As we all know too well, the debate about gun violence has often been aggressive and polarizing with anti-gun violence advocates on one side of the debate, pro-gun advocates on the other. There are deep divisions in the country on the issue of gun safety, and the current debate on the gun immunity bill has thus far only served to highlight those divisions.Check the sleight-of-hand here. Hi-Vel does indeed sell "armor piercing" ammunition designed to penetrate steel. But police vests aren't made of steel. They are made of kevlar fiber. The police wear relatively soft, relatively flexible National Institute of Justice Class II, IIA or IIIA rated vests at best. These vests are designed to stop 9mm, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum handgun rounds, respectively. In order to stop any centerfire rifle round, "armor piercing" or not, would require moving up to the heavy, rigid Class III and Class IV vests worn by our military personnel. You'll remember the Class IV vests from the "embedded" journalists during the invasion of Iraq. They were those very heavy vests with the splatter-deflecting collars that looked so uncomfortable, like this one:
I believe, however, that there are still some principles on which we can all agree. One principle is that we should do everything we can to protect the lives and safety of police officers who are working to protect our streets, schools, and communities.
The amendment I am offering today is intended to close the existing loopholes in the Federal law that bans cop-killer bullets. Police officers depend on body armor for their lives. Body armor has saved thousands of police officers from death or serious injury by firearm assault. Most police officers who serve large jurisdictions wear armor at all times when on duty. Nevertheless, even with body armor, too many police officers remain vulnerable to gun violence.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, every year between 50 and 80 police officers are feloniously killed in the line of duty. In 2002, firearms were used in 51 of the 56 murders of police officers. In those shootings, 34 of the officers were wearing body armor at the time of their deaths. From 1992 to 2002, at least 20 police officers were killed after bullets penetrated their armor vests and entered their upper torso.
Some gun organizations have argued that cop-killer bullets are a myth. The families of these slain police officers know better. In fact, we know that armor-piercing ammunition is not a myth because it is openly and notoriously marketed and sold by gun dealers.
I direct my colleagues' attention to the Web site of Hi-Vel, Incorporated, a self-described exotic products distributor and manufacturer in Delta, UT. You can access its online catalog on the Internet right now. Hi-Vel's catalog lists an entry for armor-piercing ammunition. On that page you will find a listing for armor-piercing bullets that can penetrate metal objects. The bullets are available in packages of 10 for $9.95 each. Hi-Vel carries armor-piercing bullets for both the .223 caliber rifles such as the Bushmaster sniper rifle used in the Washington area attacks in October 2002, and the 7.62 caliber assault weapons. Over the past 10 years, these two caliber weapons were responsible for the deaths of 14 of the 20 law enforcement officers killed by ammunition that penetrated body armor.
But Senator Kennedy, like all gun control zealots, wants to convince you that it requires special "armor-piercing" ammunition to penetrate a soft Class II, IIA or IIIA police vest. He wants you to believe that the officers killed with .223 and 7.62mm so-called "assault weapons" were using ammunition like Hi-Vel's ammo, and not off the shelf standard hunting ammo or even more common military surplus full metal jacket rounds. He expects his listeners to be ignorant, and to believe what he doesn't say.
In a recent report, the ATF identified three, .223 and the 7.62 caliber rifles, as the ones most frequently encountered by police officers. These high-capacity rifles, the ATF wrote, pose an enhanced threat to law enforcement, in part because of their ability to expel particles at velocities that are capable of penetrating the type of soft body armor typically worn by law enforcement officers."Particles"? I think the Senator meant "projectiles." What he doesn't say is that any centerfire rifle "expels particles" at velocities high enough to penetrate soft body armor. That's why the National Institute of Justice classifies vests as it does. But the facts are just too inconvenient for the Senator.
Here's where he really goes off into the twilight zone, though:
Another rifle caliber, the 30.30 caliber, was responsible for penetrating three officers' armor and killing them in 1993, 1996, and 2002. This ammunition is also capable of puncturing light-armored vehicles, ballistic or armored glass, armored limousines, even a 600-pound safe with 600 pounds of safe armor plating.Say WHAT?
The .30-30 was introduced in 1895 as the .30 Winchester Centerfire, chambered in the "high-capacity assault weapon" of its day, the Winchester 1894 lever-action rifle. This is a '94 Winchester:
The .30-30, 150 grain bullet, 2200 feet per second.
The .308 Winchester (7.62NATO), 150 grain bullet, 2600 feet per second
The .30-06, 150 grain bullet, 2800 feet per second.
The .300 Winchester Magnum, 150 grain bullet, 3100 feet per second.
The .300 Remington UltraMag, 150 grain bullet, 3400 feet per second.
.30-378 Weatherby, 150 grain bullet, 3500 feet per second
Here's a picture to give you some idea of the cartridges.
From right to left, smallest to largest: .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Remington UltraMag, and the .30-378 Weatherby.
Remember, the lowly .30-30 is fast enough to penetrate a Class IIIA vest.
Yet Senator Kennedy doesn't want people to think that he's interested in banning hunting ammunition, just ammunition that can penetrate a soft police vest.
It is outrageous and unconscionable that such ammunition continues to be sold in the United States of America. Armor-piercing ammunition for rifles and assault weapons is virtually unregulated in the United States."Assault weapons" like the '94 Winchester.
