PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN ARMS ACT-MOTION TO PROCEED
Mr. KENNEDY. I ask the Chair to notify me when 15 minutes are up.
I hope we are not going to hear in the Senate more about States rights and the importance of local communities making local judgments; they are in touch with the local people; they know best what is in the interests of the protection of a local community; or that a State knows more than a Federal Government about how to protect its citizens.
Those arguments are out the window with the proposed amendment to the underlying legislation. The amendment we are talking about gives active-duty and retired police officers the right to carry any firearm on duty or off duty, notwithstanding any State or local gun safety laws, even if the officers' own department rules prohibit the carrying of such concealed firearms.
I know this is hoping too much, that our friends on the other side of the aisle will restrain themselves from making the argument we always hear in the Senate from the other side, pointing over here that the Federal Government always knows best.
There is a lot of knowledge at the local and State level. Let's respect that. That is thrown right out the window with this amendment. This amendment is overriding gun safety laws that are decided by the people in local communities, overriding State laws, overriding them pointblank no matter what the State has said. We are talking about concealable weapons that will be able to be carried by police officers or retired officers, as well.
It is opposed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Let me explain why. This amendment is a serious step in the wrong direction. It will undermine the safety of our communities and the safety of police officers by broadly overriding the State and local gun safety laws. It will also nullify the ability of police departments to enforce rules and policies on when and how their own officers can carry firearms. Because of the substantial danger the amendment poses to police officers and communities, it is vigorously opposed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
There is no precedent for what the supporters of this amendment intend to accomplish. Congress has never passed a law giving current and former State and local employees the right to carry weapons in violation of controlling State and local laws.
Congress has never passed a law interfering with the ability of State and local police chiefs to regulate their own officers carrying of firearms. Do we understand what this does? Congress has never passed a law interfering with the ability of the States or local police chiefs to regulate their own police officers carrying firearms. This amendment does. This overrides it.
Today, each State has the authority to decide what kind of concealed-carry law, if any, best fits the needs of the community. Each State makes its own judgment about whether private citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons or whether
on-duty or off-duty or retired police officers should be included or exempted in any prohibition. There is no evidence that States or local governments have failed to consider the interests and needs of law enforcement officers. No case has been made.
Consider, for example, the New Jersey law. In 1995, retired police chief John Deventer was shot and killed while heroically trying to stop a robbery. This incident prompted New Jersey to enact a law allowing retired officers to carry handguns under a number of different conditions. In drafting this law, the New Jersey Legislature made a deliberate effort to balance the safety of police officers with the safety of the public at large by including a number of important safeguards that are not contained in this amendment.
For example, New Jersey law is limited to handguns. This amendment is not. As long as the police officer is qualified to carry one type of gun, he can carry any type of gun, any type of concealable weapon. New Jersey law is limited to handguns. This amendment is not. New Jersey law has a maximum age of 70. This amendment does not. Under New Jersey law, retired police officers must file renewal applications yearly. There is no application process here. Under New Jersey, retirees must list all their guns. No such record is required under this amendment. New Jersey gives police departments discretion to deny permits to retirees. No such discretion is provided under this amendment.
By enacting this amendment, Congress will be gutting all of the safeguards contained in the New Jersey statute as well as the judgment of other States that have considered this issue.
The sponsors of this amendment have presented no evidence that States and local governments are unable or unwilling to decide these important issues for themselves. They have offered no explanation why Congress is better suited than States, cities, and towns to decide how best to protect police officers, schoolchildren, churchgoers, and other members of their communities.
Congress should bolster, not undermine, the efforts of States and local communities to protect their citizens from gun violence. In many States, cities, and towns, special places-churches, schools, bars, government offices, hospitals-are singled out as deserving special protection from the threat of gun violence.
Michigan is a State that prohibits concealed firearms in schools, sports arenas, bars, churches, and hospitals. Georgia law allows active and retired police officers to carry firearms in publicly owned buildings but not in churches, sports arenas, or places where alcohol is sold. Kentucky prohibits carrying concealed weapons in bars and schools. South Carolina prohibits concealed firearms in churches and hospitals.
This amendment will override most such safe harbor laws at the State level. It will override laws that categorically prohibit guns in churches and in other houses of worship since only laws that permit private entities to post signs prohibiting concealed firearms on their property will remain in force. In most States, churches are not currently required to post signs in order to have a gun-free zone.
This amendment will also override laws that prohibit concealed weapons in places where alcohol is served. This amendment will override State laws and local laws that prohibit carrying concealed weapons in places where alcohol is served.
Surely it is responsible for a State to prohibit people from bringing guns into bars, to prevent the extreme danger that results when liquor and firearms are together. It is no wonder that in the House of Representatives, Chairman Sensenbrenner has described this legislation as an affront to State sovereignty on the Constitution.
At the local level, this amendment overrides all gun safety laws without exception. In the 1990s, Boston, New York, and other cities made great strides in fighting against crime precisely because they were able to pass laws that address the factors that led to violence, including the prevalence of firearms in inner cities. As Congressman HENRY HYDE has said, the best decisions on fighting crime are made at the local level.
