Going after the green-tip

(A version of this column appears in the May 10 issue of “Shotgun News.”)

Back in mid-February, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives announced it was considering a ban on the popular M855 variety of .223 rifle ammunition — the popular “green-tip” fodder for the AR-15 rifle — by re-categorizing the round as “armor piercing.”

If they did that, sales of the M855 rounds could be restricted or banned under language in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which limits possession of ammunition to stuff “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.”

The ammunition guidelines in the GCA were intended for handguns, but are now being applied to ammunition used in AR-15 rifles — the semi-auto clone of the military M-16 — because AR-15 pistols use the same fodder.

(“Pistols” firing .223 and Russian short aren’t particularly useful as holster- or concealed-carry guns, and manufacturers were warned this was going to happen when they brought them out. Though of course no such concerns would arise if the G-men just obeyed the Second Amendment.)

Predictably, “gun rights” outfits including the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action sprang into action. The NRA-ILA accurately described the proposed ban as “a move clearly intended by the Obama administration to repress the acquisition, ownership, and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifles,” and a “continuation of Obama’s use of his executive authority to impose gun control restrictions and bypass Congress.”

The Second Amendment Foundation launched a nationwide radio and TV ad campaign and threatened legal action. The National Association for Gun Rights said it had “hand delivered 132,662 petitions” to the ATF on March 13.

But it’s possible a mere 289 signatures on a single letter delivered by the NRA carried a little more weight. 236 of those signers were congressmen; 53 were senators. Can you say “purse strings”?

The ATF initially said it would accept comments for 30 days. But by March 10 the federal gun police acknowledged having received 80,000 comments, and it doesn’t appear they were expecting a last-minute rush of people quoting those Bob Dylan lyrics from “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid”: “Ma, put my guns in the ground, ’cause I can’t shoot them anymore.”

After less than four weeks, the ATF backed off.

“Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen,” the outfit said in an announcement posted to its Web site, “the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study. Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework.”

The ATF’s hasty strategic withdrawal was greeted by the usual round of back-slapping and self-congratulation. The NRA described its actions in directing its 5 million members to contact the ATF as “instrumental in stalling the Obama Administration’s initial attempt to ban commonly used ammunition.”

“This was a significant victory,” crowed Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said.

“We are delighted to have been a part of the effort to stop this proposal in its tracks,” said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation. But “We are encouraging the nation’s gun owners to remain vigilant. The Obama administration is not likely to abandon its gun control efforts.”

“This fight is not over,” agreed NRA Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre.


Does anyone else get the feeling that a familiar ritual is being re-enacted here? “We held them off this time, but the battle’s not over, send more money now”?

The BATF announces some plan to further erode our God-given, Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear every type of arm that could be of military usefulness. The various “gun rights” groups (which never actually seek to have a law like the Gun Control Act of 1968 thrown out as unconstitutional) race to the barricades. The BATF announces they will “hold off” or “delay” or “suspend” their latest effort to further disarm us. The “gun rights” groups declare victory and happily count all the new cash they raised during the latest “emergency.”

Yes, yes, lobbying and advertising and public relations cost money, and such fund-raising is perfectly legal. But the Founders were not frivolous men. They did not waste their time specifying that we should retain the right to ice-skate or play whist or go bowling. In order to convince the skeptics that the new, more powerful central government the Hamiltonians proposed could never erode our liberties (like, say, the right to travel around the country without showing some kind of “license” or “government-issued ID,”) they swore up and down that . . . well, let’s look at their own words:

In the Federalist No. 46, James Madison, primary author of the Constitution, assured us that any force of armed agents the federal government might field to enforce any unjust and unconstitutional enactment “would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands,” thanks to “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”

A militia limited to little target pistols?

Noah Webster promised that “The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”

A people armed with nothing but little squirrel rifles?

Tench Coxe, influential delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress of 1788-1789, wrote as “A Pennsylvanian”: “The powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? . . . Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American. . . . The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”

(Find all this in Stephen Halbrook’s fine 1984 book “That Every Man Be Armed.”)

Do you see anything in there about duck-hunting or target shooting or “sporting use”?

