Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist, falsely claimed that a recent move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition is motivated by animus towards women. In fact, the proposal aims to protect law enforcement officers.
On February 13 the ATF published a letter describing its intent to ban the importation and manufacture of a type of armor-piercing ammunition commonly called “green tip” that is used in AR-15 and other “AR-type” assault weapons. Because the “green tip” round contains a steel penetrator, it is more powerful than some other types of ammunition used in such firearms, and its use is already banned at some shooting ranges, including the NRA's.
The ATF is moving to ban “green tip” because it can penetrate a law enforcement officer's body armor when fired from a pistol. While in the past “green tip” ammunition was subject to an ATF exemption, the agency has become concerned in recent years over the growing popularity of AR-15-style pistols that accept “green tip” ammunition.
During a February 27 appearance on the NRA's radio show, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox argued against ATF's action, stating, “now is the time for gun owners, whether you like that AR platform or not, to recognize that they're banning it for a reason.”
He then claimed that the move was motivated because the Obama administration allegedly doesn't like that women use AR-15 rifles, saying, “They're banning that ammo because they don't like the fact that women like the adjustable stock and the low recoil” found on the AR-15 platform. In urging supporters to oppose the ATF's move, Cox added, “if we stick together and stick to the right message we can turn this thing back around.”
In fact, the ATF's stated motivation is the safety of law enforcement officers, not an attempt to limit women's use of the AR-15. As the ATF's letter explains, the agency regulates the importation and manufacture of armor piercing ammunition pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1985, a piece of bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has defended ATF's reasoning, arguing that banning “green tip” is a “common-sense” measure to protect law enforcement: “This seems to be an area where everyone should agree: If there are armor-piercing bullets available that can fit into easily concealed weapons, that puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk. I'd put this in the category of common-sense steps our government can take.”
The NRA and critics in conservative media have claimed that banning “green tip” represents a backdoor way to ban the use of the AR-15 assault weapon. However the ATF singled out “green tip” because of its composition, namely the steel penetrator found within the round. Many other types of ammunition will remain readily available for the AR-15 even if “green tip” is banned.