We saw extraordinary progress in my own State of Massachusetts. We went for 18 months without a homicide. We have strict gun laws in Massachusetts. We have very strict gun laws in the city of Boston. This legislation will override it. Not all of the progress was made just because of the laws, but it was a combination of a variety of different events a few years ago.
Tragically, we have seen an increase in homicide with the deterioration of the economy in the recent months and years.
By overriding all local gun safety laws, this amendment will undermine the ability of cities to fight crime. It will indiscriminately abrogate safe harbor laws in Boston, New York City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Chicago, Kansas City, and many other towns.
Congress has no business overriding the judgment of States and local governments in deciding where concealed weapons should be prohibited. Supporters have argued this amendment is needed because of the complex patchwork of Federal, State, and local concealed-carry laws which prevents officers from protecting themselves and their families from vindictive criminals.
They have distributed lists of officers or prison guards who were killed while off duty or in retirement. The stories of these slain men and women are tragic, and their killers deserve to be severely punished. But none-none-of these incidents involved officers who were killed outside their home State. They do not demonstrate a need for a Federal override of State and local gun safety laws.
To the contrary, as New Jersey's response to the tragic shooting of Chief Deventer shows, States and local governments are best equipped to implement policies, regulations, and laws that protect the safety of their own law enforcement officers, and also protect the public at large.
The supporters have also argued by authorizing officers to carry guns across State lines, in violation of whatever State and local gun safety laws would otherwise apply, they will be able to effectively respond to crimes and terrorist attacks. They apparently envisage a nationwide unregulated police force, consisting of retired officers and off-duty officers who are armed while on vacation or traveling outside their home jurisdictions.
Allowing off-duty or retired officers with concealed weapons to go into other jurisdictions will only make conditions more dangerous for police officers and civilians. As the executive director of the IACP has explained:
One of the reasons that this legislation is especially troubling to our nation's law enforcement executives is that it could in fact threaten the safety of police officers by creating tragic situations where officers from other jurisdictions are wounded or killed by the local officers. Police departments throughout the nation train their officers to respond as a team to dangerous situations.
This teamwork requires months of training to develop and provides the officers with an understanding of how their coworkers will respond when faced with different situations. Injecting an armed, unknown officer, who has received different training and is operating under different assumptions, can turn an already dangerous situation deadly.
This amendment neither promotes consistent training policies among different police jurisdictions nor limits the conditions under which officers may use their firearms. The idea that more crimes will be prevented when more concealed weapons are carried by untrained and unregulated out-of-State off-duty and retired officers is pure fiction.
It is important to note that in giving off-duty and retired police officers broad authority to nullify State and local gun safety laws, the amendment is not limited to the carrying of officers' authorized weapons. In most police departments, officers may seek authorization to carry a range of weapons. If an officer wants to carry a weapon other than his service weapon-typically, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol-he must prove he is qualified before the department will authorize him to carry it. To become qualified, the officer must demonstrate he can handle that weapon safely.
Rather than limiting its provisions to authorized weapons, this amendment provides as long as an officer at some point received authorization to carry a particular kind of firearm, such as his service weapon, he can carry, concealed, any other kind of firearm while off duty or retired, even if he never received authorization from his own police department to carry that other weapon.
In the 107th Congress, I introduced an amendment in committee providing an off-duty or retired officer could carry a concealed firearm only if he had been authorized to carry that firearm by the agency he works for, or if he had been so authorized at the time of his retirement. That amendment was rejected by an evenly divided vote, 9 to 9. Thus, the legislation now before us will give off-duty and retired officers carte blanche to carry concealed shotguns, sniper rifles, or other weapons their own police departments have not authorized them to carry. Its failure to limit this privilege to authorized police weapons-or even to handguns, as New Jersey law provides-will further undermine the safety of American communities.
Serious safety problems are also raised by the amendment's override of gun-safety laws for retired officers, a category that is defined to include anyone who has served in a law enforcement capacity for 15 years "in the aggregate" before retiring or resigning and taking a different job. There is no requirement that a retiree demonstrate a special need for a firearm. While the amendment provides that an officer must have technically left law enforcement in "good standing," it is well known that sub-par government employees are routinely released from their positions without a formal finding of misconduct. The amendment does not draw a distinction between officers who served ably and those who did not. Officers who retire in "good standing" while under investigation for domestic violence, racial profiling, excessive force, or substance abuse could still qualify for broad concealed-carry authority for the remainder of their lives. As the International Association of Chiefs of Police has observed:
This legislation fails to take into account those officers who have retired under threat of disciplinary action or dismissal for emotional problems that did not rise to the level of "mental instability." Officers who retire or quit just prior to a disciplinary or competency hearing may still be eligible for benefits and appear to have left the agency in good standing. Even a police officer who retires with exceptional skills today may be stricken with an illness or other problem that makes him or her unfit to carry a concealed weapon, but they will not be overseen by a police management structure that identifies such problems in current officers.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the amendment is its potential to undermine the effective and safe functioning of police departments throughout the country. It removes the ability of police departments to enforce rules and policies on when and how their own officers can carry firearms. Police chiefs will lose the authority to prohibit their own officers from carrying certain weapons on duty or off duty.
Section 2 of the amendment provides that regardless of "any other provision of the law of any State or any political subdivision thereof," any individual who qualifies as a law enforcement officer and who carries a photo ID will be authorized to carry any firearm. In a variety of contexts, including the Federal preemption of State law, courts have interpreted the term "law" to include agency rules and regulations. The Supreme Court has ruled this term specifically includes contractual obligations between employers and employees, such as work rules, policies, and practices promulgated by State and local police departments.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has consumed 15 minutes.
Mr. KENNEDY. As I discussed, there is no requirement in the amendment that active-duty officers be authorized to carry each
firearm that they wish to carry concealed. In other words, once an officer qualifies to carry a service weapon, he will have the right under this amendment to carry any gun, on duty or off duty-even if doing so violates his own police department's rules.
Thus, if Congress enacts this legislation, police chiefs will be stripped of their authority to tell their own officers, for example, that they cannot bring guns into bars while off duty; that they cannot carry their service weapons on vacation; or that they cannot carry certain shotguns, rifles, or handguns on the job.
As the International Association of Chiefs of Police stated in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, "under the provisions of [this legislation], police chiefs and local governments would lose the authority to regulate what type of firearms the officers they employ can carry even while they are on duty."
As a result, the legislation would effectively eliminate the ability of a police department to establish rules restricting the ability of officers to carry only department-authorized firearms while on duty. The prospect of officers carrying unauthorized firearms while on duty is very troubling to the IACP for several reasons.
First, an unauthorized weapon is unlikely to meet departmental standards. This in turn means that the officer will not have received approved departmental training in its use, and will not have qualified with the weapon under departmental regulations.
Carrying an unauthorized weapon thus presents a risk of injury to the officer, fellow officers, and citizens, for the weapon itself may be unsafe or otherwise unsuitable for police use, and the officer may not be sufficiently proficient with its use to avoid adverse consequences.
In addition to the risk of injury involved, the carrying of unauthorized weapons is a major source of police civil liability in the U.S. today. An officer who fires an unauthorized weapon in the line of duty risks civil liability for the officer and for the department, even though the shooting may have been otherwise legally justified. A number of civil-suit plaintiffs have contended that the mere fact that the weapon that caused the plaintiff's injury was unauthorized is, in itself, sufficient legal grounds for a finding of liability.
For these and other reasons, the IACP concluded that this amendment "has the potential to significantly and negatively impact the safety of our communities and our officers."
Law enforcement executives face extremely difficult challenges today. As crime rates have started to rise again and new concerns about domestic security have emerged, police chiefs are forced to do more with less. The weak economy has forced cities and states to cut back on funding for law enforcement. The administration has tried its best to eliminate federal funding for such critical programs as the COPS Universal-Hiring Program, the Byrne Grant program, and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program.
The last thing Congress should do now is enact legislation that expands the civil liability of police departments and nullifies the ability of police chiefs to regulate their own officers' use of firearms and to maintain discipline. By denying police chiefs the right to run their own departments, the amendment would deal a severe blow to common sense and public safety.
Each State and local government should be allowed to make its own judgment as to whether citizens and out-of-State visitors may carry concealed weapons, and whether active or retired law enforcement officers should be included in or exempted from any prohibition.
This amendment will unnecessarily damage the efforts of States and local governments to protect their citizens from gun violence. It will also expose States and local governments to unnecessary liability and nullify the ability of police chiefs to maintain discipline and control within their own departments.
The Nation will be better served if the Senate puts this misguided legislation aside and turns its attention to measures we know will reduce crime and enhance the safety of police officers and all Americans.
Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. A minute and a half.
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, the bottom line on this-we are going to have a chance to vote on this next Tuesday-is this is an action by Congress to override State-considered legislation and local legislation on how to protect their local communities.
Some States have made the judgment that they do not believe they ought to permit concealed weapons in bars and churches and other public places, such as in schools, because they do not want to have the proliferation of guns in schools, they do not want to have the proliferation of guns in bars, they do not believe concealed weapons ought to be in churches. The States and local communities have made that judgment in order to protect their local communities. But somehow we are deciding here in the Senate, on the basis of about an hour and 20 minutes of debate on this, that we are going to override the common good sense of States and local governments and say: We know best. If you are a police officer or retired officer, you can carry that concealed weapon, even though you are not trained to be able to use it or authorized to use it, into the bars, schools, and churches of this country. That makes no sense and is a contradiction of what the States and local communities do.
How much further do we have to go to kowtow to the National Rifle Association?
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
AMENDMENT NO. 2619
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I understand we have a half an hour; is that correct?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.
Mr. KENNEDY. I yield myself 15 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator wish to send the amendment to the desk?
Mr. KENNEDY. I believe the amendment is at the desk.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.
The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
The Senator from Massachusetts [Mr. KENNEDY] proposes an amendment numbered 2619.
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To expand the definition of armor piercing ammunition and to require the Attorney General to promulgate standards for the uniform testing of projectiles against body armor)
On page 11, after line 19, add the following:
SEC. 5. ARMOR PIERCING AMMUNITION.
(a) EXPANSION OF DEFINITION OF ARMOR PIERCING AMMUNITION.-Section 921(a)(17)(B) of title 18, United States
Code, is amended-
(1) in clause (i), by striking "or" at the end;
(2) in clause (ii), by striking the period at the end and inserting a semicolon; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
"(iii) a projectile that may be used in a handgun and that the Attorney General determines, pursuant to section 926(d), to be capable of penetrating body armor; or
"(iv) a projectile for a centerfire rifle, designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability, that the Attorney General determines, pursuant to section 926(d), to be more likely to penetrate body armor than standard ammunition of the same caliber.".
(b) DETERMINATION OF THE CAPABILITY OF PROJECTILES TO PENETRATE BODY ARMOR.-Section 926 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
"(d)(1) Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Attorney General shall promulgate standards for the uniform testing of projectiles against Body Armor Exemplar.
"(2) The standards promulgated pursuant to paragraph (1) shall take into account, among other factors, variations in performance that are related to the length of the barrel of the handgun or centerfire rifle from which the projectile is fired and the amount and kind of powder used to propel the projectile.
"(3) As used in paragraph (1), the term 'Body Armor Exemplar' means body armor that the Attorney General determines meets minimum standards for the protection of law enforcement officers.".
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I mentioned that there had been a homicide in Massachusetts recently, over 18 months. It was juvenile homicide. I ask that the Record be so corrected.
As we all know too well, the debate about gun violence has often been aggressive and polarizing with anti-gun violence advocates on one side of the debate, pro-gun advocates on the other. There are deep divisions in the country on the issue of gun safety, and the current debate on the gun immunity bill has thus far only served to highlight those divisions.
I believe, however, that there are still some principles on which we can all agree. One principle is that we should do everything we can to protect the lives and safety of police officers who are working to protect our streets, schools, and communities.
The amendment I am offering today is intended to close the existing loopholes in the Federal law that bans cop-killer bullets. Police officers depend on body armor for their lives. Body armor has saved thousands of police officers from death or serious injury by firearm assault. Most police officers who serve large jurisdictions wear armor at all times when on duty. Nevertheless, even with body armor, too many police officers remain vulnerable to gun violence.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, every year between 50 and 80 police officers are feloniously killed in the line of duty. In 2002, firearms were used in 51 of the 56 murders of police officers. In those shootings, 34 of the officers were wearing body armor at the time of their deaths. From 1992 to 2002, at least 20 police officers were killed after bullets penetrated their armor vests and entered their upper torso.
Some gun organizations have argued that cop-killer bullets are a myth. The families of these slain police officers know better. In fact, we know that armor-piercing ammunition is not a myth because it is openly and notoriously marketed and sold by gun dealers.
I direct my colleagues' attention to the Web site of Hi-Vel, Incorporated, a self-described exotic products distributor and manufacturer in Delta, UT. You can access its online catalog on the Internet right now. Hi-Vel's catalog lists an entry for armor-piercing ammunition. On that page you will find a listing for armor-piercing bullets that can penetrate metal objects. The bullets are available in packages of 10 for $9.95 each. Hi-Vel carries armor-piercing bullets for both the .223 caliber rifles such as the Bushmaster sniper rifle used in the Washington area attacks in October 2002, and the 7.62 caliber assault weapons. Over the past 10 years, these two caliber weapons were responsible for the deaths of 14 of the 20 law enforcement officers killed by ammunition that penetrated body armor.
In a recent report, the ATF identified three, .223 and the 7.62 caliber rifles, as the ones most frequently encountered by police officers. These high-capacity rifles, the ATF wrote, pose an enhanced threat to law enforcement, in part because of their ability to expel particles at velocities that are capable of penetrating the type of soft body armor typically worn by law enforcement officers.
Another rifle caliber, the 30.30 caliber, was responsible for penetrating three officers' armor and killing them in 1993, 1996, and 2002. This ammunition is also capable of puncturing light-armored vehicles, ballistic or armored glass, armored limousines, even a 600-pound safe with 600 pounds of safe armor plating.
It is outrageous and unconscionable that such ammunition continues to be sold in the United States of America. Armor-piercing ammunition for rifles and assault weapons is virtually unregulated in the United States. A Federal license is not required to sell such ammunition unless firearms are sold as well. Anyone over the age of 18 may purchase this ammunition without a background check. There is no Federal minimum age of possession. Purchases may be made over the counter, by mail order, by fax, by Internet, and there is no Federal requirement that dealers retain sales records.
In 1999, investigators for the General Accounting Office went undercover to assess the availability of .50 caliber armor-piercing ammunition. Purchasing cop-killer bullets, it turned out, is only slightly more difficult than buying a lottery ticket or a gallon of milk. Dealers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia informed the investigators that the purchase of these kinds of ammunition is subject to no Federal, State, or local restrictions. Dealers in Alaska, Nebraska, and Oregon who advertised over the Internet told an undercover agent that he could buy the ammunition in a matter of minutes, even after he said he wanted the bullets shipped to Washington, DC, and needed them to pierce an armored limousine or theoretically take down a helicopter. Talk about homeland security.
In a single year, over 100,000 rounds of military surplus armor-piercing ammunition were sold to civilians in the United States. In addition, the gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, recently introduced a powerful new revolver, the .500 magnum, 4½ pounds, 15 inches long, that clearly has the capability of piercing body armor using ammunition allowed under the current law.
