Local gun stores see run on ammo that ATF proposes to ban

Nick Shepherd • Mar 6, 2015 at 11:57 AM

KINGSPORT — Local gun store employees do not believe a proposed ban on certain ammunition will be passed and say even talking about a ban has caused the ammunition to sell out in their stores.

It was announced on Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering banning some types of 5.56 mm rounds — or .223 caliber — which the administration says can pierce protective vests worn by law enforcement officers.

Last month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms released a 17-page proposal to ban the ammo, which has been under consideration since 2011. The rule change would only affect M855 green tip or SS109 rounds with certain metal cores, including steel and iron. The ammo is primarily used for AR-15-style rifles, but can also be used in some new types of handguns.

Gregg Smith, a salesman at Gun Rack in Kingsport, says the government has tried this before.

“They’ve been trying to do it for a long time,” he said. “But it kind of opens a big can of worms because that’s not the only thing you can shoot in a handgun that is technically armor piercing.”

Smith said the government is picking on the M855 green tip ammunition because it is used in AR-15s. He said mostly what the bullets are used for is target practice and hunting.

Mike Shaffer, manager at Freedom Firearms on Stone Drive, said he does not know why the government would propose a ban. But he said the only thing talk of a ban is doing is selling more bullets.

“It’s already started pandemonium,” he said. “People have already started buying them up. We bought several thousand dollars worth just so our customers could have it.”

He said the reason they bought so much is because the distributors Freedom Firearms uses are already sold out of the .223 ammunition. Smith said it is a similar story for Gun Rack. When word of the ban first started, the store quickly sold all the stock they had.

Both believe the only real effect this ban will have is increasing their sales of .223 ammo, even .223 ammunition that is not being considered for a ban.

Shaffer said a box of .223 goes for between $8 and $10 and bulk ammo can go between $30 to $50.

An ATF spokeswoman, Ginger Colbrun, told the Associated Press Monday the agency is considering eliminating the exemption because of AR pistols that can fire the .223 ammo.

In 1986, armor-piercing handgun ammunition was banned to protect police officers as part of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act. Rifle ammo was previously exempt from this law because it was used mainly for sporting purposes. But because the new AR pistols can fire these bullets, the ATF is proposing the ban.

“They always talk about them being cop-killer bullets,” Smith said. “But nobody’s ever come out and said, ‘Last year this many cops were killed (by these bullets),’ because they weren’t. There weren’t any cops killed by these armor-piercing bullets, but it sounds good.”

The ATF will be accepting public comment about the proposed change until March 16 at the email address [email protected], by fax or mail.

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