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August 8, 2005

When Good People Accept Bad Legislation

"You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered."
-- President Lyndon Johnson

The Liberty Crew has received a number of messages criticizing our last alert. In that alert we asked the question "Is S. 397 (the so-called "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act") a Trojan Horse?" We asked whether Section 6(c) of that bill might open the way to banning all rifle ammunition. (You can read the alert here:

The criticisms we've received tell us two things: first, some people misunderstood the purpose of the alert; second and far more discouraging, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, many gun owners still trust the federal government to protect their rights -- even when the facts scream, "Watch out!"

Hear what a sampling of critics had to say:


[Section 6(c) does NOT give the Attorney General - or anyone else - any new authority to ban ammunition. It does not create any kind of new ammo ban.


True. But then, the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution doesn't give the federal government authority to tell people they can't carry firearms near schools, either. But that never stopped Congress issuing orders to peaceable gun owners. The law doesn't say that the BATFE can randomly ban importation of firearms components; but that never stopped the ATF bureaucrats.

No, S. 397 does not, in itself, create an ammo ban. We never said it did. We DID say its language sets the stage for a later ban. Such a ban could come about either by administrative fiat or by a powerful anti-gun attorney general manipulating Congress into one of its typical overreactions (see Len Savage's comments below).


Section 6(c) does not change the definition of "armor-piercing ammunition" under federal law. Under the current federal law, 18 USC Sec. 921(a)(17)(B), ammunition is only "armor-piercing" if it has a bullet that "may be used in a handgun" and is made "entirely" from certain hard materials such as tungsten, steel, bronze or depleted uranium; or if the bullet is "designed and intended for use in a handgun" and has a jacket that weighs more than 25% of the total weight of the projectile. The current definition has been in place for more than 12 years and this amendment does not change that definition.


True. But "designed and intended for use in a handgun" is the opening that lets the camel shove his smelly nose into the tent. As Len Savage, owner of Historic Arms, LLC, explains:

"Here is what they are not telling you: Practically every centerfire cartridge has been formatted into a pistol (including the 50 BMG) by some company at some time. My company made a small run of AK pistols last year in .223, 7.62x39, 5.45x39. This is the door being cracked open a little bit at a time. ...

"I may be a uneducated hillbilly gun-maker, but even I could put together a 'study' that would address the fact that all center fire ammo has been or could be formatted into a handgun, then with no smoke or mirrors (just video), show the 'devastating damage' on a vest-protected side of pork or beef. Then I could just stand back and watch the liberals scramble to pass a new 'armor-piercing ammo ban' making those nasty mean 'assult weapons' become just mere worthless scrap metal (since there would be no ammo)."


The amendment [containing Section 6(c)] was offered this year (as it was in 2004) by pro-gun senators in what proved to be a successful attempt to defeat Senator Edward Kennedy's amendment that would have banned all center-fire rifle ammunition by labeling same as "armor-piercing." By providing an alternative to Senator Kennedy's amendment, pro-gun senators were able to marshal the votes necessary to defeat the Kennedy Amendment.


This is so typical of American gun owners' losing mentality! An anti-gun legislator wants to do something horrible to gun owners. So instead of saying, "No and heck no!" (which a truly pro-gun Republican majority has the power to do), our alleged protectors say, "Let's compromise. Instead of banning all center-fire ammo NOW by labeling it 'armor-piercing,' we'll set up a mechanism by which your goal can be accomplished -- just a little more slowly and quietly."

Many gun owners keep insisting the Republicans are pro-gun. If that's true, then why -- with a strong Republican majority -- should there be ANY need for a supposedly pro-firearms bill to contain "compromise" provisions like dangerous "child safety locks," draconian prison sentences for mere possession of certain types of ammunition, and a study that opens the door for redefining an infinite number of ammunition types as "armor piercing"?

A READER WRITES: People who fear that S. 397 might lead to an ammo ban are "well-meaning but misinformed."

LEN SAVAGE RESPONDS: "The only well meaning, misinformed people are those who keep on saying "it's harmless, Congress is just re-stating existing law." I doubt that the well-intentioned senator [who proposed the amendment] has any idea the Pandora's box he is playing with. I wonder about motives of the lawmakers, and the attorney general."


The purpose of our original alert was to encourage people to examine and ask questions about this (or any other) piece of legislation potentially affecting gun owners. Readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

Nevertheless, those who say, "You're wrong just because this bill doesn't explicitly ban ammo or redefine 'armor piercing'" are unbelievably short-sighted about how "government creep" works.

We've warned that Republican "pro-gun" rhetoric on firearms is no different than Charles Schumer's rhetoric on firearms and that neither R nor D political actions on firearms are truly pro-gun or pro-freedom. (

If you read the book _The State vs. the People_ ( you recognize how a police state can be imposed -- gradually, "legally," always "for the public good," and often with glowingly friendly rhetoric to cover the behind-the-scenes machinations.

The anti-gunners are patient. If S. 397 passes into law with Section 6(c) intact, they'll find a way to use that provision five years from now or 10 years from now to "prove" that all rifle ammo is "armor piercing" and that everyone who possesses even a single round of it should go to prison for a long, long time.

The great mystery is not what the anti-gunners intend or how they'll achieve their ends. The great mystery is why, year after year, decade after decade, so many people on our side fail to recognize the slow, gradual loss of rights -- and the sneaky, incremental tactics used to rob us of liberty.

Why do we go on trusting what Mark Twain called America's only "native criminal class" -- the U.S. Congress?

The Liberty Crew

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