DeWayne Irwin is finding it nearly impossible to keep a popular bullet used in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles on his store shelves.
He even brought about 10 cases of the ammunition from his personal stockpile to sell at Fort Worth Gun.
But as long as the ammo remains under fire from the federal government, which is proposing a ban on the 5.56 mm M855 green-tip ball ammunition, he expects it to keep flying off the shelves.
“Normally, we would have 100 to 120 cases on any given day,” said Irwin, president of Fort Worth Gun, previously known as Cheaper Than Dirt Outdoor Adventures. “But people are in a panic. They are buying it, scared to death it’s going away.”
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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced last month that it is considering banning the bullet, traditionally used for hunting and target practice.
Even as local gun enthusiasts and congressional leaders fire back, ATF officials say there’s a real problem now that some handguns can use the bullet, which is capable of “penetrating body armor … for military and law enforcement.”
The proposed ban is reigniting worries that President Barack Obama will add gun restrictions, and it’s prompting gun supporters to buy as many of the bullets as they can, creating a shortage nationwide.
It’s making Irwin believe something he didn’t think was possible before.
“I firmly believe the Obama administration is after the gun business,” he said. “He couldn’t get the guns, so he will get the ammunition.
“He’s going to burn us, and this is how he’s going to do it,” Irwin said. “He’s got 18 months … and he’s going to executive-order the crap out of us.”
‘Not a gun grab’
Under the ATF proposal, gun owners could use all the M855 green-tip bullets they have, but no more could be made.
“With few exceptions, manufacturers will be unable to produce such armor-piercing ammunition, importers will be unable to import such ammunition and manufacturers and importers will be prohibited from selling or distributing the ammunition,” the ATF proposal says.
Officials with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence say the green-tip bullets are a threat to law officers, especially now that they can be used in certain handguns.
“This is not a gun grab,” said Brian Malte, national policy director for the Brady campaign. “It’s a proposed rule change to protect the lives and safety of law enforcement officers.”
While the proposal focuses on the green-tip bullets, the non-green-tip version can pierce armor, too. And some fear that eliminating the green-tip bullets is just the first of many steps.
“Once they end up taking the ammunition, what goes next is the gun,” said Brian Jones of Fort Worth, who was shopping for ammunition recently at Fort Worth Gun. “Those of us who value the Second Amendment don’t like any of it.”
Marsha McCartney is tired of hearing that argument.
“Every single time somebody wants to do something good — keep officers safe, keep communities safe — they scream it’s a slippery slope and ask, ‘What’s next?’” said McCartney, president of the Texas chapter of the Brady campaign. “We have more guns in this country than any other modern country has, and we have more murders, more accidental shootings, more suicides.”
Even so, “the president has yet to fulfill their fears of banning guns and sending people door to door to pick up guns.”
As some allege that this is the president’s backdoor way of restricting guns, local Republican congressional leaders are coming out in force against the ATF proposal.
“Day in and day out, law-abiding gun owners in Texas face a White House hostile to their fundamental rights, and I will work with my colleagues to help fight the administration’s latest infringement before it can be implemented,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and nearly 240 other congressional members sent a bipartisan letter to the ATF expressing “serious concern” about the proposal and noting that Americans own more than 5 million AR-15s.
The letter says the ban would “interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law-abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes.”
Among the local House members who signed were Joe Barton, R-Ennis; Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville; Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth; Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell; and Roger Williams, R-Austin.
Marchant echoed some of those thoughts in another letter.
“I am concerned that the framework is broad and open-ended in a way that risks sweeping up many popular forms of ammunition used by law-abiding citizens for legitimate purposes,” he wrote.
Williams said, “Whether it’s immigration, the environment or Second Amendment rights, there is nothing this administration holds sacred enough to allow it to be amended through the proper legislative process.”
Since Obama was first elected in 2008, many have feared he would bring about new gun restrictions.
Waves of concern through the years have led gun enthusiasts to stock up on guns and ammo, causing supply shortages and price increases.
“None of us are happy with this,” said Jones, the Fort Worth shopper. “Anything Obama does is a concern.
“As far as I’m concerned, he hates our Constitution.”
The first wave came after Obama was elected but before he took office. He had said the government needed to reinstate an assault weapons ban and enact “common-sense” restrictions after more than three dozen Chicago children were killed.
As Obama won re-election, sales spiked again because some feared he might finally move forward with gun restrictions in his second term.
Gun and ammo sales were again overwhelming after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting when Obama released a slate of gun proposals, including restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons and calling on Congress to create a universal background check for gun shoppers.
The measures failed, and Obama said that “this effort is not over.”
The ATF is taking public comment until March 16 on the proposal to ban the green-tip bullet.
“This is an ammunition grab,” Irwin said.
Irwin said he is struggling to find green-tip bullets for his store, which is why he brought in some from his own supply.
“The suppliers say they are out,” he said. “We have been in a short supply for years. … The conspiracy guys have been saying for years this is coming.”
And it’s not just the bullets that are selling out — it’s also the brass casing and the powder, as some people want to make their own.
“Everybody is selling out of all of this,” he said.
An online petition has gained more than 75,000 signatures from people encouraging the government not to move forward. One gun enthusiast is even willing to give away 75 green-tip bullets to people who sign.
Robert Britton of Rhome, who was recently shopping at Fort Worth Gun, said he hopes the government won’t move forward.
“If they get rid of the green tip, everything else will follow,” he said.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is accepting comments on the proposal until March 16. Here’s how to submit comments:
Online: Send email to APAComments@atf.gov
Mail: Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 99 New York Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments
The ATF notes that it won’t acknowledge receipt of comments, and it asks people to submit comments in only one of the three ways. For more information, contact Brown at 202-648-7070.