On April 7th of last year the ATF reclassified the cheap and widely available 7N6 5.45×39 ammunition as “armor piercing” and banned it from importation. This was widely seen by the gun community as another blatant attempt to make it as expensive and onerous as possible to exercise our Second Amendment rights. The ammunition in question isn’t generally used in crimes and even less frequently used against cops (the rounds were, of course, labeled “cop killer bullets” in the media). The stated impetus for this reclassification? According to the ATF, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) asked them to check it out. But according to a recently returned FOIA request, CBP never did that . . .
From the ATF’s statement on the reclassification:
On March 5, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received a request from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) to conduct a test, examination and classification of Russian-made 7N6 5.45×39 ammunition for purposes of determining whether it is considered “armor piercing ammunition” as defined by the Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended.
Given that they explicitly state the source of this “tip” as the CBP, you would expect that the CBP would have some sort of record that they made the request. An email would do (although the Obama administration doesn’t have a good track record with emails). Something in some format should exist if a request actually originated with CBP as the ATF claims.
One person, however, decided to take it upon himself to see what was really going on. He filed a FOIA request to CBP, demanding that CBP hand over any documentation that proved this communication happened. The response came yesterday: there is no record of such a conversation or such a tip ever happening.
From a Reddit thread:
This is a final response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We conducted a comprehensive search of files within the CBP databases for records that would be responsive to your request. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate or identify any responsive records, based upon the information you provided in your request. You have the right to appeal this determination that no records exist within CBP that would be responsive to your request. Should you wish to do so, you must send your appeal and a copy of this letter, within 60 days of the date of this letter, to: FOIA Appeals, Policy and Litigation Branch, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 90 K Street, NE, 10th Floor Washington, DC 20229-1177, following the procedures outlined in the DHS FOIA regulations at Title 6 C.F.R. 5.9. Your envelope and letter should be marked “FOIA Appeal.” Copies of the FOIA and DHS regulations are available at www.dhs.gov/foia. Please notate file number CBP-2014-020969 on any future correspondence to CBP related to this request.
To be completely accurate, this simply means that there is no record (that CBP can find) of such a conversation happening. It’s entirely possible that the head of CBP was drunk at a party with the head of the ATF and, after many Pabst Blue Ribbons, mentioned the ammo and asked an ATF buddy to look into it. It’s equally possible that CBP is too lazy to do a proper search and the evidence exists, but they can’t be bothered to find it.
Another more interesting possibility: CBP never made the request at all. The request came from somewhere else, and the ATF used CBP as cover so they could plausibly say that the idea didn’t originate from a political figure (like, say, the Attorney General or the President, both of whom see gun ownership as a disease). It would be absolutely lovely to catch the ATF in yet another cover-up.
Another FOIA request is on its way. We’ll see what happens.