Handgun owners face new bullet ban bill

Handgun owners face new bullet ban bill

House Democrats will introduce legislation this week that would block handguns from firing any sort of ammunition that can penetrate body armor worn by police officers.

The Modernize Law Enforcement Protection Act is expected to be introduced later this week by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

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“The Second Amendment does not give anyone the right to use a bullet that is specifically designed to pierce the protective gear worn by police officers,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who is co-sponsoring the bill, told The Hill. 

“The Second Amendment, which I support, had well intended 18th century protections, but we live in a world with 21st century criminals and increasingly lethal weapons,” he added.

Democrats are offering the legislation after the Obama administration backed down last week from a controversial plan to prohibit certain types of armor-piercing ammunition amid pressure from Republicans and gun rights groups. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had proposed to prohibit gun companies from manufacturing 5.56mm projectiles for M855 cartridges commonly used in AR-15 hunting rifles.

These bullets have traditionally been exempted from regulations that prohibit armor-piercing ammunition, because they are used primarily by hunters and sportsmen. But now that they can be used in high-powered handguns, critics say they are easier to conceal and pose a greater threat to police.

“An armor-piercing bullet in a concealable handgun is not for sport — unless the sport is shooting cops,” Israel said.

Republicans and gun rights groups suggested the ATF’s proposal was a “backdoor” ban on AR-15 hunting rifles that would open the door for more types of bullets to be banned.

“We’re not banning other bullets, we’re not banning guns, we’re not banning the Second Amendment,” Israel said.

This is the second piece of legislation Democrats have offered to revive the controversial bullet ban.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced the Armor Piercing Bullets Act last Friday.

But the Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act will ban even more forms of armor-piercing ammunition, said Israel, who held a press conference Monday in New York to tout the bill.

The bill would close loopholes in the current law, Democrats say.

Currently, the metals used to make a bullet are how regulators determine whether it is armor-piercing. But this bill would adjust the definition to any handgun bullet that can shoot through even the weakest body armor worn by police.

Therefore, the bullet ban legislation would encompass all forms of armor-piercing ammunition that can be used in handguns, even if the ammunition is also popular with hunters, Israel said.

“You don’t have to use an armor-piercing bullet in a hunting rifle,” Israel said. “That’s the point. There are other bullets you could use.”

The legislation was introduced in the previous Congress, but Israel said there is more “urgency” now that the ATF has backed down from its proposed bullet ban.

The immediate effect would be banning the same bullet the ATF was targeting.