WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) -- After public backlash to a proposal two weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Tuesday stepped away from a proposal to outlaw the sale of armor-piercing 5.56mm ammunition.
Last month, the ATF issued a 17-page report detailing the framework for the bullet's exemption from the Gun Control Act of 1968. The ammunition until relatively recently has strictly been available for use in semiautomatic assault rifles. New handguns capable of firing the round, however, changed the bureau's opinion regarding the legitimacy of the bullets' "sporting" interest.
Current federal law prohibits the import, manufacture and distribution of armor-piercing ammunition, though certain projectiles are exempted from the ban when there is a "sporting" interest.
After announcing the proposal to change the bullet's exemption status, the bureau solicited public opinion on the matter. Tuesday, in a two-paragraph news release, the agency said it will "not at this time seek to issue a final framework" for the ban -- due to the largely critical response from the public.
"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 vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework," the bureau said, adding that some of the comments raised issues that warrant further examination.
In announcing the decision Tuesday, the ATF tweeted, "You spoke, we listened."
Despite the fact that it won't move further with the proposed ban, the ATF said it will continue to receive public comment on the matter until March 16.
Last week, an executive of the nation's largest police organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, said the ban would do little to protect law enforcement -- the ATF's stated goal with the ban -- because the steel-tipped 5.56mm ammunition has never been a bullet popular among criminals in the first place.
Other critics, including conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, pointed the finger at President Barack Obama -- accusing his administration of attempting to outlaw AR-15 assault rifles by making their required ammunition unavailable.