Over 100 members of congress have signed a petition addressed to the director of the ATF expressing serious concerns over a proposed new ban on ammunition. The ATF is seeking an Attorney General’s determination that would prohibit certain 5.56/.223 ammunition containing projectiles considered armor piercing.
Specifically, the federal regulatory agency contends that the widely used SS109 and M885 ammunition fulfills the statutory definition of “armor piercing”. Furthermore, they say it should not qualify under the “sporting purpose” exemption as outlined in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) because when fired from a handgun, it is capable of penetrating a protective vest. In the lengthy 17- page white paper filed with the Attorney General, the ATF further maintains that their intention is simply to uphold the requirements of the GCA and its goal of protecting law enforcement, while respecting the interests of sportsman. Link to ATF White Paper
To clarify, there have been many unsubstantiated rumors that were primarily started by the mainstream media suggesting that all AR-15 / 5.56 ammunition will be banned. At present, there is no evidence to suggest that anything besides SS109 or M885 will be prohibited.
Opponents of the proposed ban insist that M885 ball ammunition does not have a core constructed out of any metal deemed “armor piercing” and actually contains a lead core with a steel tip. Furthermore, they contend this measure is simply a backdoor attempt to restrict sales of AR-15 rifles. As evidence to support their claims, critics point to the fact that the administration has tried and failed multiple times to generate congressional support for legislation against rifles like the AR-15, and has switch its efforts to targeting ammo on a non-nonsensical technicality to ultimately curb sales of these type of legal firearms– the “guns will not work without ammo” tactics.
They further point to the fact that this same ammo that has been legal to own since the ’68 GCA went into affect some 47- years ago. Similarly, there have always been handguns available on the market that were capable of firing .223/5.56, even since the passage of the GCA. By the same token, these same handguns will easily penetrate a protective vest with even the mildest prairie dog hunting ammunition sold today.
To gun rights advocates, the most serious potential consequence of such action is that it will serve as a precedent for banning any and all ammunition the administration decides fails to fulfill their definition of “sporting purpose”. While the safety of our men and women in law enforcement is certainly paramount, the reality is standard issue body armor is incapable of stopping the overwhelming majority of all centerfire hunting rifle ammunition, which just about every one of these will also have counterparts chambered in handguns (see Thompson Encore).
Pro Second Amendment groups also point to the fact many handgun loads technically would not qualify under “sporting purpose” either because these cartridges are used almost exclusively for self-defense. Many are equally capable of penetrating standard issue body armor– without using what the ATF refers to as “restricted materials” in their construction. Here is a video link demonstrating this principle in action– keep in mind that the test you are about to see is on level 3A body armor, or a grade stronger than standard law enforcement issue: