The White House claim that the ammunition for the popular AR-15 rifle should be banned as part of a "common sense" effort to protect police officers' lives is being derided by police officers themselves as a shameful lie.
Advertisement - story continues below
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said this week that the .223-caliber M855 ball should be banned because it can penetrate an officer's soft armor and can be fired not just from sporting rifles but "easily concealable weapons."
The term "easily concealable" was used to describe the AR-15 handgun. A bulky 6 pounds and 25 inches long, the semi-automatic version of this weapon, with a magazine, would be difficult to conceal, say firearms experts. And it would likely not be the first choice of any street thug or gang member, as it retails for between $1,000 and $2,000.
In fact, gun-rights advocates and law enforcement agencies contacted by WND say they have been unable to document a single incident in which a police officer has been taken down by a criminal using an AR-15 handgun in the 20 years since this particular round, the M855 ball, has been exempted from the federal ban on armor-piercing bullets. It was exempted based on its use for sporting purposes.
"We have not been able to find a single instance where a police officer has been shot from this type of handgun using a bullet that pierces his soft-body armor, and if the administration had any examples you know they would be pushing it in everybody's face to further their executive action," said Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. "We've scoured everywhere, gone into every source possible to try to find an instance of this and have not been able to find one."
Advertisement - story continues below
So Earnest's comments only further infuriated gun owners who were already seeing red over the possibility of losing access to some of the most common ballistics used for sport-target shooting and hunting.
WND polled several large police agencies, looking for evidence that vest-wearing officers have been killed or seriously wounded by this particular form of ammunition fired from a handgun, only to come up empty.
"Not in my jurisdiction," said Sheriff David Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. "We're doing a search nationwide to see if there's any data that exists as proof of this comment coming out of the White House, but so far we haven't found anything."
Clarke said he was skeptical that the White House was really concerned about officer safety.
"I'm disgusted that this administration would use the safety and well-being of our nation's law enforcement officers to accomplish their gun-control agenda by circumventing the Congress and circumventing the Constitution in rewriting this law," he said. "That's all this is. They don’t fool me. No fraternal order of police, no sheriff is going to fall for this."
Advertisement - story continues below
Sgt. Dana Pierce, public-information officer for the Cobb County, Georgia, police department, one of the largest metro Atlanta police agencies, was equally baffled by the need to ban the M855 ball on the basis of protecting officer safety.
In his 34 years in law enforcement, Pierce said he's never heard of any officer being shot at, or even threatened, by a criminal wielding an AR-15 handgun.
But just to make sure, he checked with the officer in charge of weapons training and weapons collection at his department.
"I haven't seen any, so I called our training range and asked, 'In all fairness, has anyone ever taken one of those (AR-15 handguns) off the street?' The lieutenant there who runs the range said no," Pierce told WND. "Any time a weapon like that would be used against an officer, there would be an officer-safety bulletin go out, and the range would be notified. If there was a situation where either they took one of these off the streets or an officer had been threatened with one of these weapons, we would immediately launch an internal memo, and we have never had any of those go out to my knowledge. So for Cobb County police, at this moment, this is not something we are so concerned about."
Advertisement - story continues below
A test of Congress' will?
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, also broached the issue during last week's CPAC convention.
"This is a blatant overreach. Apparently he thinks he can do whatever he wants," Cox said of Obama. "He can completely do an end-run around Congress. This ammunition was exempted 20 years ago. In 20 years, no .223 round has been used in a crime fired from a handgun platform to kill a police officer, or that penetrated a vest.
"So again, it's not just a solution in search of a problem. It's a solution to their gun-control problem. And that's what they're using this for."
Watch entire interview with Chris Cox of NRA below:
Clarke said the real purpose of the ban is clear to him.
"This is nothing more than raw gun control. You ban a bullet, and you basically ban the gun that uses that bullet," Clarke said. "It's typical of the lawlessness coming out of this administration."
Even if the AR-15 handgun were a threat to officers' safety, Clarke said the logic behind the Obama administration's strategy is questionable.
"We all want to do what we can to protect our law enforcement officers, but every time an officer is unfortunately killed in a tragic incident, banning whatever gun was used is not a good strategy," he said. "I don't know what that is going to accomplish.
"Officers are killed in auto accidents all the time. We don’t talk about banning automobiles," Clarke added. "No, officers have never asked the White House for this. If they were interested in protecting officers, they wouldn't blame the gun. They would blame the career criminal."
Clarke sees the White House talking points as playing upon the emotions of people who may not know the facts.
"It's no different than how some groups use grieving parents to try to advance their gun-control agenda whenever there is a tragic shooting," he said. "Don’t try to advance your gun-control agenda on the backs of law enforcement officers. If I thought there was some kind of validity to this, I would get behind it. But I know what it is. This is pure, naked gun control.
