You may recall that we reported here back on March 4 about the Obama administration’s efforts to outlaw one of the most popular pieces of rifle ammunition in the United States. After unsuccessfully attempting to ban sales and ownership of the AR-15 rifle, the president urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ban the .223 caliber ammo used in that rifle. By limiting access to the gun’s ammo, the gun itself would become basically useless. What the ATF is describing as a “publishing error” led many to believe the organization had done as Obama directed.
.223 M855 Round Mistaken Classification
The Obama proposal claimed that the popular round qualified, by the ATF’s classification, as an armor piercing projectile. However, US statute 18 U.S.C. 921 (a)(17)(B) clearly states that a bullet must be 100% metal core, or contain an outer jacketing which makes up no more than 25% of its weight, to be classified as armor piercing. This simply does not apply to the M855 AR-15 .223 caliber round, as it is part lead and part steel. In the past, the ATF specifically classified SS109 / M855 bullets as “exempt from armor piercing status”, but neglected to make that exemption known in its latest official regulations release.
The ATF recently apologized for the mistaken statement found in its 2014 online regulations edition that AR-15 “green tip” ammo had previously been banned. This happened well in advance of the recent announcement by the ATF that they were considering the Obama M855 ban proposal. The announcement the organization made on February 13 was that they were seeking public opinion before they decided whether or not to ban sales on the popular round.
Obama Administration Approved Incorrect M855 Ammo Classification
The ATF regulations are published only every 10 years. What is significant to note is that they are reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval or rejection. Since the banned status was approved by the same White House that is urging the ban of that particular ammunition, even though ATF’s own classification declares the round safe for public use, the “publishing error” excuse seems a little fishy to some.
When asked to clarify, an ATF spokesman stated that “exemptions for 5.56 mm (.223 caliber) SS 109 and M855 ammo remain in effect”. This means that, barring a reversal in opinion, sportsmen, recreational shooters, and those in the emergency preparedness and survival communities will still be able to purchase and own the popular, non-armor piercing round for the time being. It does not, however, rule out an eventual ban by the ATF as a result of President Obama’s continued urging.
Sportsmen, recreational shooters and disaster preppers are urged to purchase whatever quantities of M855 rounds they need as soon as possible. The proposal offered by President Obama does not go after individual gun owners in possession of those rounds. However, since it is aimed at businesses which manufacture and sell that ammunition, it could quickly and negatively impact supply and demand for that particular round, indirectly putting upward retail price pressure on other rounds as well.