THE BLOG

The NRA Wins Again on Armor-piercing Bullets, But Common Sense Was Already Lost

03/11/2015 08:54 am ET | Updated May 11, 2015
Scott Olson via Getty Images

A week before the ATF was going to stop receiving public comments about its proposal to ban so-called 'armor-piercing' ammo the agency shut down the whole process, announced they were going back to the drawing board and, at some later date not specified, would revisit the whole issue again. The ATF received more than 80,000 emails and if you think some of them came from the International Bible Holiness Movement or another of the frontline anti-gun violence groups, think again.

And if you don't believe the NRA isn't celebrating, you're wrong on that one, too. They immediately posted victory statements from Wayne and Chris, sent news releases out to ever-welcoming Fox which featured their next President, Rand Paul, speaking out against the ATF, and of course went out of their way to label the ATF decision as a "defeat" of their arch-enemy and all-time best gun salesman, a.k.a. Barack.

Any time the gunnies can push back the U.S. Government on a gun issue, they'll celebrate their victory as yet another step towards enshrining the 2nd Amendment as the unquestioned law of the land. By the same token, the gun-sense folks will bemoan yet another defeat at the hands of a seemingly all-powerful NRA and try to figure out how to keep this embarrassing loss from happening again.

I happen to think that both sides are barking up the wrong tree. Whether they know it or not, the ATF's decision to shelve its new armor-piercing guideline is actually a victory for all of us who want laws to be reasonable, responsible and fashioned to reflect both reality plus a dose of good old common sense. The Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act which created the whole issue of armor-piercing ammunition in the first place was a careless and thoughtless example of legislative stupidity that should never have been proposed, never passed and never signed into law. If the ATF's determination to step back from enforcing this statute turns it into a dead letter, nobody who's committed to government as a force to secure the common good should be at all upset.

The bill was originally introduced by Congressmen Jack Brooks of Texas and Mario Biaggi of New York. There were actually two separate pieces of legislation, the Brooks bill being somewhat less restrictive than Biaggi's measure, but they would ultimately be combined into one law that would eventually get through Congress and go to President Bush's desk in 1986. The bill had support from most of the national police associations and while the NRA cautioned against passage, the gun-rights group kept most of its powder dry for another day.

The law was passed by voice vote in both chambers so that none of our elected representatives had to go on record for supporting or opposing the measure, a cute compromise which also made it easy for the NRA to pretend it opposed the law even though some of the organization's most staunch supporters, such as Brooks, could appear to be pro-gun while actually voting for the bill. If you think that a non-recorded vote creates a little stench, you'll really have to hold your nose if you read the testimony about the issue that was given before the House Judiciary Committee in May, 1985.

It turns out that nobody knew how to define 'armor-piercing' ammunition and no serious testing was conducted to determine which types of ammunition should be covered by the law. Unable to define the what, why and how of ammunition that might penetrate a vest, the Committee relied on testimony from ex-cops like Mario Biaggi who wanted to outlaw all kinds of ammunition shot from handguns because people didn't normally use rifles to attack the police.

The serious testing and research that Congress should have demanded was never carried out and now all we have is a law that creates a good stink. The NRA should hardly be claiming a big victory nor should the other side be wallowing in defeat. We all lost on this one back in 1986.