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The Regulation of Armor Piercing Bullets in the United States


TheRegulation of Armor Piercing Bullets in the United States


Guncontrol issues has been emerging in the United States. There has beenan out of control gun use in the country. According to the Centresfor Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI as cited by Porter(2013), the total number of deaths by firearms which includes theincidences of suicide, since 1968 reaches about 1.4 million. “Theannual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000deathsand climbing” (Porter, 2013). An increasing number of deaths isstill expected on the next years. Safety has been the Americanpeople’s concern in the recent decades. As a consequence, owning agun is seen as a way of having personal safety, thus, many Americanspossess their own guns. The issue on gun regulations has been widelydiscussed. The issue includes the right of the government to imposesuch control over gun owners. Citizens have the right to own theirpersonal guns for their own security thus, the regulation has been inquestion. At present, the Obama’s administration aims to reduce gunrelated violence and in order to succeed on such aim, regulation ofthe use of guns has been widely implemented.

Thereare several guns that is prohibited on the country. One of the mostpowerful guns are those which has armor piercing bullets. They can bein the form of rifles, pistols or shot guns. Its power thus is athreat if publicly possessed. Also, the possession of such bulletsrisks the safety of the public since it has been known to have nolegitimate sporting or recreational purpose. Therefore, regulation onits production, transport and possession will help in promoting thesafety of the public. Laws for such regulation, perhaps, will limitthe access of unsafe personalities to such powerful tools and as aconsequence, will also lessen armor piercing bullet related crimes.

Definitionof Armor Piercing Bullets

Armorpiercing bullet is defined by the United States Federal Law as “anyhandgun bullet or handgun ammunition with projectiles or projectilecores constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of othersubstances) from tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze,beryllium copper or depleted uranium, or fully jacketed bulletslarger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgunand whose jacket has a weight of more than twenty five percent (25 %)of the total weight of the projectile, and excluding those handgunprojectiles whose cores are composed of soft materials such as leador lead alloys, zinc or zinc alloys, frangible projectiles designedprimarily for sporting purposes, and any other projectiles orprojectile cores that the U. S. Secretary of the Treasury finds to beprimarily intended to be used for sporting purposes or industrialpurposes or that otherwise does not constitute ‘armor piercingammunition’ as that term is defined by federal law”. In layman’sterm, if the bullet of a gun is made up of the mentioned metals, itis considered an armor piercing bullet. For example, if the bullet ismade up of eighty percent (80 %) steel and twenty percent (20 %)lead, then, it is not considered an armor piercing bullet since leadis not mentioned among the list. However this is limited to theFederal Law definition. The Federal law is also limited to a onematerial of construction definition of an armor piercing bullet.Other states have their own definition of armor piercing ammunition.(Armor-piercingammunition, 1985)

Itis also defined by Dorneanu (2007) as “abullet that (almost) no armor or bulletproof vest can withstand.”Also, according to McGraw-HillScience &amp Technology Dictionary, an armor piercing bullet isabullet which has a durable metal core, a jacket, and a soft metalcovering. By the time the bullet hits the armor, the soft metalcovering and the jacket are immobile. On the other hand thearmor-piercing metal core endures to go forward and enters the armor(Nisbet, 2011).

Armor-piercingbullets, often known as metal-piercing bullets, are bullets that isintended mainly to infiltrate armor or metal. These bullets act thesame as any other full-metal jacketed bullet up until they come intocontact with the metal or armor (Canada’sNational Firearms Association, 2005). Thementioned metal or armor includes the body armor usually worn bypolice officials.&nbsp&nbspThus,this bullets are sometimes referred to as “cop killer bullets”.

Thearmy commonly use the term “armor piercing” to mean the bulletsthat has the ability of piercing armored vehicles. The gun menadopted the said terminology to label a bullet that is made oftoughened metals that can infiltrate a soft body armor. (Miller,2013)

Lawsregarding the ban/regulation of the armor piercing bullet

TheGun Control Act of 1968 of the Federal Law executed a sequences ofguidelines on bullet producers, sellers and buyers – together withdealer certifying and recordkeeping necessities, in addition to a banon administrative mail-order transactions – however majority ofthese requirements were revoked by the Congress in the year 1986 atthe request of the National Rifle Association (NRA).&nbsp Eventhough not any of the said provisions has been restructured byCongress, quite a few suggestions to control ammunition, whichincludes proposals which would involve background checking,enforce&nbsptaxes on bullets trades, or oblige vendors to report thetrade of a definite number of bullets to a sole buyer, have beenpresented for decades. This includes ammunition for shot guns,rifles, and pistols. (LawCenter to Prevent Gun Violence, 2013 Carter, 2013)

Thecurrent Federal Law prohibits the production, import, selling ortransport of armor piercing bullets. Exemption of these includes theproduction or importation for the use of the country or any of itssub-divisions, its production for export, and the import orproduction for testing purposes approved by the Secretary of theTreasury. The said ban was made into order since 1986 under PresidentRonald Reagan’s leadership. According to President Ronald Reagan,The said bill “recognizesthat certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting,recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited suchaction is long overdue.”According to him, the law has been strongly endorsed by numerous lawenforcement groups which includes theInternational Association of Chiefs of Police, National SheriffsAssociation, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, FraternalOrder of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association,National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, NationalAssociation of Police Organizations, National Troopers Coalition,National Black Police Association, Police Executive Research Forum,International Union of Police Associations, Police Foundation, theMajor City Chiefs, and Police Management Associations.(18 USC 992 (A) (7-8), 1986 Carter, 2013 Reagan, 1986)

Asearly as 1995, President Bill Clinton proposed a thorough ban onarmor piercing bullets despite their materials of construction sincethe current law only bans armor piercing bullet based on the weightand composition of the bullet itself. Clinton wants the set the basison the ability of the bullet “to pierce a standard bulletproofvest” (Purdum, 1995).