The publication, Gun Week, reviewed the new weapon with enthusiasm: "Behold the magic, feel the power," it wrote.
Many of our leaders will buy the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum for the same reason that Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest: Because it is there.
Current Federal law bans certain armor-piercing ammunition for handguns. It establishes a content-based standard. It covers ammunition that is, first of all, constructed from tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium, copper, or depleted uranium or, secondly, larger than .22 caliber with a jacket that weighs no more than 25 percent of the total weight of the bullet.
However, there are no restrictions on ammunition that may be manufactured from other materials but can still penetrate body armor. Even more important, there are no restrictions on armor-piercing ammunition used in rifles and assault weapons. Armor-piercing ammunition has no purpose other than penetrating bulletproof vests. It is of no use for hunting or self-defense. Such armor-piercing ammunition has no place in our society-none.
Armor-piercing bullets that sidestep the Federal ban, such as that advertised on Hi-Vel's Web site, put the lives of American citizens and those sworn to defend American citizens in jeopardy every single day. We know the terrorists are now exploiting the weaknesses and loopholes in our gun laws. The terrorists training manual discovered by American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2001 advised al-Qaida operatives to buy assault weapons in the United States and use them against us.
Terrorists are bent on exploiting weaknesses in our gun laws. Just think of what a terrorist could do with a sniper rifle and only a moderate supply of armor-piercing ammunition.
My amendment amends the Federal ban on cop-killer bullets to include a performance standard and extends the ban on centerfire rifles, which include the sniper rifles and assault weapons responsible for the deaths of 17 police officers whose body armor was penetrated by this ammunition.
My amendment will not apply to ammunition that is now routinely used in hunting rifles or other centerfire rifles. To the contrary, it only covers ammunition that is designed or marketed as having armor-piercing capability. That is it-designed or marketed as having armor-piercing capability, such as armor-piercing ammunition that is now advertised on the Hi-Vel Web site.
Bullets that are designed or marketed to be armor piercing have no place in our society. Ducks, deer, and other wildlife do not wear body armor. Police officers do. We should not let another day pass without plugging the loopholes in the Federal law that bans cop-killer bullets.
This is an issue on which mainstream gun owners and gun safety advocates can agree. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of this amendment.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. CRAPO). Who yields time? The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, we have heard over the last few minutes what might appear, at first listening, to be alarming facts, figures, and statistics, but we all know that in any good debate the devil is in the details, and in the details of the Kennedy amendment are some hidden secrets that must be brought out so we can understand them.
Let me, first and foremost, read into the RECORD a letter from the president of the Fraternal Order of Police. The Senator has talked about cop-killer bullets and protecting cops on the beat, those who wear soft body armor. This is what Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, says in a letter to me that he has copied to Senator Frist, Senator Daschle, and to Senator Kennedy:
I am writing to advise you of our strong opposition to an amendment Senator Kennedy intends to offer later today-
In relation to the underlying amendment.
Senator Kennedy will certainly present his amendment as an "officer safety issue"-
And that is exactly what we have heard over the last good number of minutes-
to get dangerous "cop-killer" bullets-
And he talks about how dangerous they are off the shelf.
Regardless of its presentation, the amendment's actual aim and effect would be to expand the definition of "armor-piercing" to include ammunition based, not on any threat to law enforcement officers, but on a manufacturer's marketing strategy.
I do believe we saw that language on the Web site that he quoted-a strategy, a rhetorical expression as it relates to an encouragement to buy a given type of ammunition.
He goes on to say:
The truth of the matter is that only one law enforcement officer has been killed by a round fired from a handgun which penetrated his soft-body armor-and in that single instance, it was the body armor that failed to provide the expected ballistic protection, not because the round was "armor piercing."
It is our view that no expansion or revision of the current law is needed to protect law enforcement officers. To put it simply, this is not a genuine officer safety issue. If it were, Senator Kennedy would not be offering his amendment to a bill he strongly opposes and is working to defeat.
It sounds as if not only is the president of the Fraternal Order of Police talking about the facts, he is talking about some reasonable logic.
He goes on to say:
The real officer safety issue is the adoption of-
The amendment we just set aside-
the Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act.
That amendment deals with carrying a concealed weapon, to which I believe the Senator spoke in opposition, which would exempt active and retired law enforcement officers from local prohibitions for the right to carry concealed firearms.
Mr. Canterbury goes on:
The Kennedy amendment was considered and defeated by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March of 2003 on a 10-6 vote. We believe that it should be rejected again.
On behalf of more than 311,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I thank you for taking our views on this issue into consideration.
Here is the president of the National Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police saying that the Kennedy amendment is not what it is. What he is, in fact, saying is that the current armor-piercing, cop-killing bullet law in place is the kind of adequate protection they need.
I have made that letter available to all of our colleagues as we debate this issue.
What will the Kennedy amendment do? I think it is important for us to understand in reality the impact of expanding this kind of definition and understanding.
What it does-and I don't know that the Senator intends this purpose-is that it begins to eliminate ammunition that is used in a legitimate way for hunting. He is right, Bambi doesn't wear body armor. Bambi doesn't need to wear body armor. But in the legal sportsmen's industry and in hunting, here are some very common rifles: 30.30 Winchester, 30.06 Springfield, 308 Winchester, 300 Savage, 7 mm Remington, 270 Winchester, 257 Roberts, 253 Winchester, and 223 Remington, just to name a few. We believe based on our interpretation of the amendment that this kind of ammunition is eliminated.
