'The ATF says it wants to ban M855 ball ammunition, a .223 (or 5.56 mm) rifle bullet that has been used by American citizens for decades. The ATF says it wants to ban this popular bullet because it is "armor piercing."
The law at the basis of this debate is the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). As amended, the GCA prohibits the import, manufacture and distribution of "armor piercing ammunition" as defined by a few terms Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice (DOJ) is attempting to broaden.
The definition for what constitutes "armor piercing" reads: "a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely … from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium."
Now, to be as nitpicky as the law, the M855 ball ammunition the ATF wants to ban as "armor piercing" doesn't have a core made of the metals listed in what legally makes a bullet "armor piercing." The M855 actually has a lead core with a steel tip. Also, the M855 is traditionally a rifle cartridge and the ban only covers handgun ammunition. The DOJ argues this doesn't stop them because the law stipulates they can ban a bullet that "may be used in a handgun." And, after all, any cartridge may be used in a handgun.
Still, the definition has another condition. According to law, when ammo is made for "sporting purposes" (hunting, recreation shooting and so on) it is exempt from this ban. According to the DOJ the "GCA exempts ammunition that would otherwise be considered armor piercing if the Attorney General determines that the specific ammunition at issue is 'primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.'" So, according to the DOJ, they simply get to decide on this condition.
The "sporting purposes" caveat is an important exemption, as every bullet designed to ethically kill a deer or other big-game animal (whether from a pistol, rifle or shotgun) will also shoot through a bulletproof vest. If all bullets that could potentially shoot through a cop's bulletproof vest were banned, then hunting—at least ethical hunting with firearms—would cease..
'Also, you can't blame people for questioning the politics behind this move when the attorney general behind this proposed ban has said his failure to further restrict Second Amendment rights is his greatest failure.'
This approval process, of course, isn't new. In 1986, the ATF actually exempted the .223 ammo it now wants to ban. Also, in 1992, the ATF exempted .30-06 M2AP cartridges (the .30-06 is a widely used and highly regarded big-game hunting round and has also long been used by the U.S. military)…
Given that this seems to be a solution in search of a problem, it doesn't seem conspiratorial to wonder if this is a political move orchestrated to make it more expensive to shoot AR-15s, which are traditionally chambered in .223. In its argument for this rule change, the ATF is clearly justifying expanding the ammo ban to traditional rifle calibers. So then, might the ATF's next move be to ban ammo for other popular military/civilian calibers like the .308 and .30-06?'