July 2017

Way to Go, Judicial Watch!

Todd Woodard

Todd Woodard

You may have not heard about Judicial Watch (JW), a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that bedevils many different agencies with requests for information that said agencies would rather not share. They use what are called Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which is part of federal law, to pry out information that should be public. Usually, federal agencies thumb their bureaucratic noses at JW and don’t deliver squat, which then prompts JW to sue their sorry a***s. I admire what JW does generally, but I also like that they take on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in particular.

Recently, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against ATF seeking records of communications inside the agency when it was considering reclassifying certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing—and effectively banning it from civilian use.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00600)).

I very much want to see what the agency’s internal deliberations were when it was trying to get green-tip AR ammunition banned. Readers who want to check out the precise statutory definition of “armor-piercing ammunition” can find it in the U.S. Code at 18 U.S.C 921(a)(17), and then decide for yourselves if the Bureau’s push for this unnecessary action it attempted a couple of years ago had any merit. Quite a few members of Congress thought it did not.

judicial watch

In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director Todd Jones expressing their “serious concern” that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.” The letter asserted 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.”

At the time, Judicial Watch filed a March 9, 2015, FOIA request seeking information on the ammo-ban effort. So after the agency failed to respond for two years, JW sued BATFE, seeking “All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., ‘green tip’ AR-15) ammunition from the definition of ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition.”

Said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban. Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

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