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Art & Culture

various essays on, well, art and culture

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Personal Essays

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Bush's Open Invitation to Bin Laden
Deserving Better
A Taxing Question
Three Things
Real Americans
Republicans for Voldemort
Please, Colin
Composite Bullets


observations on the human condition


take a trip with me

Published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, circa 1993

Composite Bullets

So, the issue of cop-killer bullets has come up again.  No, the ban on Teflon-coated bullets imposed in the 1980's is still in effect.  But some manufacturers of ammunition think that they have found a way around the ban, using alternative materials to make a new generation of armor-piercing bullets.  This has caused enough concern that President Clinton has asked for legislation to close these loopholes.

Similar legislation was recently considered by the House Judiciary Committee.  Initially, the legislation passed, and the performance of bullets rather than the specific materials used to make the bullets would be the relevant criteria.  Simply, those bullets that could penetrate modern body armor would be banned.  But NRA lobbyists got to two key Committee members, changed their minds, and their votes.  The day after the initial vote, the House Judiciary Committee voted 16-14 to 'study the issue,' thereby effectively shelving the ban for the foreseeable future.

My dad was a cop in University City.  He was killed while investigating a burglary in 1969, before the first generation of modern body armor became widely available.  A bullet-proof vest would probably have saved his life.

Body armor has saved a lot of lives in the law-enforcement community since 1969.  It has saved a lot of destroyed families.  It has given a lot of fathers a second chance to see their kids grow, something my father never had.  Bullet-proof vests aren't perfect, but in some situations they literally mean the difference between life and death.  These new bullets would change that.

Why does the NRA leadership want to keep this new generation of composite bullets available?  Do they hate cops?  I don't think so.  But listen to the rhetoric coming from the NRA leadership on this issue, and on other issues, and maybe you can see a reason.  That reason is paranoia.

A strong element in the NRA today is pretty far out in right field, and they really do fear that the government is abusing its authority.  To this group, having the firepower to intimidate FBI and ATF agents is equivalent to having their freedom.  And that means that they want bigger and better guns and bullets.  Guns and bullets that will negate modern body armor, that will take away that second chance.  They want those bullets widely available so that FBI and ATF agents that they characterize as 'jack-booted thugs' will be vulnerable.  Not everyone is as good a shot as G. Gordon Liddy, after all.

But while the NRA and militias worry and get all worked up about the abuses of the ATF, about 'black helicopters', and far-flung conspiracies, there's already a war in our streets.  More criminals are carrying more powerful guns as gangs fight for control of the drug trade.  And they have no qualms about shooting cops who get in their way.  It's cops on patrol who will be facing armor-piercing bullets on a daily basis.  By making these new bullets widely available, the average cop on the street will be more vulnerable.  They are the people facing those guns, doing their level best to keep the killing to a minimum without getting themselves killed.

Sure enough, if these new bullets are not outlawed, the outlaws will have them.  And the efforts of the NRA and those Judiciary Committee members who voted to 'study' the issue of cop-killer bullets will result in more grieving families, fewer second chances.

President Clinton was right to ask for legislation to close the loophole in the ban on cop-killer bullets.  The Republican members of Congress should stop bowing to the radical NRA leadership, and do something to support the honest public servants who are fighting the war in our streets.

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