Look at the harm “gun control” has already done. Do you think the Muslims who attacked this country on Sept. 11, 2001, could have carried their disgusting schemes of mass murder to fruition if even 10 percent of the American passengers on those airliners had been “allowed” to carry onboard their concealed weapons of military usefulness — as would have been the case prior to the “Gun Control Act of 1968”?

Why should the U.S. public have to remain on constant alert, watching for all these attempts to further erode our basic constitutional rights, and then go to enormous trouble and expense to “delay” them? Aren’t these clowns supposed to work for us?

How come nobody at the ATF has been forced to resign for breaking their oaths? Or maybe tried for treason?


If the right of the people to keep and bear arms of military usefulness — like belt-fed machine guns and F-18 Hornets (remember, Brother Coxe promised the common “yeoman” would always retain “every terrible implement of the soldier”) -– all without such infringements as taxes and background checks -– had not been guaranteed in the Constitution, not enough states would have ratified, and the federal government as we know it would not exist . . . which would be a vast improvement, by the way.

(The main objection to the Articles of Confederation was they didn’t give the central government enough taxing power. All those who’d be willing to see today’s federal government shrink by 40 percent in exchange for no more income tax, ever again, raise your hands. Can I get someone to help me count, here?)

Why is the right “to keep and bear” arms guaranteed? Because “A well-regulated militia (is) necessary to the security of a free state.”

The Founders knew full well they were attempting to create something previously unheard-of — the world’s first free country, where the government’s powers were limited to those specifically delegated by the people. What would be the greatest danger to such a “free state”? Obviously, some would-be tyrant, foreign or domestic, sending swarms of agents (regardless of whether they chose to call them “soldiers” or “police”) to overthrow and eradicate our liberties.

What was their answer? A well-trained citizen militia, armed with “every terrible implement of the soldier.”

The National Guard is not such a citizen militia. It takes its orders from presidents and governors — top of the list of would-be tyrants. The citizen militia, in order to perform its prescribed role, must by definition be adequately armed to resist and defeat the National Guard.

To be able to perform our duty — which is to protect the security of this free state against would-be tyrants, foreign or domestic -– the militia of 2015 clearly need unobstructed access to RPGs and Surface-to-Air Missiles, flamethrowers, belt-fed machine guns, Claymore mines, and yes, armor-piercing ammunition. (Remember, Brother Coxe promised the common “yeoman” would always retain “every terrible implement of the soldier.” To argue “That only means stuff they had in 1787” is like arguing “freedom of the press” doesn’t apply to any newspaper not printed on a hand-cranked, 18th Century press, or to radio and TV journalism, at all -– or that freedom of religion doesn’t apply to Mormons, since Mormons hadn’t been invented in 1787, either.)

No federal employee or officer who has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution with its 2nd and 14th Amendments should be “interpreting” or “enforcing” the Gun Control Act of 1968, which purports to ban armor-piercing ammunition, or which purports to limit guns or ammunition to those suitable only for “sporting purposes.” To uphold those oaths, they are bound to ridicule any such enactment, to renounce it, to repeal it, to overrule it, to declare it unconstitutional, to throw it to the ground and piss all over it, to act as though it was invalid from the day of its inception . . . which it was.

As a matter of fact, since the BATF spends more than 90 percent of its time, budget, manpower and energy doing nothing but intentionally “infringing” the right of the people to keep and bear arms of military usefulness, it should be de-funded and closed immediately. That would be a victory.

Anything short of that is just a postponement of the day when we will hand over our children and grandchildren into the disarmed slavery of which every tyrant since Lincoln has eagerly dreamed.

Vin Suprynowicz, an award-winning 20-year former editorial writer for the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal, is the author of “Send in the Waco Killers,” “The Black Arrow,” and a series of new novels about the War on Drugs, starting with “The Testament of James” (2014) and the forthcoming “The Miskatonic Manuscript” (2015.)

6 Comments to “Going after the green-tip”

  1. Leslie Fish Says:

    People don’t realize that the NRA is *not* the premier defender of gun rights in the US. It is an always was primarily a sporting and instructive institution. The NRA really got backed into defending gun rights, primarily because of its size (over 4 million, at last count). As such, it makes a fine scapegoat for the hoplophobic crowd, drawing their attention away from the really effective groups — such as Gun Owners of America, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Ask any of those what they’re trying to do about rescinding the Gun Control Act of 1968, not the NRA.

