This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 11, 2015:
The capitulation was stunning, even if it is only temporary. After bearing the brunt of a targeted campaign by pro-gun groups like the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and the Second Amendment Foundation that resulted in nearly uniformly bad press, letters of opposition from majorities in the House and the Senate, and more than 80,000 individual responses to its proposal to ban a popular rifle cartridge, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), posted on its website Tuesday afternoon the terms of its temporary surrender:
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 [proposal]….
It’s not the end of the matter, not by a long shot. The ATF allowed itself some wiggle room, and gave itself time to reconnoiter and reconsider how to proceed with its anti-gun agenda: “[Those comments] include issues that deserve further study. [The agency will] further evaluate the issues raised,” before proceeding with any further action, it said on its website.
The pushback against the ATF was massive and well-coordinated. The NRA said its efforts “were instrumental” in stalling implementation of the ban, rallying enough of its five million members to pressure the agency directly and indirectly into reversing itself. It worked closely with pro-gun members in the House and Senate in drafting letters opposing the ATF’s proposal, with majorities in both chambers signaling their discontent by signing them.
Larry Pratt, the executive director of the 300,000+ member Gun Owners of America, took the frontal approach. In comments officially submitted to the ATF, Pratt wrote:
If anyone needed any more proof that [the ATF] has become a politicized repository of liberal anti-gun hacks, your proposed effort to effectively ban AR-15s by illegally banning AR-15 ammunition has cleared up any doubt.
Just five days earlier, the NRA’s Executive Director Chris Cox was equally blunt in an editorial published in the Washington Times:
[President Obama] is using the ATF to impose gun control that he couldn’t get through Congress. He tried to ban America’s most popular rifle, and failed. Now he is trying to ban the ammo.
Cox then reviewed the lies the ATF and its friends in the White House and the media were using to justify the infringement: Law enforcement officers wanted the ban, the cartridge is the same used in multiple mass shootings around the country, the weapon can now be concealed, and besides, armor-piercing bullets have no business in the hands of the public.
The fact that only “selected” friends favored the ban, whose voices were drowned out by the deluge of anger from pro-gun forces, that none of the mass shootings involved the use of the specific round to be banned, that not one statistic showing a law enforcement officer being shot, much less killed, by a handgun chambered for the “green tip” M855 cartridge could be found anywhere, that weapons chambered for that round are so big and bulky as to be impossible to carry concealed, that they are generally so expensive as to be completely shunned by common street thugs, all but overwhelmed the agency.
The ATF initially tried to backtrack slightly earlier when it noted that a list showing the cartridge in question already on its “banned” list had been published “in error.” In an editorial the GOA noted: “The only error made was to telegraph its firm intention [to ban it] before the comment period was over,” adding:
It was like a bizarre world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: first the sentence and then the trial.
The impact of the ATF’s temporary surrender is clear: Obama’s demand that his ATF ban the cartridge was overridden by existential considerations. One of the signers of the letter of opposition originating in the House was the chair of the House’s appropriations committee, Rep. John Culberson. It delays, for a time, the ATF’s attempt to rule that because the round is made of certain materials – steel, bronze, copper, beryllium and tungsten – that automatically makes it “armor-piercing.” If allowed to go forward, the ban would set a precedent for the ATF to ban any ammunition made with those same materials.
But the fight is far from over. It’s a skirmish with a temporarily favorable outcome. As the Terminator said to the police captain in 1984, “I’ll be back.”
As long as the worldview in Washington holds – that citizens can’t be trusted, and citizens with guns are dangerous to the powers that be – efforts to turn citizens into serfs will continue.
The Washington Times: ATF drops proposed ammo ban
The Washington Times: Ammo ban is about gun control, not gun safety