classified as pistols, being able to use not just this M855 round, but any 5.56 round, it’s a challenge for officer safety, public safety” (emphasis added).
Jones’s remarks suggest that it isn’t just M855-type ammunition that is on BATFE’s regulatory radar, but all 5.56-caliber ammunition. These comments could also signal that the administration would like to use innovation in the firearms industry as justification for an ever-widening ammunition ban.
Jones’ contention that .223 or 5.56-caliber ammunition fired from pistols poses a “challenge for officer safety” is not borne out by the facts. For 38 years, the FBI has compiled nationwide data on the characteristics of firearms used in fatal attacks on law enforcement officers acting in the line of duty. These data fail to document even a single instance in which a perpetrator killed an officer using a .223-caliber handgun. Contrary to the false statements of various gun proponents, moreover, .223 caliber handguns – including semiautomatics and derringers – have been commercially available since at least the early 1980s. As the Executive Director of the National Legislative Office of the Fraternal Order of Police recently stated, “Any ammunition is of concern to police in the wrong hands, but this specific round [i.e., M855] has historically not posed a law enforcement problem.”
With favorable numbers of pro-gun senators and representatives in Congress, gun controllers have been reduced to using regulatory agencies to bypass lawmakers with contorted interpretations of existing statutes in order to pursue their federal agenda. In the remaining years of the Obama administration it is important that gun owners remain alert and mobilized to meet all attacks of this type. As the BATFE made clear with its initial framework for reclassifying M855-type ammunition, and again on Thursday, the Obama administration has every intention of pushing federal law to – and past – its limits in order to curb gun rights.