ATF Sued for Records Classifying AR-15 Ammunition as ‘Armor-Piercing’

Judicial Watch, the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) seeking records of communications inside the agency when it was considering reclassifying certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing—and effectively banning it from civilian use.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00600)).

“Members who want to read the precise statutory definition of ‘armor-piercing ammunition’ can find it in the U.S. Code at 18 U.S.C §921(a)(17),” said Edwin Walker, an Independent Program Attorney for Texas & U.S. Law Shield and a lawyer in the Houston-based Walker & Byington law firm. “And then they can decide for themselves if the Bureau’s push for this unnecessary action it attempted a couple of years ago had any merit. Quite a few members of Congress thought it did not.”

In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director Todd Jones expressing their “serious concern” that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.”  The letter asserted the ATF’s move “does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes.”

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a March 9, 2015, FOIA request seeking information on the ammo-ban effort:

  • All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., “green tip” AR-15) ammunition from the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition.

“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban. Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

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