AGs Tell Biden to Block Sale of Lake City’s 5.56 Ammo to Civilians

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‘We ask the White House to ensure that future production contracts prohibit the sale of military weapons and ammunition to civilians’

New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multi-state coalition of 20 attorneys general calling on the Biden administration to halt the sale of 5.56 caliber ammunition to civilians by the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, a Missouri-based supplier for the U.S. military.

“Billions of rounds of military-grade ammunition manufactured at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant have been sold on the commercial market, leading to their use in many of the most tragic mass shootings in recent history,” the AGs stated in a Jan. 9 letter to the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. “We ask your Office to conduct an investigation into the contracting processes that led to this situation, and to take action to ensure that military-grade and military-subsidized ammunition stays out of civilian hands.”

The letter was signed by AGs from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. While many of these states have been enacting restrictions on firearms, others, including Arizona and Vermont, maintain a tradition of relatively permissive gun laws.

However, all signatories expressed their desire to restrict civilian access to ammunition commonly used in semi-automatic AR-15-style rifles, citing in their letter mass shootings in which the 5.56 caliber was used.

“Ammunition from Lake City is manufactured for military use and does not belong in our communities,” the AGs stated, “We ask the White House to ensure that future production contracts prohibit the sale of military weapons and ammunition to civilians.”

Gun Rights Group Disputes Claims

Advocates for firearms rights took issue with the arguments of Ms. James and her co-signers.

“This is another attempt by gun control advocates to chip away at the ability for law-abiding gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms,” Mark Oliva, public affairs director at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Epoch Times. “This attempt is especially dangerous because their goal of denying the sale of ammunition produced at Lake City would be detrimental to military readiness.” 

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AR-15-style rifles are the most popular type of rifle sold in the United States. Over the past three decades, the share of AR-15-style rifles rose from around 1 percent of all firearms produced to almost 25 percent by 2020. 
Over the past three decades, the proportion of AR-15-style rifles among all firearms produced has increased from around one percent to almost 25 percent by 2020.
Today, there are an estimated 20 million AR-15-style rifles owned by American civilians. While banning them has often been a goal of gun-control advocates, arguing that their removal will reduce gun violence, rifles were used in only 4 percent of U.S. gun deaths, according to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer. 
The Lake City plant has been a supplier to the U.S. military since it was established in 1940, as the first of 12 small arms plants supplying America’s armed forces. Today it occupies 3,935 acres and includes 375 buildings.

According to a press release from Ms. James, “the federal government has invested over $860 million to improve production at Lake City, meaning taxpayer funds are subsidizing production of these dangerous rounds sold to civilians.”

Lake City currently manufactures an estimated 30 percent of all 5.56 ammunition sold to the American public. It has traditionally sold its excess production to civilians as a way to keep its peacetime capacity at a sufficient level that it would not have to face staffing or equipment shortages during wartime.

“It was the Defense Department’s idea that ammunition produced in excess of defense contracts should be allowed for sale to the civilian market so that profits made from those sales could fund the necessary maintenance of tools and a skilled labor force to be able to flex and meet the demands of the Defense Department during a time of war,” Mr. Oliva said.

“Contrary to the false claims that the military subsidizes civilian ammunition sales, the sale of ammunition produced at Lake City reduces the cost to taxpayers because it ensures that the manufacturing capability remains ready to surge when needed and no extra tax dollars are required to replace idled equipment or rehire and retrain the skilled workers needed to ensure our military has the ammunition necessary to protect our nation.”

In addition to 5.56 rounds, many other calibers used by the military are also in civilian use, and comply with regulations set down by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

“Other calibers of ammunition commonly used for lawful purposes by civilian gun owners include 9mm, .308, .30-06, and 12 gauge shotgun cartridges, which are also used by the U.S. military,” Mr. Oliva said. These rounds are commonly used for hunting, target shooting, or self-defense.

“Despite unsubstantiated claims made by these attorneys general, calling Lake City ammunition ‘military-grade’ is an attempt to falsely label the ammunition for political purposes,” Mr. Oliva said.

The Epoch Times reached out to Ms. James’ office for comment, but there was no response at the time of publication.

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