LastJanuary 2013, President Barack Obama pushed the lawmakers tolegislate stricter gun protocols. This includes Obama’s move inpushing the Congress to “criminalize possession of armor piercingbullet”. This move was triggered by the Sandy Elementary Schoolshooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 wherein twenty(20) children and six (6) staff members of the said school were shotand consequently died. (Mauriello, 2013 Spencer, 2013)

Thestates that prohibits armor piercing bullet production, transport,procurement, and/or possession are Texas, Rhode Island, Alabama,North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Florida, District ofColumbia, Illinois, Hawaii, Kansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, New Jersey,Nevada, Maine, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Michigan (LawCenter to Prevent Gun Violence, 2013).

Armorpiercing bullet uses

Armorpiercing bullets are intended for military or army use. The purposeof such bullets is for armor penetration since it has the ability topenetrate the enemy who is usually dressed with armor. The metal orarmor is usually worn by cops and also by military or army men. Thus,it should not be publicly possessed. Irresponsible usage of suchpowerful bullet can harm many, even the law enforcers.

ArmorPiercing bullet incidences

Amass murder occurred on July 18, 1984 on the McDonald’s of SanIsidro, California. James Huberty killed twenty one (21) people whichincludes five children and 19 adults. He possesses 192 rounds ofarmor piercing bullets. On 2012, a gunman shot and wounded fourBrooklyn policemen. He was stopped before he load another riflecontaining armor piercing bullets. If that occurred, the four copswould have died. These are just few of the armor piercing bulletrelated crimes. (Knight-RidderNewspapers, 1985 People Weekly, 1995 Celona,2012)

Thereare also incidences related to armor piercing bullets outside theUnited States. In Iran, fifty two (52) refugees were shot and killed.This massacre is known as the Camp Ashraf Massacre which happenedlast September 1, 2013. A hundred and twenty (120) armed individualsattacked Camp Ashraf. (Cotler, 2013)


TheUnited States of America has existing bans on armor piercing bulletsbut the ban is not an all-out ban thus, there is still a risk on theusage of such bullets. It has been also known that there are stilluncertain number of individuals who possess the pre-1986 bullets fromthe military, thus, there will always be a threat. Further regulationfor such possession should be done throughout the country forsecurity purposes. The government has the control on such regulation.

Therehas been no constraint on the trade of bullets in the in the country,except for armor piercing bullets, which is limited to the lawenforces, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco and Firearms, Ginger Colbrun, as cited by CBS News (2012).Therefore the spread of websites posing the demand for bullets isemerging. Thus, regulations must not be limited to armor piercing gunbut also to other harmful guns.


AdelinaHernandez: for a massacre victim`s mother, permanent pain. (1995).PeopleWeekly,4347.

Armor-piercingammunition : hearing before the Subcommittee on Criminal Law of theCommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-eighthCongress, second session, on S. 555, a bill to stop the proliferationof &quotcop-killer&quot bullets, March 7, 1984.(1985). Washington : U.S. G.P.O., 1985.

Carter,G. (2002). Gunsin American society: an encyclopedia of history, politics, culture,and the law. SantaBarbara, California.

Cotler,I. (2013). TheCamp Ashraf Massacres: A failure to protect. Retrieved April 17,2014, fromhttp://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/ashraf-liberty/15560-the-camp-ashraf-massacres-a-failure-to-protect

Mauriello,T. (2013, January 17). Obama puts gun control in spotlight.PittsburghPost-Gazette (PA).

Nisbet,L. (2001). Thegun control debate : you decide / edited by Lee Nisbet.Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2001.

Porter,H. (2013). American gun use is out of control. Shouldn`t the worldintervene? Retrieved April 17, 2014, fromhttp://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/21/american-gun-out-control-porter

Purdum,T. S. (1995, July). Clinton proposes complete ban on armor-piercingammunition. NewYork Times.7.

Spencer,L. (2013). New approach to gun violence. GoodMorning America (ABC),1.

LawCenter to Prevent Gun Violence. (2013). AmmunitionRegulation Policy Summary.Retrieved April 17, 2014, fromhttp://smartgunlaws.org/ammunition-regulation-policy-summary/

CBSNews. (2012). James Holmes built up Aurora arsenal of bullets,ballistic gear through unregulated online market. Retrieved April 17,2014, fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/james-holmes-built-up-aurora-arsenal-of-bullets-ballistic-gear-through-unregulated-online-market/

Celona,L. (2012). Maniac went for cop-killer bullets: police. RetrievedApril 17, 2014, fromhttp://nypost.com/2012/04/10/maniac-went-for-cop-killer-bullets-police/

Knight-RidderNewspapers. (1985).`Cop-killer`bullets focus of new fight. Retrieved April 17, 2014, fromhttp://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-05-29/news/8502030371_1_bulletproof-vests-import-and-sale-ammunitionTheAmerican Presidency Project. (n.d.). Ronald Reagan statement onsigning the bill to regulate armor piercing ammunition. RetrievedApril 17, 2014, from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=37785Canada’sNational Firearms Association. (2005). Armour piercing ammunition.Retrieved April 17, 2014, fromhttps://nfa.ca/armour-piercing-ammunition