  2. John Taylor Says:

    You are of course right (nay, understatedly polite) in excoriating the usual suspects of “gun rights”, including — especially — the 800 lb gorilla NRA.

    Those looking for a true gun rights organization might well consider examining the Zelman Partisans ( http://zelmanpartisans.com/ ). This hardy band of freedom fighters are striving mightily to keep alive the memory and mission of the late Aaron Zelman, founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO).

    JPFO more or less collapsed after Aaron’s death. Its self-appointed kaishakunin figuratively struck the death blow by absorbing JPFO into his existing “gun rights” organization (which shall remain nameless here out of sheer disrespect).

    The Zelman Partisans — many of whose names you might already know well — have taken up his banner. I’d strongly suggest that those of a mind to join a group consider it first. [DISCLAIMER: I am in no way currently professionally associated with nor paid by the Zelman Partisans.]

  3. Going after the green-tip | Pro 2nd Amendment Boycott – P2AB Says:

    […] https://vinsuprynowicz.com/?p=2494

  4. Bear Says:

    Leslie, I just don’t lurk in the right forums; this is the first I’ve seen much from you in while. Nice to see you. (You might recall a short story called “DJ” in Doing Freedom! e-magazine many years ago. [grin])

    The NRA didn’t get backed into RKBA. They jumped on it as a fundraising cash cow, going so far as to _write_ “assault weapon” bans (Columbus, OH) and to send its first rep in years to NH to kill a “constitutional carry” bill we finally had set to pass and be signed after years of work. Both cases were immediately hyped as situations the NRA needed more cash to fight.

    As for JPFO… As John says, it isn’t what it was under Aaron (disclainer: I’ve worked for JPFO under Aaron, opposed Bowtie Boy’s opportunistic buyout of the group, donated to The Zelman Partisans, and formally joined TZP as soon as I had the money.). JPFO lost one of its two top writers for censoring him; he simply wrote about another pro-RKBA person Gottlieb dislikes. Under BB, JPFO is already going the way of DRGO and KABA,which previously effectively destroyed.

  5. Mike the Knife Says:

    This article is brilliant. I have just “discovered” Vin’s work via a reprint in an old Backwoods Home Magazine on these Internets and am very impressed with his writing. As a Libertarian, Vin is understandably well read on our country’s historic origin and our rights and mission as applicable to the Constitution. I’m now going to check the man’s bio to see if I can gain insight into how and where he became so educated. Thanks, Vin.

  6. NotChuck Says:

    Much as I agree with you, “every terrible implement of the soldier” can be too expensive to purchase, operate, and maintain by the average “yeoman.” F-22’s require lots of fuel, a long runway (which in itself is expensive to build and maintain), and a few dozen specialists to fix the things that break. Furthermore, most of the “terrible implements” were developed by or at the direction of the central government, paid for by taxpayers who (at least in theory) had given permission to develop them for the “common defense.”

    However, at least until the 1930’s, many “terrible instruments” were offered for sale back to the yeomanry after the government had used them for a while and the cost of storage/refurbishment outweighed the potential for re-issue, even to the National Guard. That helped offset the initial cost of production/purchase, saving taxpayer money. But that was before “Progressives” took over, and saw yeomanry with weapons as an impediment to their agenda rather than a bulwark for freedom.

    In addition to the “Green Tip” outrage, another recent example is the U.S. Semiautomatic Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 “Garand.” Developed at the Springfield Armory (paid for by taxpayers), manufactured in the millions by national arsenals and defense contractors for purchase by the military (paid for by taxpayers) during WWII, Korea, and the first half of the Cold War, it was refurbished and loaned to our allies (at taxpayer expense). Now the Obama administration is prohibiting it from being repatriated, refurbished, and re-sold, even to the background-checked citizenry, for fear that rifles designed 79 years ago (an antique by any other standard) might “fall into the wrong hands,” i.e., the yeomanry, or those who still constitute the militia!