Is Armor-piercing ammunition needed?

In his March 15 column, Representative Bob Goodlatte explains his opposition to a move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ban production and sale of M855 ammunition for the popular AR-15 rifle. He claims to oppose it as an unlawful attempt by the Obama administration to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights.

He omits two pertinent facts: (1) The M855 bullet is a projectile that can penetrate the bulletproof armor commonly used by policemen. (2) Alternative ammunition for the AR-15 rifle is available. These omissions follow from his reading of the Second Amendment in absolute terms, which he says allow no choice of what to follow and what to ignore. Under his reading, the two facts seem irrelevant.

There are intelligent, responsible ways of considering such facts while complying with the Amendment, as typified by the AR-15 rifle itself. It is a civilian version of the Army M-16 rifle, a fully automatic weapon. Review of civilian usage indicates no plausible need for the automatic feature. The AR-15 is semi-automatic; it has been redesigned to discourage attempts at conversion to automatic. Does this deprive Americans of their rights?

The relevant question concerning the M855: Is there a plausible civilian need for the ability to penetrate a policeman’s bulletproof attire?

As nuclear weapons developed rapidly in the 1950s, those in the program sometimes said with dry humor that we’d soon see an atomic hand grenade. Based on Mr. Goodlatte’s Second Amendment logic, I would now add that such a development should, and would, allow wide civilian ownership of these hand grenades. No, I don’t believe there ever will be an atomic hand grenade. Unbiased people, however, will get my point.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Board (Letter, March 21, 2015), commends Mr. Goodlatte for opposing the ATF move. The Board sees victory because the ATF is dropping the proposed ban for now. With more victories like this, we may see yet more mayhem unless the nation finds it preferable to revisit the matter of the Second Amendment – a most unlikely option.

This letter was published by the Waynesboro News Virginian on March 23, 2015, under the headline “Is AR-15 Assault Rifle Needed?”  This title is inflammatory and goes beyond the intent of the letter. I promptly notified the newspaper with the following message:

“I must hasten to correct the impression created by the headline above my Letter to the Editor of March 23: “Is AR-15 assault rifle needed?”

“I did not supply the headline, and it does not reflect the content of the letter. In fact, the letter refers to the AR-15 as “popular,” and cites it as an example of intelligent, responsible consideration of pertinent facts while complying with the Second Amendment. What I questioned was the need for one specific type of ammunition, M855.

“I regret the resentment that this error has undoubtedly aroused.”

The editor-in-chief assures me that the problem will be fixed.  Meanwhile, I have titled this posting with what would have been a more accurate heading.