What we also know is that there is ammunition out there used with a rifle that can pierce body armor. That is a fact. But the ammunition we are talking about that is traditionally known as the cop-killer bullet that is now outlawed in this country has nothing to do with the rifle. It had everything to do with the pistol, that weapon of choice by criminals in our country, and we know why.
Criminals do not walk down the street with a 30.06 over their shoulder. Somehow there is the visible factor that denies them the use of that rifle. They use handguns. They conceal them. They hide them on their person. They carry them in a package or in a carrying type of valise. They do not carry rifles. Yet the Senator's amendment goes directly at the hunting sports; it goes directly at hunting ammunition. This is why at the appropriate time when we have concluded the debate on the Senator's amendment, I will offer an alternative amendment under the unanimous consent agreement that we think reflects what ought to be done in relation to what the Senator is offering.
Let me also add that the most extensive study on this issue pursuant to a congressional mandate to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was a BATF draft report provided in 1997 to those individuals and organizations that had assisted in a BATF study of the issue of armor-piercing ammunition.
That study mandated, in response to President Clinton's repeated call, for a ban on bullets capable of penetrating soft body armor. Those Presidential statements rightfully concerned many in Congress who were aware that a performance-based ban, and that is what the Senator is offering, would outlaw the majority of rifle ammunition used for hunting and target shooting worldwide. That is just what I have spoken to. If that is the Senator's intent, then I wish he would address that. Clearly that is what we believe one begins to enter into when they deal with a performance-based standard. The 1997 study took an intelligent and honest approach to examining how best to protect the lives of law enforcement officers, recognizing the reality that between 1985 and 1994 no officer in the United States who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest died as a result of any round of ammunition having been fired from a handgun penetrating that officer's armor causing the primary lethal injuries.
The study instead focused on how to improve police training, both in teaching officers how to defeat snatches by criminals and to encourage officers to wear vests routinely. Legislatively, the 1997 study rightfully concluded that to prohibit any of these commonly used pistol, rifle, shotgun cartridges because they might defeat a level 1 bullet-resistant vest would create an unreasonable burden on the legitimate consumer of such cartridges.
Combined with the availability of sensible, defensive strategies, the existence of laws restricting the common availability of armor-piercing ammunition was clearly working to protect law enforcement officers, and no attempt to discard the existing law, in my opinion and many others, should be undertaken.
At the same time, because the existing laws are working, no additional legislation is necessary or required, certainly that that deals with performance-based standards, because one goes directly at ammunition used in target practice and in hunting. We do not believe, and I would hope the Senator from Massachusetts would agree, that is what we would intend to do.
In conclusion, what I am saying is the current law is adequate. This is not perfecting language. This is language to try to defeat the underlying bill, S. 1805. Obviously, the Senator has spoken openly against that. This is in no way a bill that improves the underlying bill itself and we think very questionably does it improve any existing Federal law. What it begins to do is what the sporting community and the legitimate owners of firearms have always been fearful of, that if the handgun or the rifle could not be controlled, the ammunition would be targeted and certain classes of ammunition would begin to be controlled and outlawed, and that is exactly what Senator Kennedy is attempting to do with this amendment.
I think it is obvious by my statement I will strongly oppose this, but I will offer-or I should say the majority leader will offer-an amendment finalizing the debate on Senator Kennedy's amendment that we think if there is reason to fine-tune the existing law, then we will offer that fine-tuning to make it extremely punitive for anyone who might use armor-piercing bullets that would strike a law enforcement officer in our country, or anyone else for that matter, that would result in injury or death.
I retain the remainder of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. KENNEDY. How much time do I have remaining?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Just under 19 minutes.
Mr. KENNEDY. I yield myself 7 minutes.
Mr. President, I read through the copy of the Fraternal Order of Police. As the Senator pointed out, the truth of the matter is only one law enforcement officer has been killed by a round fired from a handgun. We are not talking about ammunition in a handgun. We are talking about assault weapons and rifles, and I am talking about the FBI. Let's look at what the FBI says.
From 1992 to 2002, 20 law enforcement officers have been killed. Seventeen out of the 20 were killed with a rifle. That is what this amendment is about.
The Senator referred to the earlier bill we had on the law. I am the author of that. It took 5 years to get that passed. Five years it was opposed by the NRA. I do not doubt it probably is going to take 5 years to do something about armor-piercing bullets that can shoot through body armor, through a limousine, or bring down a helicopter. That is what we are talking about, 17 of the fatal shootings.
I ask unanimous consent that tables 10 and 36 of a document entitled "Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed by Firearms" be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Mr. KENNEDY. Seventeen of the fatal shootings were done by .223, .762, or 30.30 caliber rifles. Armor-piercing ammunition for these caliber rifles is widely advertised and available, and there are no restrictions at all on the deadly ammunition.
