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Niagara County Legislature: Bipartisan anger over Obama bullet ban

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Wed, Mar 4th 2015 12:15 pm
Legislator John Syracuse holds up a copy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' proposed ban on the sale of M855 5.56 mm bullets at the Niagara County Courthouse Tuesday night minutes after county lawmakers unanimously sponsored and passed a resolution condemning the proposed Obama administration executive action. He is flanked by the coauthors of the resolution opposing the bullet ban, Legislator Wm. Keith McNall (left) and Majority Leader Rick Updegrove.
Legislator John Syracuse holds up a copy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' proposed ban on the sale of M855 5.56 mm bullets at the Niagara County Courthouse Tuesday night minutes after county lawmakers unanimously sponsored and passed a resolution condemning the proposed Obama administration executive action. He is flanked by the coauthors of the resolution opposing the bullet ban, Legislator Wm. Keith McNall (left) and Majority Leader Rick Updegrove.

Lawmakers unanimous in denouncing executive action on ammo

By Christian W. Peck

Public Information Officer

Niagara County Public Information Office

In a rare show of bipartisan anger aimed at the Obama administration, Niagara County lawmakers came together Tuesday to unanimously sponsor and pass a resolution opposing planned "executive actions" that would outlaw one of the most commonly used rifle bullets.

Republican and Democrat county lawmakers, led by Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, perhaps the most ardent defender of the Second Amendment in county government, passed the resolution placing Niagara County squarely against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' proposed regulations that would outlaw a popular .223-caliber (5.56 mm) bullet used in what are commonly referred to as "varmint rifles."

County lawmakers took the rare step of encouraging Niagara County's congressional delegation to take any and all necessary steps to prevent the bullet ban from moving forward, ranging from legislation to block the proposed regulations to outright defunding of the ATF. The measure passed 15-0, with every single legislator joining as a sponsor. The resolution makes Niagara County one of the very first local governments in the country to go on the record against the proposed bullet ban.

"It was good to find common ground on this issue on both sides of the aisle," Syracuse said, noting he had spoken at length with Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, Saturday after gaining the backing of his fellow Republicans to proceed with the resolution. "There shouldn't be disagreement when the issue before us is Constitutional rights, and I'm grateful to my colleagues of both parties for taking this stand."

The proposed ATF rule change would regulate and ban the M855 bullet, a popular and widely available rifle round used by everyone from police to hunters. The 5.56 mm ammunition is a caliber used on popular bolt-action and auto-loading sport rifles used for target practice and controlling pests that threaten livestock, the aforementioned "varmints" that give the rifles their descriptive name.

"This whole issue is an affront, because it is an attempt by the Obama administration to bypass our elected representatives," said Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, who drafted the resolution with Syracuse. "Instead, unelected bureaucrats at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sought to change the rule without any real public debate. That's not what our system is supposed to be about."

Updegrove noted Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was leading congressional pushback on the proposed bullet ban, and had issued a letter to the ATF condemning the move.

"Rep. Goodlatte called this ban 'preposterous' today, and he's right," Updegrove said.

Syracuse said the new regulations arose out of the failure of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to gain traction in Congress to pass gun-control legislation that outlawed various firearms, and amounted to an effort to render such rifles useless instead.

"This is nothing more than a backdoor to gun control," Syracuse said. "The president and his minions are attempting to reclassify varmint rifle ammunition as armor-piercing handgun bullets."

Under the ATF's proposed rule change, the M855 bullets, which were clearly intended for use in rifles, would be classified as handgun bullets because of one extremely large weapon, billed as an "AR pistol," that fires the rifle rounds. The rule change would also term the bullets "armor-piercing" because, like virtually all rifle ammunition, they could penetrate a so-called "bullet-proof" vest.

Syracuse said, beyond his irritation with another attempt to subvert the Second Amendment, he was also troubled by the reality that gun control never actually achieves its claimed aims.

"We've seen this before, with the New York SAFE Act," Syracuse said. "New statistics out today show that, despite New York having the strictest gun control laws in the nation, New York City homicides are up this year."

Syracuse was echoing a statement issued Tuesday by New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King regarding the two-year-old New York gun ban: "Elected officials from the governor on down touted the supposed benefits to public safety the SAFE Act would bring. The gun control lobby followed them up with unsubstantiated claims a lazy media did not bother to investigate. Yet when the facts come out disproving their assertions, both the politicians and antigun lobbyists are silent."

"Gun control never actually succeeds in reducing crime," Syracuse said. "All it ever seems to reduce is freedom."

This touched on a point made by Legislator Wm. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, at the conclusion of Tuesday's Legislature meeting. McNall, who noted he has held a pistol permit since 1968, spoke in defense of gun owners who would be forced to contemplate either giving up their rifles or obtaining ammunition on the black market.

"The American people have always been free to buy and sell firearms. They have never been required to provide justification - although, if you asked most, they either do it to protect themselves, their families and their homes, or they do it to feed themselves and their families," McNall said. "The people walking into Johnson's Country Store (a popular Lockport sporting goods shop) and buying boxes of M855 ammunition, they're not hardened criminals. They're hunters, mostly. And target shooters. They're people who break clay pigeons at the Tonawandas Sportsmen's Club, not gang members.

"The Obama Administration wants to give them a choice: Obey an unjust law, or become criminals."

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