A Federal license is not required to sell such ammunition unless firearms are sold as well. Anyone over the age of 18 may purchase this ammunition without a background check. There is no Federal minimum age of possession. Purchases may be made over the counter, by mail order, by fax, by Internet, and there is no Federal requirement that dealers retain sales records.Note all these things that the Senator wants: Background checks for ammunition sales. A minimum age for possession of rifle ammunition. Dealer record keeping for ammunition sales - a record keeping requirement that would convince most retailers that it was simply too much trouble to sell ammo.
And now he goes off on the current boogeyman, the evil .50BMG rifle:
In 1999, investigators for the General Accounting Office went undercover to assess the availability of .50 caliber armor-piercing ammunition. Purchasing cop-killer bullets, it turned out, is only slightly more difficult than buying a lottery ticket or a gallon of milk. Dealers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia informed the investigators that the purchase of these kinds of ammunition is subject to no Federal, State, or local restrictions. Dealers in Alaska, Nebraska, and Oregon who advertised over the Internet told an undercover agent that he could buy the ammunition in a matter of minutes, even after he said he wanted the bullets shipped to Washington, DC, and needed them to pierce an armored limousine or theoretically take down a helicopter. Talk about homeland security.The .50 BMG round, by virtue of its weight and velocity (750 grains at 2800 fps) will penetrate any body armor, and even if it didn't, that much kinetic energy would most probably kill a human being from mere shock. Kennedy has pulled a sleight-of-hand here - he's not talking about protecting officers in soft body armor any more, but he hasn't bothered to tell anybody.
In a single year, over 100,000 rounds of military surplus armor-piercing ammunition were sold to civilians in the United States.And there were how many officers shot through their vests and killed? Twenty, between 1992 and 2002, according to the Senator. That's two per year, versus one million rounds of "armor piercing" ammunition sold. And not one of those officers was killed with an "armor piercing" round. They were killed with standard, everyday centerfire rifle ammo.
And now he goes off on Smith & Wesson's horrible new .500 S&W Magnum, the new weapon designed, in his eyes, specifically to kill cops:
In addition, the gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, recently introduced a powerful new revolver, the .500 magnum, 4-1/2 pounds, 15 inches long, that clearly has the capability of piercing body armor using ammunition allowed under the current law.Well, it is bigger than the .44 Magnum, I'll give him that.
The publication, Gun Week, reviewed the new weapon with enthusiasm: "Behold the magic, feel the power," it wrote.Note the ad doesn't say:
Many of our leaders will buy the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum for the same reason that Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest: Because it is there.
Many of our leaders will buy the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum because it will penetrate body armor and kill cops.Teddy just hates it because people will want it, and the proles shouldn't own guns.
Current Federal law bans certain armor-piercing ammunition for handguns. It establishes a content-based standard. It covers ammunition that is, first of all, constructed from tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium, copper, or depleted uranium or, secondly, larger than .22 caliber with a jacket that weighs no more than 25 percent of the total weight of the bullet.Except you don't need "armor piercing" ammunition to penetrate "bulletproof" vests. Standard soft-point hunting ammo from a .30-30 will do the job, as Teddy pointed out.
However, there are no restrictions on ammunition that may be manufactured from other materials but can still penetrate body armor. Even more important, there are no restrictions on armor-piercing ammunition used in rifles and assault weapons. Armor-piercing ammunition has no purpose other than penetrating bulletproof vests. It is of no use for hunting or self-defense. Such armor-piercing ammunition has no place in our society--none.
Armor-piercing bullets that sidestep the Federal ban, such as that advertised on Hi-Vel's Web site, put the lives of American citizens and those sworn to defend American citizens in jeopardy every single day. We know the terrorists are now exploiting the weaknesses and loopholes in our gun laws. The terrorists training manual discovered by American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2001 advised al-Qaida operatives to buy assault weapons in the United States and use them against us.Just think what he could do with a .300 Magnum bolt-action rifle and some decent 168 grain match rounds. But Teddy doesn't want to take away sporting ammunition, right?
Terrorists are bent on exploiting weaknesses in our gun laws. Just think of what a terrorist could do with a sniper rifle and only a moderate supply of armor-piercing ammunition.
My amendment amends the Federal ban on cop-killer bullets to include a performance standard and extends the ban on centerfire rifles, which include the sniper rifles and assault weapons responsible for the deaths of 17 police officers whose body armor was penetrated by this ammunition.Except we "mainstream gun owners" understand that standard rifle ammo will immediately become a "loophole" because, by design or not, it can penetrate police vests.
My amendment will not apply to ammunition that is now routinely used in hunting rifles or other centerfire rifles. To the contrary, it only covers ammunition that is designed or marketed as having armor-piercing capability. That is it--designed or marketed as having armor-piercing capability, such as armor-piercing ammunition that is now advertised on the Hi-Vel Web site.
Bullets that are designed or marketed to be armor piercing have no place in our society. Ducks, deer, and other wildlife do not wear body armor. Police officers do. We should not let another day pass without plugging the loopholes in the Federal law that bans cop-killer bullets.
This is an issue on which mainstream gun owners and gun safety advocates can agree. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of this amendment.
And if the lowly .30-30 is "capable of puncturing light-armored vehicles, ballistic or armored glass, armored limousines, even a 600-pound safe with 600 pounds of safe armor plating" then we know he's going to go after our 7mm Magnums, our .30-06 bolt-actions, and every other centerfire rifle cartridge extant.
All he needs is an open door, and a law that the lawmakers "don't realize all that was in it."
A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.And Teddy's a prime example.
Henry Louis Mencken
UPDATE: As of August 6, 2013, due to the herculean efforts of reader John Hardin, the original JS-Kit/Echo comment thread for this post (read-only) is available here.