Government entities have a variety of ways to avoid complying with laws they find inconvenient. One is to slow-walk requests for records or other documentation when the results might cast them in a bad light. Or when they may reveal that they were acting in a blatantly illegal and/or unconstitutional manner.
Back in 2015, the Obama ATF proposed eliminating civilian sales of 5.56 M855 ammunition by unilaterally reclassifying it as “armor-piercing.” This despite the fact that it had long been widely used for sporting purposes. The resulting bipartisan outcry (from both Congress and the public) was such that Barack’s boys were forced to back down.
Judicial Watch has been trying to get the ATF to disgorge records of internal communication regarding what went into the decision to attempt to reclassify the ammo.
Against all odds, the ATF hasn’t been anxious to give Judicial Watch copies of the documents that have been requested. They’ve basically stonewalled the effort through delays and non-responsiveness. As a result, Judicial watch has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the agency to attempt to force compliance. Here’s their press release:
(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, for 1,900 pages of records about a proposed reclassification that would effectively ban certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02218)).
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a May 14, 2018, FOIA request for the 1,900 documents about the Obama administration’s AR-15 ammo ban efforts. The documents include ATF talking points about the “Armor Piercing Ammunition Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” and other records discussing ammunition classification.
The lawsuit is the latest development in Judicial Watch’s more than three-year effort to obtain documents from the ATF. Judicial Watch discovered the document cache in separate litigation on the ammo ban issue.
In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF Director B. 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 ATF subsequently halted its efforts.
The precise statutory definition of armor-piercing ammunition can be found in 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(17).
“Simply put, the ATF refuses to comply with federal open records law,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “The ATF has withheld records for over three years concerning the Obama administration’s shady attempt to institute gun control by restricting ammunition instead of guns.”