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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Administration Attempts Unilateral Gun Control

March 16, 2015
Weekly Columns

Sometimes referred to as the guarantor of the rest of our constitutional rights, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution has rightly remained a fundamental freedom in American society. While we have come a long way as a nation and certainly look different today than our first years, it doesn’t erase or change the importance of “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” For even the most fundamental freedoms must be looked after in order to preserve American liberty for future generations. 

Without question, most Americans understand that guns are tools that must be used responsibly. Whether used for personal and home protection purposes, or for hunting and recreational shooting, responsible use of firearms has been a valued part of our Oklahoma heritage since before statehood. 

As many Americans are aware, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced changes last month to its framework for sporting ammunition, which included a rule that would effectively ban M855 “green tip” ammo used in the AR-15 rifle. Not only is that bullet one of the most common for that rifle, but it’s been available to law-abiding citizens on the civilian market and primarily used for sporting purposes for more than 30 years. 

The proposed framework supposedly stemmed from reconsideration of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) of 1986, which sought to protect police officers from “armor piercing” ammunition. When it was originally authored, however, LEOPA included an exemption for such bullets if used in common rifles since handguns were seen as more likely to be acquired or used by criminals in assaults. Because rifles are primarily used for sporting purposes, like hunting or target shooting, the M855 ammo was not viewed as a reasonable risk to the lives of law enforcement. Additionally, when the new framework was unveiled, no circumstances were cited nor evidence given to support the case for a ban. Instead, it appeared that the framework was an attempt by the Administration to limit freedom and punish law-abiding citizens. 

This illegal assault on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans was justifiably met with cries of outrage. Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress echoed the voices of the people and swiftly demanded a check on the president’s latest executive overreach. In addition to more than 80,000 mostly-critical public comments, ATF received a letter of concern and opposition that I signed as part of a group of 238 House members led by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Similarly, 52 Senators led by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley also sent a letter questioning the validity and constitutionality of the Administration’s action. 

Before a month passed after the framework’s introduction, the Administration’s unilateral attempt at gun control was met with enough public outrage that ATF announced it would rethink the framework and halt implementation until further notice. Even though ATF has withdrawn its plan, I remain deeply troubled by the president’s habit of acting alone—and in contradiction to both existing law and the Constitution he swore an oath to uphold. The language of the Second Amendment is clear and unambiguous, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The president’s inability to grasp this concept reflects either a fundamental lack of understanding of one of our country’s most important founding documents or an utter disregard for its role in American society. In either case, it’s a damning indictment of his ongoing disregard for the ways and customs that have made this country exceptional.