As the National Rifle Association opens the doors to 70,000 gun enthusiasts in downtown Nashville this weekend, the short but intense dispute over M855 ammunition is exhibit A in the NRA’s convention theme that the federal government is a threat to Second Amendment rights, The Tennessean reports. The gun lobby collected thousands of comments from gun owners and prompted an outcry in Congress last month to defeat a regulatory proposal that would have banned the ammunition. Banners over the doors at the NRA’s annual convention say, “If they can ban one, they can ban them all,” next to a picture of a bullet piercing through a splatter of green paint. The M855 ammunition, also known as green tip, is used in the popular AR-15 rifle. “It is a rallying cry for our members,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker. “The banners say it all.”
The M855 is exempt from the 1986 Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, which prohibits the import, manufacture and distribution of “armor piercing ammunition” that can be used in a handgun. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has allowed the sale and production of the M855 ammunition because it had a “sporting purpose” and, until recently, could be fired only from rifles. The agency reconsidered the exemption because a new firearm — a semiautomatic pistol based on a shortened AR-15 rifle — could be used to fire the M855 and pierce the protective armor worn by law enforcement. The NRA and hundreds of members of Congress protested the move, and the proposal was withdrawn.