The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has backed away from what first appeared to be an immediate plan to ban a popular type of ammunition, and now claims that some confusion was caused by a “publishing mistake.”
In February, the ATF published a new framework for deciding what ammunition is “primarily intended for sporting purposes” and thus can be exempted from a federal ban on armor piercing ammo. The ATF also put out a regulation guide that didn’t including a current listing of exceptions, including the popular M855 cartridge that’s used in the AR-15 rifle.
According to the ATF, that omission led to media reports indicating that the government had already banned the M855. But the ATF said that omission was an error.
The ATF noted its error in a tweet late Friday night, which was first flagged by Townhall.com.
— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) March 7, 2015
“Media reports have noted that the 2014 ATF regulation guide published online does not contain a listing of the exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, and conclude that the absence of this listing indicates these exemptions have been rescinded,” ATF said in a release linked to that tweet. “This is not the case.”
“Please be advised that ATF has not rescinded any armor piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact that they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error which has no legal impact on the validity of the exemptions,” the ATF added. “The existing exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, which apply to 5.56 mm SS 109 and M855 projectiles… and the U.S. .30-06 M2AP projectile… remain in effect.”
The ATF added that the guide would soon be corrected to include current listings of armor piercing ammo that are exempted. “ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error,” it said.
Despite this correction, several observers noted that the ATF is still considering a ban of this popular ammunition, as outlined in their proposed framework. That framework indicates the ATF is strongly leaning toward a new stance that would see it eliminate a decades-old exemption that has allowed the continued sale of the M855.
Among other things, that framework holds that final implementation of the new position would require the ATF to “withdraw the exemptions” for that cartridge and others. The ATF is still taking comments on that framework through early April, although many have asked for an extension of that comment period.
Last week, the White House seemed to be fine with the ATF’s proposal, as spokesman Josh Earnest seemed to defend the first version of the ATF guide.
“It would be fair to say, as we are looking at additional ways to protect our brave men and women in law enforcement, and believe that this process is valuable for that reason alone,” Earnest said after being asked about the regulation by TheBlaze. “This seems to be an area where everyone should agree that if there are armor-piercing bullets that fit into easily concealed weapons, that puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk.”