TAMPA — Local gun shop owners and shooting enthusiasts say a relatively unpopular U.S-made rifle ammunition has been in great demand, at vastly inflated prices.
The government tried to ban it. And that sparked a run on the ammo by those fearing a wider ban and by those seeking to invest because of that fear.
The rounds in question are the U.S.-manufactured M855 “green tip” 5.56 mm military surplus rifle rounds. They were originally exempted from a 1986 law, designed to protect law enforcement officers, that banned armor-piercing ammunition unless used for sporting purposes. But because the round can now be used in handguns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was looking to end the exemption for the M855 rounds.
Tuesday afternoon, after receiving more than 80,000 public comments on the proposal, the vast majority of which were unfavorable toward banning the ammo, ATF changed course and decided against setting up a framework for such bans, according to ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun.
The ATF tried to create “a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen,” said Colbrun, adding that in addition to the public comments, ATF received a letter from 238 Congressmen and a letter from 52 Senators expressing “substantial concerns with the proposed framework. The issues raised in the comments ATF has received will require further consideration.”
The ATF, which Colbrun said took action based on the requirements of the law, not its own initiative, set up a public comment period, which expires March 16, for people to respond to the proposal.
“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,” Colbrun said in a statement.
Even if the M855 lost its exemption, that still left nearly 170 solid core or lead loaded cartridges in the 5.56mm family available for sale, made by 32 manufacturers, said Colbrun, as well as “the most common rifle cartridges used today” including “30-30, .308, 7.62×39 and 45-70.”
For many shooting enthusiasts, banning the round would have had little to no effect.