This past weekend, 2016 had its first Democratic Debate. Some important questions regarding the Affordable Care Act and gun control were posed to the candidates. Specifically, regarding candidates’ positions on gun control, and how they changed over time. Clinton and Sanders spent most of this time attack each other’s position on gun control over time, versus actually discussing how to stop the problem of gun violence.
Straw Man Purchases
The two main candidates (Sanders and Rodham-Clinton) spent most of the time bickering over who said what, and when on gun control. However, in between breaths they took the time to try and gain some emotional points. Specifically, when Bernie Sanders said he wanted to make it a “federal crime to act as straw-men.”
While some may applaud this, it would be giving him credit where he doesn’t deserve it. Straw man purchases are already a federal crime.
I suspect Bernie may have meant to suggest it should be a federal crime to sell a firearm to someone without doing a background check, even in the case of private transfers. If that is the case, it is extremely troubling that a potential candidate doesn’t know 101-level gun terminology. A problem that has caused poorly written legislation to be passed in more than one occasion.
Except that isn’t the case. Just before that statement, he mentions he wants to close the ‘gun-show loophole’ which covers what he was trying to convey. Apparently, Bernie just doesn’t know that straw-purchases are illegal. Or even worse, he knows they are, but is trying to get people falsely-charged up for cheap political points.
Bernie then goes on to extrapolate his change of position over the bill to hold gun manufacturers responsible for crimes committed with firearms. I could go on with the problems with this bill, but that is for another post.
A thing to notice is that he wants to ban ammunition that penetrate police body armor. Again, either Bernie Sanders (including Hillary as she also supports this) is ignorant to the fact that this is already illegal, or is trying to score cheap points. Either way, they are woefully unqualified to talk about these issues.
Let’s take a second, however. Maybe he meant to be more granular in his response, and meant to talk about the sporting-use exemption for the M855 ammunition (only for rifles, as it’s wholly illegal for pistol cartridges). M855 ammunition is the military surplus ammunition for AR-15s. This ammunition has a steel penetrator meant to pierce up to 3mm of steel. One might think, “what sport do you need this ammo for?” That is a fair point of contention. That is, until you dig into this issue more.
Body armor has specifications set by the National Institute of Justice. The levels range from 1-4, with level 1 being the least protection, and level 4 being the highest. Level 1 is also typically the lightest weight as it is typically kevlar only, while level 4 is heavy as they have ceramic or ballistic steel plates. Police departments generally use level IIA which can stop 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson Full-Metal-Jacketed ammunition. This means that it can only stop pistol cartridges(bullets) up to .40 caliber. Center-fire rifle rounds(ones used for hunting) are not stopped by police body armor. Even some pistol cartridges can penetrate this armor. It comes down to a ratio of safety to mobility/comfort.
Here is why this matters: Bernie says that ammunition that pierces police body should be illegal (again, ammunition made for this purpose is already illegal). By doing what Bernie proposed, it would effectively make hunting illegal. This is because most calibers used for hunting can penetrate police body armor.
While I don’t think one should choose their candidate based on their knowledge of firearms and the industry alone, they have shown they lack the knowledge and credentials to speak to it. A credential and experience that a Commander in Chief, who will help shape gun control legislation, really needs.