"It doesn’t take a lot to see right through this thinly veiled attempt at gun control."
Criminals don’t typically go out and buy expensive, high-powered rifles or high-end, obscure handguns, he said.
"It's just too much coincidence that it's this one (AR-15) that they chose, the most popular one," he said. "And then they tried to coat this around law enforcement officers' safety. I find that despicable. Use someone else to try to do this."
Gottlieb said the Obama administration has been asked to supply evidence that there is a real threat to law enforcement officers from the AR-15 handgun. So far, there has been no response, he said.
"Zero. Because there is no report that anybody has, anywhere, that a police officer has been shot by this type of handgun. This administration has been asked to supply evidence, and they've never done so. If they had it, they would be out waving it in our faces in order to push their executive action. The fact that they aren't shows they don't have any such evidence."
Gottlieb said he doesn't believe the administration cares what gun owners think on this issue. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is taking public comments on the AR-15 ammo ban through March 16. The proposed ban and how to make a comment is described in a 17-page document on the ATF website, particularly the last page.
The ATF has said it will review all the comments and take them into careful consideration. Gun-rights advocates are skeptical of that claim.
"This administration, in the past when people have raised questions about their executive actions they just go ahead and do it anyway. And just like this public comment period, I don't think they are even going to read the comments; they're just going to do what they want," Gottlieb said. "None of us has any feeling about this other than that it’s a kangaroo court."
Gottlieb believes Attorney General Eric Holder wants to pad his progressive legacy before he leaves office.
"Holder said his one regret was that he wasn't able to do anything on gun control. This is Holder's baby," Gottlieb said. "This is what he is trying to leave behind as his legacy."
Popular .30.06 hunting ammo could be next
Gottlieb said if the Obama administration gets its way on the .223-caliber round, that will set a precedent.
"There's other ammo out there that can be fired in a handgun, the .30.06 for example. And if they get away with this, there no doubt will be other types of ammo targeted," he said. "This is their trial balloon. They know if the owners can't get ammunition, it's no longer a functional firearm. They've tried to ban these guns and weren’t able to do it, so they're going after the ammunition."
Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag.com and blogger for the Seattle Gun Rights Examiner, said he has also been searching for AR-15 criminal use since Obama proposed his rewriting of the ammunition regulations.
"I cover this every day, and I've never heard of a police officer being shot with one of these (AR-15) handguns, which by the way is not easily concealable using any of this ammo," Workman told WND. "That's a crock. No. I know of absolutely zero incidents of the shooting, wounding or fatally wounding of a cop with one of these handguns that is chambered for the .223-caliber round, or even someone using the AR-15 rifle, for that matter. You might presume it's happened (with a rifle), I don’t know, but it would be very rare."
Workman said this particular round is typically used for target shooting, while some hunters in the West use them to hunt coyote and prairie dogs.
"It's a cheap competition ammo, and a lot of guys use it for that, because they're not into hand loading. They like to buy ammo on the cheap, and this is fairly inexpensive."
At least it was fairly cheap, before the proposed ban was announced about two weeks ago. Now it is flying off of shelves, and if shooters can find it at all, they will pay at least triple the normal cost.
And there's another issue at work here, Workman said.
"Soft-body armor was invented to stop handgun bullets, period," he said. "That's because most of the bad guys out there are packing handguns, whether stolen or cheaply purchased, and Kevlar vests are designed to stop those handgun bullets. I don’t know of a single vest out there that will stop a center-fired rifle bullet from .223-caliber up."
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, referred to the safety of officers threatened by AR-15s as "an invisible epidemic."
"If you can find one, it will be the only one," he said. "Look how stupid they think we are. These bullets are so evil, they come leaping right out of the factory boxes and into the chests of their victims. It's really obscene.
"They want a gun ban so badly that they'll make up any old thing they can. When you want to get something bad enough, any excuse is a good excuse. Protecting cops? Who they actually hate? They have this notion that anyone with a gun acting in self-defense is bad. If the guns are so bad and so much of a problem and these terrible bullets, why doesn’t he lead by example? He has the Secret Service. Tell them to leave their guns at home."
According to the FBI's uniform crime statistics for 2013, rifles were used in only 285 homicides that year. Another 308 people were killed with shotguns and 5,782 with handguns. But 1,490 were killed with knives or cutting objects, and 686 were killed by someone's hands, feet or fists.
"More people are murdered in the U.S. every year with blunt objects, knives or with hands, fists and feet than with rifles or shotguns," Workman said. "Nobody in the media touches that. I've written about that frequently, and it gets no attention."