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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Judicial Watch Asks Federal Court to Compel Records from ATF on Reclassification of AR-15 Ammunition

For More Than Three Years ATF Evaded FOIA Request; Agency Withholding 1,900 Pages of Records 

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a brief in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia asking the court to order the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to produce more than 1,900 pages of records relating to the ATF’s proposed reclassification that would effectively ban certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing.

The ATF has admitted that it retrieved 1,900 pages of possibly responsive records. But, it has failed to produce the records for more than three years.

Judicial Watch in April 2017 filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after the ATF, a division of the Justice Department, failed to respond to a March 9, 2015, FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00600)). The lawsuit is seeking:

  • All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm, SS109 and M855 (i.e., “green tip” AR-15) ammunition from the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition.

Using a narrow interpretation of the FOIA request and neglecting Judicial Watch’s explanation, the ATF has consistently refused to substantively produce documents in this case. In 2017, the ATF produced just 84 pages of records, all dated March 2015.

“The ATF is stonewalling,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “For three years, since 2015, the ATF has withheld records on how the Obama administration attempted to institute gun control stealthily by going after ammunition instead of guns.”

In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF Director Todd Jones to express their “serious concern” that the proposal to reclassify the ammunition types as armor-piercing may violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.” The ATF’s move “does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes,” the letter said.

The precise statutory definition of armor-piercing ammunition can be found in 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(17).

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