Gun groups unite in backing ammunition classification bill

Gun rights groups are backing legislation introduced Wednesday by House Republicans that would narrow the scope of language classifying certain types of ammunition. 

The bill, formally titled The Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act of 2015, would keep the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from being able to reclassify popular rifle ammunition as “armor piercing”; drop restrictions on importers seeking to bring non-National Firearms Act firearms or ammunition into the U.S. where they are otherwise legal; protect shotguns and large caliber rifles from being classified as destructive devices under the NFA and allow for temporary interstate transfer of arms for lawful reasons other than just “sporting purposes.”   

“The founding fathers recognized that the right to bear arms is fundamentally tied to self-defense,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the legislation’s sponsor, in a statement. “This is as true today as it was over two centuries ago when the Bill of Rights was ratified.”    

The National Rifle Association immediately backed the bill, H.R. 2710, and it didn’t take long for the firearms trade industry’s National Shooting Sports Foundation to follow suit and issue a statement about it Thursday and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms on Friday.

“This is one of the most important pieces of reform legislation that the firearms and ammunition industry has seen come before Congress in recent years,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.

The trade group said that it and its member companies have been waiting four years for a response from the ATF to more than 30 petitions requesting brass rifle hunting ammunition be given a “sporting use” exemption because it’s not made of lead, which has been linked to the poisoning of certain carrion birds.

California was brought up as an example of how the banning of lead ammunition can lead to ammunition shortages while manufacturers are restricted from bringing non-lead alternatives to market. The state began to phase out the use of lead ammunition in 2013 and required a total ban by 2019.

The NSSF released a survey of California hunters in September claiming higher ammunition prices would cause 36 percent of hunters to either stop hunting or keep them from hunting as much.   

The bill comes only months after the proposed reclassification of the popular M855 5.56mm ammunition, known for its green tip, to “armor piercing.” The ammunition can be used in popular AR-type rifles often used in hunting.

CCRKBA applauded Bishop, saying bureaucrats have long decided which ammunition is good and which is bad.

“There is no ‘sporting purpose’ stipulation in the Second Amendment … and there should not be one in federal law,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. “The right to keep and bear arms is not just about hunting or target shooting. It is time for this restrictive language to be replaced.”

Opponents of the bill say the ammunition is military grade and has no place in the civilian market.

“The Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Miriam Walkingshaw, president of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said in a statement to the Standard-Examiner. “There are certain types of ammunition that simply do not belong in the civilian market — types of ammo that were designed for war and mass killing.