The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Tuesday formally announced it would delay its proposed controversial ban on certain ammunition used in the popular AR-15 rifle.
The ATF indicated it wasn’t scrapping the idea completely, and said it could revisit it later. Still, the announcement is at least a short-term victory for gun owners and Republican members of Congress who strongly opposed the ATF’s plan.
The ATF proposed a framework in February that was likely to lead to a ban on M855 cartridges. The ATF was mounting an argument that because these bullets can pierce armor in certain circumstances, they should be banned under a 1986 law aimed at protecting police.
But gunowners and Republicans in particular argued that the ATF had no legal right to take a step in this direction, which would have required a ban on a widely popular round that has been exempted from the ban for decades. The ATF itself indicated that there was widespread opposition to the idea in the more than 80,000 comments it received.
“Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen, the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study,” the ATF said Tuesday.
“Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework,” it added.
— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) March 10, 2015
The ATF did, however, say it would review the comments and that it could revisit the issue at a later date. “After the close of the comment period, ATF will process the comments received, further evaluate the issues raised therein, and provide additional open and transparent process (for example, through additional proposals and opportunities for comment) before proceeding with any framework,” it said.
The announcement does appear to take away any immediate threat of an ammunition ban by the ATF. The ATF was expected to take comments on the proposal until next week, and as the deadline loomed, Republicans were increasingly concerned about the proposal.
On Monday, for example, more than half of the Senate warned the ATF that its proposed ban would put the Second Amendment to the Constitution “at risk.”
Earlier this week, the ATF took steps to make it clear that there was no immediate ban on the ammunition in question, after a separate ATF publication indicated it might have already taken effect.