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Washington report.

From Capitol Hill comes exceedingly good news for American gun owners, hunters and police: the long-running controversy over "KTW"--or armor-piercing ammunition erroneously called "Cop Killer Bullets" by the media--apparently has come to an end.

The issue goes back more than two years, when NBC television showed KTW ammo, which never was commercially distributed, being shot through a mannequin wearing a bullet-resistant vest. In Congress, Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-NY) introduced legislation which would have banned any bullet which, when fired from a handgun with a barrel length of 5 inches or less, could penetrate Kevlar, the ingredient used in most police soft body armor.

Pro-gun organizations, joined by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury, opposed the Biaggi bill because its definitions would have banned millions of conventional, sporting rounds. For instance, it was pointed out that the .30-30, now chambered for handguns as well as rifles, would have been outlawed under the Biaggi bill, as would calibers such as the .44 Magnum, .357 Herrett and others.

Although all the pro-gun organizations have a long history of support for America's police, they had to oppose legislation which, if enacted, would have forced their members to live under the threat of a national gun control nightmare. Police, many of whom themselves did not understand the technical difficulties with the Biaggi bill, often became antagonized by the progun groups' position, and a lot of unwarranted media attention that was being directed at this highly sensitive issue.

While the controversy continued, however, the Reagan Administration's ballistics experts kept up their efforts to arrive at a legally enforceable definition of armor-piercing ammunition, one which would not adversely affect law-abiding gun owners but which would punish any criminal who misused such ammo in a violent felony. The administration also agreed with progun organizations that any legislation drafted must not ban bullets, but rather control criminal behavior by dealing out hard and fast punishment to criminals.

For a while, things looked impossible. But this summer, after months and months of intensive efforts, the Treasury and Justice Departments came up with a viable plan: Rather than banning bullets, they proposed regulating the manufacture of certain materials, such as tungsten, beryllium and depleted uranium, which could be used in armor-piercing ammunition but which are not used in sporting ammo.

In Congress, Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX) and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) set about the formidable task of taking the Treasury-Justice concept and crafting it into workable legislation. They had to make sure that whatever they created would not hurt law-abiding gun owners in any way but would give the authorities a legislative vehicle to punish criminals.

That is exactly what they did.

The Thurmond-Brooks legislation (S. 2766 and H.R. 5845) would regulate the manufacture and importation of the bullets based on their physical composition. Specifically, it defines "armor-piercing" ammunition as "solid projectiles or projectile cores constructed from tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium." It specifically excludes shotgun shot or any ammunition "primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes."

Under the bill, manufacturers of such ammunition would be required to pay a $1,000 annual licensing fee, and distribution would be restricted in the future to military and police.

But--and this is crucial--there is no penalty for the mere possession of such ammo, only for the criminal possession or criminal misuse in connection with a violent felony.

It boils down to this: if by some remote chance you should possess a bullet made from these materials, you would not be subject to any penalty. You could use such ammunition to target shoot, to hunt where permissible by state game regulations (although I cannot think of any North American game on which such rounds would be desirable), or you could use it to defend your life and property under state deadly force statutes. But, anyone who uses the ammo in a violent felony could get an additional five years in the slammer!

Moreover, unlike the Biaggi bullet ban, the Secretary of the Treasury would not be allowed to outlaw bullets he felt were "armor-piercing." This Biaggi provision would have given the Treasury Department, under (heaven forbid) a Ted Kennedy or Jesse Jackson administration, authority to ban almost any cartridge they wanted. Under the Thurmond-Brooks proposal, the Treasury Department would specifically be prohibited from such an act.

Understandably, the Thurmond-Brooks legislation has overwhelming support from all concerned with the issue. It has been endorsed by all major police organizations, the National Rifle Association, and has been co-sponsored by (at this writing) nearly 80 Senators and 160 members of the House. With the backing of the Reagan Administration, the bill is expected to move swiftly through Congress and be signed into law.

Even though the armor-piercing ammunition controversy apparently has been resolved on the legislative front, that still does not excuse its very existence in the first place. There is no doubt in my mind that the "KTW" phenomenon was created by Biaggi to boost his own political career, and that the issue was irresponsibly publicized by anti-gun groups in order to drive a wedge between pro-gun organizations and their law enforcement allies.

The reports that surfaced on the armor-piercing ammo issue clearly jeopardized the safety of our police and showed the willingness of our media to sacrifice integrity and principles in favor of the quick and sexy story.

Whatever the cost in terms of public relations, it is imperative now that the issue be put behind us. Police and gun owners have been political friends for many, many years. All of us must recognize that those who created this dangerous KTW controversy are friends neither to the police, nor to gun owners.

It's time now to fight our common enemies--the gun control lobbies. They have never won an inch in their goal to ban firearms in this country and, if we work together, they never will.
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Title Annotation:armor piercing ammunition controversy
Author:Andrews, Reid
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1984
Words:982
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