New Bill Would Eliminate ATF’s Ability to Ban Ammo Through Reclassification

Would prevent future bans similar to one attempted under Obama administration

M855 green-tipped 5.56 ammunition / Getty Images

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Representative Rob Bishop (R., Utah) introduced a bill last Wednesday that would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from unilaterally reclassifying ammunition.

The Lawful Purpose and Self-Defense Act would remove the ATF's discretion in classifying certain ammunition as "armor piercing." Instead of relying on the ATF or attorney general's judgment on which "armor piercing" rounds should be given a "sporting purpose" exception, the bill would rely on the manufacturer's design and intent. Rep. Bishop said his intention is to prevent gray areas in the law from being used to push new gun control.

"The Founding Fathers were clear when they drafted the Bill of Rights," Rep. Bishop said in a statement. "The 2nd Amendment is about security and self-defense. Vagaries in today's legal code pose a real threat to the right to keep and bear arms. The Obama administration exploited this ambiguity to forward its agenda of restriction. It's time to ensure no future administration tramples on these freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution."

The congressman points to the ATF's attempt to reclassify the popular M855 "green tip" 5.56 millimeter ammunition as "armor piercing" under the Obama administration. The attempt to reclassify the ammunition would have effectively outlawed its sale on the civilian market despite decades of it being legally available to consumers. The ATF ultimately abandoned the effort after receiving backlash from gun owners.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), which organized opposition to the M855 ban, said it supports Bishop's bill.

"On behalf of the NRA's five million members, I would like to thank Chairman Rob Bishop for introducing this critical legislation," Chris Cox, head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon. "It sends a clear message that Congress will no longer allow federal bureaucrats to infringe on our Second Amendment right to self-protection."

The bill would also keep the ATF from banning the importation of firearms that are legal to own in the United States and reclassifying certain shotguns as heavily regulated "destructive devices," and it would allow temporary interstate firearms transfers for other legal purposes beyond sporting purposes.

Rep. Bishop introduced the same bill in the last Congress, but it never made it out of committee. He is hoping it performs better this time around despite a jam-packed legislative schedule.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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