My friend Ryan Peterson and I were having a discussion about civil rights recently, and some Second Amendment issues came up. Ryan mentioned that he could not understand why the NRA would be against banning armor-piercing bullets. I wasn't surprised by this as liberals have generally been in favor of various gun control schemes, including assault weapons bans and bans on armor-piercing ammunition in the past. This anti-gun sentiment was especially prevalent in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration, which is the setting for our armor-piercing ammo dilemma.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton said "[if] a bullet can rip through a bulletproof vest like a knife through hot butter, then ... we should ban it." This kicked off a campaign by the Democrats to have any bullet that can pass through a police officer's vest banned. On the argument's face, this sounds reasonable, but the problem arises from misconceptions about what bulletproof vests and bullets can and can't do. As always, a little knowledge can help us figure out this issue.
First, the term "bulletproof vest" is pure Hollywood and political b.s. No vest is bulletproof. Police and military personnel typically refer to it as "body armor," which is more accurate. Like a knight's armor in the Middle Ages, which could deflect a sword blow yet was vulnerable to arrows or a spear thrust, today's body armor is also resistant to certain types of attacks but vulnerable to others.
The body armor police officers wear is made up of Kevlar or a similar material. Kevlar is a type of thread with a high tensile strength, woven into a sheet of fabric with an extremely tight weave. To make a vest, layers of the fabric are stacked on top of each other and each vest contains at least a couple dozen layers. The Kevlar stops bullets essentially by acting as a really tough net, catching the bullet as it passes through.
Being merely fabric and not magic, Kevlar is vulnerable to projectiles of certain velocities and shapes. Logically, high velocity bullets with a more pointed design will penetrate Kevlar easier than slower bullets with blunted noses. Herein lies the problem: Pretty much any common rifle round intended for hunting or target shooting will punch through soft body armor like Clinton's "knife through hot butter." Handgun bullets, on the other hand, are typically stopped cold by soft body armor.
Democrats call bullets that defeat body armor "cop killer bullets." Sounds terrible and scary, right? But that's the problem. Democrats replaced reason with fear and asserted in fact and reality that every hunting and target rifle, including grandpappy's rusty old gun collecting dust in dad's closet, is a cop-killing machine. Now, arguments against hunting aside, if that sounds absolutely absurd to you, that's because it is.
The NRA opposed Democrats' cries to ban armor-piercing ammo because darn near every rifle cartridge in existence would have fallen under the proposed ban. If Democrats had gotten their way, they would have made essentially all ammo used for legitimate, non-cop killing, purposes illegal. Even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agreed that the Democrats' definition was far too vague and encompassing.
Liberals always allege the other side won't compromise, but that's precisely what the NRA did. The NRA worked with Democrats to refine their definition of armor-piercing ammo, resulting in a portion of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that outlawed the sale of ammo specifically designed for barrier penetration, which is standing law today. Therefore the NRA's opposition wasn't aimed at defending any and all types of ammo as liberals claim, but rather ensuring that law-abiding citizens weren't turned into outlaws by an ignorant, gun hating, fear-fueled stroke of Bill Clinton's pen.
This is the sort of thing conservatives get mad at liberals for. This is a case of Democrats creating a horrible-sounding label ("cop-killer bullets"), falsely applying it to a legitimate thing to get it banned out of fear, then demonizing anyone who opposes the scam as horrible people because they must want cops to get killed. What's worse is the media that eats it up and regurgitates it back to an ignorant public who depends on said media for information to form reasoned opinions. Regardless of one's political ideology or position on guns, everyone should be upset that our legislators and media treat us like idiots and try to purposely manipulate us.