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Judicial Watch Sues the ATF for Records Related to Attempted Reclassification of AR-15 Ammunition as ‘Armor-Piercing’

(Washington DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a component of the Department of Justice, seeking records of communications related to a proposed reclassification that would effectively ban certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00600)).

The ATF is reportedly reconsidering its February 2015 proposal to revise the 2014 Regulation Guide regarding the reclassification of certain ammunition.  In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director Todd Jones expressing their “serious concern” that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.”  The letter asserts 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.”

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a March 9, 2015, FOIA request seeking information on the ammo ban effort:

  • 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.

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

“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban.  Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

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