Obama Administration Plans Major Ammunition Ban

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action is reporting that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) is planning to use its bureaucratic discretion to enact a major ammunition ban as soon as next month.

The BATFE announced late last week that it plans to reclassify some of the most commonly available ammunition for the popular AR-15 rifle as “armor piercing” and ban its sale, distribution, and manufacture. The cartridge in question is the 5.56 mm 62-grain M855 military round, commonly known as the “green tip” or “penetrator.” If you are unfamiliar with this ammunition, a bit of explanation is in order.

The modern civilian AR-15 is derived from the Vietnam-era M-16 rifle. (Unlike the M-16, the AR-15 is not a machine gun). The original 5.56 mm cartridge for the M-16 utilized a lead-core 55-grain bullet, and was derived from the civilian .222 Remington, popular in the 1950s as a small-game hunting cartridge. Any time the military adopts a cartridge, it becomes very popular on the civilian market because manufacturers who tool up for large-volume military contracts are in a position to produce bulk ammunition very cheaply. Consequently, the 5.56mm military cartridge quickly superseded the .222 Remington on the civilian market.

In the early 1980s, the military redesigned both the M-16 rifle and the 5.56mm cartridge, specifying the M855 with a 62-grain bullet and a partial steel core as NATO-standard. Billions of rounds were produced, and again the cartridge found widespread acceptance on the civilian market due to its accuracy, low recoil, and low cost.

The M855 cartridge has been available to civilians for the past three decades. It has never been commonly used for criminal behavior – indeed, the Department of Justice reported that of all homicides committed with guns, less than three percent are committed with rifles of any caliber. About one percent are committed with so-called “assault weapons.”

I don’t have sales numbers in front of me, but I’d guess that somewhere between twenty and thirty percent of the ammunition used for casual shooting and plinking with AR-15 rifles is military surplus M855. If the Obama Administration bans that much ammunition overnight, it will create a major ammunition shortage in the U.S. (there’s already a major shortage of .22 Long Rifle ammo) and will cause prices of alternative ammunition to spike and supply to evaporate. Manufacturers and distributors will not be able to put enough replacement ammunition in the supply chain anytime soon, and AR-15 owners will either run dry or not be to afford to shoot their rifles. Prospective new gun buyers will be dissuaded from purchasing if ammunition is unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

That, of course, is exactly the plan. After the midterm elections last November, Obama pretty much thumbed his nose at the incoming Republican congressional majority and announced that he would wield power through executive orders. He knows that he can’t get the Republican Congress to ban your guns -- so he’ll just unilaterally ban your ammunition instead.

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