My amendment will not apply to the ammunition routinely used in the hunting rifles or other centerfire rifles. To the contrary, it covers only the ammunition that is designed to market bullets having armor-piercing capability. If that definition is not satisfactory to the Senator from Idaho, work with me over the weekend to get the right language that stops this, and he and I will offer a unanimous consent to be able to vote on that on the Senate floor. The Senator knows what we are driving at, the kind of armor-piercing bullets that can penetrate the vests our law enforcement officers are going to wear.
I know the Fraternal Order feels we are trying to slow this bill down. With all respect to them, I have been the author of the armor-piercing bullets for 20 years. I have put it on this. I will put it on something else. They will support us. The Senator from Idaho will support it. We will put it on the next bill that comes down here. They know that is not the issue.
As I have pointed out, we are talking about the kind that is being advertised on the Web site. Here it is for everyone to see. What in the world is the possible justification for armor-piercing ammunition being sold in the United States of America today when we have threats in terms of homeland security, and we are advertising armor-piercing bullets out of rifles and assault weapons that can penetrate armor and penetrate helicopters ought to be permitted in the United States of America? The Senator has not given an answer for it. I have not heard a good answer for it.
How does this infringe on the hunters in our country? What do we need an armor-piercing bullet for to go out and hunt deer? What is the reason for that? I still have not received any answer.
Oh, it is difficult to define. This is open to a lot of different interpretations. We do not quite know what this will cover.
We will work that out. We will work that out. That is not a good enough excuse. We are talking about the lives and deaths of these police officers, their families. We will be back again year after year. Make no mistake about it, this amendment is not going away. We are going to come back year after year, and those who are going to vote against it will have the opportunity to go back and explain it to the families of those brave law enforcement officers who are killed.
What is the justification for permitting that? What possible justification is there for permitting that? There is absolutely none.
This is the discussion the General Accounting Office had. It is a GAO study, which I will put in the RECORD. The whole section III of it is only 2½ pages. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
III. THE WIDESPREAD AVAILABILITY OF ARMOR PIERCING AMMUNITION IN THE CIVILIAN MARKET
As part of their investigation, GAO agents went undercover to assess the availability of armor piercing fifty caliber
ammunition. This investigation showed that military surplus ammunition is widely available.
First, GAO agents contacted weapons dealers in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. GAO found that these dealers were willing to sell armor piercing fifty caliber ammunition. According to GAO, the dealers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia informed the agent that purchasing these kinds of ammunition was not subject to any federal, state, or local restrictions. The dealers in Virginia told the agent that this specialized ammunition was illegal to sell or possess in that state. The dealer in Maryland said he would sell such ammunition only to Maryland residents. Although the investigator told the dealers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia that the investigator was a Virginia resident, none of the other dealers warned the agent about Virginia's restrictions.
An undercover GAO agent also telephoned several ammunition dealers that advertised specialized ammunition over the Internet. The agent called ammunition dealers in Alaska, Nebraska, and Oregon and recorded conversations in which he purported to be a customer interested in buying ammunition for shipment to Washington, D.C., or Virginia. The agent found that he could secure the purchase of specialized ammunition from any of the three dealers within a matter of minutes.
The dealers in Nebraska and Oregon stated that they could make the transaction when the agent faxed a copy of his driver's license with a signed statement that he was over 21 and was violating no federal, state, or local restrictions on the purchase. Although the agent said he was from Virginia, which bans this type of ammunition, neither dealer expressed reservations about selling the ammunition to a Virginia resident. According to the GAO investigator, the dealer in Alaska said he had 10,000 rounds of armor piercing ammunition and would sell the ammunition to the investigator. However, the Alaska dealer said the investigator would have to pick up the ammunition in Alaska because UPS Ground did not ship goods from Alaska to the lower 48 states.
The GAO investigator taped the conversations with the three ammunition dealers. These conversations reveal that the ammunition dealers employ an "ask no questions" approach. They were willing to sell military surplus ammunition without restriction even after the investigator said he wanted the ammunition shipped to his work address in Washington, D.C., and needed it to pierce an armored limousine or, theoretically, to "take down" a helicopter.
One of the dealers that GAO contacted was Cascade Ammo, in Roseburg, Oregon. Cascade Ammo is one of Talon's three largest civilian customers of refurbished military ammunition. Although this dealer initially expressed reservations about shipping armor piercing ammunition to Washington, D.C., the dealer ultimately agreed to allow the sale. When asked about the power of the ammunition, the Oregon dealer said he believed armor piercing ammunition would penetrate an armored limousine, as the following interchanges indicate:
Agent: I'm very much interested to making sure that these rounds can go through like, the bullet-proof glass. Do you think they'll go through bullet-proof glass?
Dealer: Well, in the old days, in the old [inaudible], they used 700 grains, 720 or something. But nowadays they use 660, so they're getting a little more velocity out of it. And, I just can't see glass standing up to that.
Agent: How about an armored limousine?
Dealer: Yeah, you're using it to test it?
Agent: Well, I . . .
Dealer: Because we have some people who are testing armored cars. Like 30-06 AP-rounds.
Agent: Well, I . . . these would be a lot . . . theoretically the .05 cal should be a lot stronger than a 30-06 . . .
Dealer: Right, right.
Dealer: Right . . . So it should go through.
Agent: Well, yeah, I guess you say testing against armored limousines . . . Yeah, I'll be testing against armored limousines. But, but it's gotta work.
