Impending "Armor-Piercing" Ammo Ban Bill
Undermines Argument to Ban "Green Tip" Rounds



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By Kurt Hofmann, March 19th 2015, 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives backed off from (for the moment) last week from their intent to ban M855 "green tip" ammunition, because of the threat it ostensibly poses to law enforcement officers (a "threat" that seems not to ever have materialized in the nearly 30 years of the ammo's availability on the civilian market), the anguished bleating of the gun ban zealots was long and loud.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence called it a "[v]ery disappointing decision"--language echoed by House Democrats, who added their contention that it is within BATFE Director B. Todd Jones' "existing authority" to go ahead with such bans. Congressman Eliot Engel, (D-NY) was in particularly high dudgeon:

"Armor piercing rounds like green tips should only be in the hands of military personnel or police officers, period. There is absolutely no compelling argument to be made for anyone else to have access to them," Congressman Engel said. "But the out of touch gun industry lobby is fighting tooth and nail to keep cop-killing ammunition [which seems not, in nearly 30 years, succeeded in killing a single cop] on the streets. We need to speak up on behalf of our police officers and say 'stop the madness.'"

Eliot Engel, (D-NY)

Engel introduced his bill to ban "armor piercing" ammunition last week, with H.R. 1358, the "Armor-Piercing Bullets Act." From the text of the bill, the intent seems to be to grant the BATFE the authority to do just want that agency wanted to, with the proposed M855 ban. The obvious question here would be, "If the BATFE already, as House Democrats claim, has statutory authority to implement such bans, why would Engel feel the need to introduce legislation granting that authority"? Engel also indicated that he would soon be once again introducing his perennial attempt to ban the FN Five-seveN and its ammo--another "cop-killer" with little if any history of "cop-killing" in the U.S.

Another of New York's congressional Democrats, Rep. Steve Israel, is even more incensed, going so far as to accuse the BATFE of "cowardice" for backing down on the ban:

In a statement issued from his New York office, Israel said, "The ATF's decision to cave to the gun lobby and allow life threatening armor-piercing bullets to remain on the streets is not only reckless, but cowardly."

Jackie Speier (D-CA)

Hmm . . . "reckless" and "cowardly"--now that's an unusual combination. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), with Rep. Israel cheering her on, today introduced yet another bill to ban so-called "armor-piercing ammunition, H.R. 1454, the "Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act." The text is not yet available, but the bill already has 16 co-sponsors (although one of them is the District of Columbia's Eleanor Holmes Norton, who does not have a vote). Presumably, the new bill will be substantially similar, if not identical, to Speier's H.R. 2566, introduced in the last Congressional session.

That bill would have banned ammunition not on the grounds of the metallic composition of the projectile, but on the actual ability of the projectile to defeat police body armor. Since nearly all modern centerfire rifle ammunition will do so easily, this would be an enormously wide-ranging ban. In fact, look at the language specifying how the ammunition's performance is to be gauged in determining whether or not the ammunition is "armor-piercing":

(b) Determination Of Capability Of Projectiles To Penetrate Body Armor.— (1) IN GENERAL.—Section 926 of such title is amended by adding at the end the following:

"(d)(1) The Attorney General, in consultation with Director of Operational Test and Evaluation of the Department of Defense, shall promulgate standards for the uniform testing of projectiles against the Body Armor Exemplar."

"(2) The standards promulgated under paragraph (1) shall take into account, among other factors, variations in performance that are related to the type of handgun used, the length of the barrel of the handgun, the amount and kind of powder used to propel the projectile, and the design of the projectile."

"(3) In paragraph (1), the term 'Body Armor Exemplar' means body armor that the Attorney General determines meets minimum standards for the protection of law enforcement officers.".

Notice that the legislation offers no guidance on what is to be the "Body Armor Exemplar." The Attorney General is to make that determination herself. What is to stop her from rejecting the Type IIIa soft body armor, worn by most cops, and capable of stopping such calibers as the .357 Sig and .44 Magnum, and instead using Type I. rated only for anemic .22 rimfire and .380 ACP rounds? What, indeed, is to stop her from designating a cop's polyester shirt as the "armor" that private citizens's handgun rounds must not be able to penetrate?

But a larger point is that in claiming that the current law--banning ammunition by virtue of its construction--is inadequate, because an infinitude of ammo not so constructed is equally capable of penetrating body armor, they are tacitly admitting what gun rights advocates have been saying since the attempt to ban the M855 came to light. That round has no special "armor piercing" capability. Reps. Israel and Speier must know this, but that did not stop them from railing against the decision to shelve the M855 ban proposal.

In the end, as I argued here in the recent past, in a free society, we the people must have the means of denying those who presume to govern us--and their enforcers--invulnerability against our wrath, and thus impunity for their abuses.

A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.

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