The Oregon dealer also was confident the ammunition could "take down" a helicopter:
Agent: Right. And then, if I theoretically wanted to use these rounds to take down an aircraft, say either a helicopter or something like that, I should be able to take a helicopter down, shouldn't I?
Dealer: Yeah, they're not armored. They're not armored to a point that it would stop. If you look at, uh, a military helicopter that's been through, uh, like the ones that came back from Vietnam, they've got, uh, little plates of metal where they weld up the bullet holes. They just take a little piece of metal and they just weld over the bullet holes. It makes the guy, the next guy, feel more comfortable when he's in there.
Agent: I guess so.
Dealer: (laughing) You don't want to see a bullet hole in there.
Dealer: So, yeah, it'll go through any light stuff like that.
The final interchange with the Oregon dealer included the following passages:
Agent: Good. You know, I'm very happy to see that we'll be able to do business here, because, I'm a little bit concerned, because here on the East Coast when you go to buy ammunition-these large, heavy-duty .50 cal-they ask a lot of questions.
Agent: And I don't like people asking me questions why I want this ammunition.
Dealer: Well, see, they use them out here for hunting.
Agent: Um huh. Well, you could say I'm going to be using this for hunting also, but just hunting of a different kind.
Dealer: (laughing) As long as it's noth-nothing illegal.
Agent: Well, I wouldn't consider it illegal.
Dealer: Okay. Alright.
The conversations with the other ammunition dealers were similar. For example, the dealer in Nebraska assured the agent that this ammunition would go through metal, an armored limousine, and bullet-proof glass. Later in the conversation, the agent and the dealer discussed whether ordinary "sniper round" ammunition or specialized armor piercing incendiary ammunition would best meet the agent's need "to be using this against . . . an armored limousine and something with ballistic glass."
During the agent's other conversation, the dealer in Alaska claimed his armor piercing ammunition would "go through six inches of steel up to a 45 degree angle at a thousand yards." When the agent explained that it was very important for him to "defeat an armored-type vehicle," the dealer respond that "when them cattle carts come running down your drive, you'd better be able to stop it." The agent respond by saying, "Exactly, but you know, you can think who drives in armored limousines, that's why I'm going to need it someday, those people in armored limousines." Audio tapes of these conversations are available on Rep. Waxman's webpage.
Mr. KENNEDY. This is the part I want to read. They had discussions with different dealers, and we can go through some of those, but listen to what the Oregon dealer said. He was confident the ammunition could take a helicopter down. This is the agent from the GAO:
Right. And then, if I theoretically wanted to use these rounds-
Armor-piercing ammunition of this type-
to take down an aircraft, say either a helicopter or something like that, I should be able to take a helicopter down, shouldn't I?
Dealer: Yeah, they're not armored. They're not armored to a point that it would stop. . . .
Then it continues. These are the discussions with the dealers. They talk about how they can penetrate the armor plating on automobiles and how they can bring down helicopters, and we are talking about continuing to let them be sold unregulated in this country, over 100,000 rounds for it, and the result of which is we are seeing brave police officers wearing those armor-piercing vests killed.
What is the possible justification? Why are we so intimidated by the National Rifle Association that we are not willing to deal with armor-piercing bullets? That is it. That is it. We haven't heard the argument-and I would welcome it-how these kinds of bullets are necessary for hunting. I would love to hear that argument.
Oh, we need these. I remember when we first offered legislation on the cop-killer bullets in the Judiciary Committee we heard they are necessary because we want to be humane to the deer, and those bullets go on and kill the deer rather than wound it. That is what we heard. Cop-killer bullets. That was the answer we heard for 5 years before we finally got that passed.
I remember the time it passed. It was with the help and support of, actually, the Senator from South Carolina, Mr. Strom Thurmond. I remember it very clearly because I could not understand why we could not make progress. Now we know, with the new technology in this area, as we have seen in other areas, exactly what is happening. It is putting these police officers more and more at risk. That is why we are attempting to do this.
We hear from the Senator he is going to offer some kind of other substitute. Why not do the real thing? What are we going to have, armor-piercing bullets "lite"? So instead of 20 officers being killed there will only be 8? 12? Why not do the whole job? That is what this amendment will do. It will do something.
When this amendment is eventually accepted, and it eventually will be, they will be able to look on page 40, the list of the law enforcement officers killed from armor-piercing bullets, and it will be empty because we will have done something that will be meaningful. But I tell you, we are going to come back every single year. We are going to have the FBI, and those numbers are going to continue to go up and up, as they are going up, according to the FBI report, with no justification whatsoever for including these provisions.
I reserve the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, how much time is left on both sides?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The proponents of the amendment have 10 minutes 11 seconds, the opponents of the amendment have 18 minutes.
Mr. KENNEDY. If the Senator would like to agree, I would just as soon have each of us have a little time before we vote. I know the leadership has it tight, and I know it has been difficult to work, but I would rather take 3 or 4 minutes before we vote on Monday. But I don't know whether that is possible. I don't like to ask consent here. I welcome the opportunity to continue to discuss this, but I think we probably would have more involved in it later on.
I am instructed by the floor staff we will have a very brief time prior to the vote.