Monday, March 15, 2004

As reported over at Say Uncle & at this thread at The High Road a 16 year old kid killed a deputy & after a lengthy stand off killed himself. From what I gather the kid had gotten drunk the night before, & attacked his mother with a pipe when she refused to let him take her car to school. She called the cops & the kid shot the first deputy out of the car 4 times. That deputy died. SWAT teams from a few different counties converged on the house. They exchanged gunfire with the kid & then shot tear gas & sent in robots but had no luck. Turns out the kid was probably dead a few hours after this whole thing started. The kid had a history of mental problems. The kid was also the son of an Assistant District Attorney for the county.

The deputy's death is sad & my condolensces go out to his wife & family.

But there is another troubling aspect to this: most reports I've seen aledge the kid was using an AK-47 with 30 round magazines. Add to that the fact that he was a minor who had access to it & used it to shoot a cop & the anti's have a lot of ammo in one package.

Gun lock laws will be pushed since they'll claim that if the AK-47 in question was locked up then none of this would have happened.

AP ammo bans will be pushed since a cop was killed. Never mind that the cop probably wasn't wearing a vest & even if he was it most likely wasn't rated to stop rifle ammo, or that the bullets that killed him may not have been armor piercing: facts will not get in the way of exploting this to the greatest extent possible.

& of course the "assault weapons" ban will be pushed. At minimum they'll use this case to justify an extension of the current ban, but I wouldn't doubt for a minute that they'll try to strengthen the ban as well, esepcially if the AK-47 in question was a post-ban model.

So out of one tragic event they'll try to get 3 gun control laws passed.

If you go to the Violence Policy Center you can see on their front page that renewing &/or strengthening the "assault weapons" ban is a priority for them. Same with the Brady Campaign to Disarm Potential Victims to Prevent Gun Violence. They haven't picked up on the story about the kid yet (at leats they haven't printed anything about it) but expect to hear about it in depth over the next few months.

The facts are the kid (or anyone else) could have killed the deputy with any repeating weapon: a semi-automatic with a high normal capacity magazine was not a requirement. A pump action, lever action, or even a bolt action could have been used.

& any rifle ammo will penetrate all but the heaviest & bulkiest vest that are designed specifically to protect against rifle fire (& even those won't protect against all rifle fire as rifle ammo can generate tremendous power depending on the catridge used). So unless they think that banning all rifle ammo is acceptable then any type of AP or bullet proof vest pentrating ammo bans would have been ineffectucal.

& if the firearm in question would have been locked up it could have prevented the kid from gaining immediete access to it. However no lock or safe is immune to the efforts of anyone with determination. With the right tools it takes a few minutes to defeat all but the heaviest gun safes. With the wrong tools it takes a minute or two more. Assuming that the response time (from the time the mother called the cops to the time the deputy showed up) was 4 mintes or longer (which 5 to 10 minutes is very reasonable) then the kid could have defeated all but the heaviest of locking measures. So a simple trigger lock or even a wooden gun cabinet that was locked wouldn't have prevented this.

Now there should be some inquiry into the kid having access to any weapons. I presume the AK-47 was his fathers' firearm but it's not for certain that this is the case. If it did belong to his parents then I would question their judgement in allowing access to any weapons to a kid with a history of mental problems. However a mandatory gun lock law is not the right solution.

If a person is of the mind that locking up his arms is the prudent thing to do then a law will not make it any easier for him. Conversely if a person is not of a mind to lock up their arms (even when there is a reasonable justification to do so) then a law will not compel them to act. All you accomplish with gun lock laws is creating a prosecutable offense. It puishes rather than prevents. Also depnding upon the wording it can create liability for those who have done nothign criminal or negligent: it could open up to prosecution a person whose house was broken into & his arms stolen.

Now I have no kids & there are no people in my home who I do not explicitly trust, so as a consequence I don't see the need to lock anything other than my front door. But if a gun lock laws is passed (again, depending on the wording) then if someone breaks into my house when I'm not home & steals any or all of my arms then I could be charged with violating the gun lock law (again, I stress that this scenario is dependent upon the wording).

The other downside is that people who comply with the law will in essence give any criminal intruders a 60 second (minimum) head start. & in at least one case a gun lock law prevented a kid from having access to a weapon that she could have used to prevent her siblings from being killed.

& as I've said gun lock laws only offer prosecution after the fact - unless of course random unannounced inspections are mandated. & I heartily second the statement of Sen. Craig (R-Idaho) on this subject:

"I would hope that Americans would rebel at the possibility of the police entering their home to determine if they were fit to excercise what I believe is a Constitutional right..."

As to banning ammo that will penetrate a bullet proof vest: they'd literally have to ban all but the weakest rifle cartridges that exist. Even muzzle loading firearms can penetrate the majority of bullet proof vests. It's very simple physics: the ability to stop a projectile from penetrating is limited by the strength of the material when pitted against the energy, shape & composition of a projectile.

The vast majority of bullet proof vests are designed to stop handgun cartridges such as the 9x19mm & .38 Special from penetrating. Now if we look at the 10mm (which is more powerful than the two cartrdiges aforementioned) we find that a 150 grain bullet traveling at 1325 feet per second produces about 585 foot-pounds of energy. Now if we assume the vest is designed to stop cartridges with an energy level of around 700 foot-pounds then we can reasonably assume that it will stop a 10mm loaded to the specifications listed above. (well, barring any other factors such as projectile shape &/or bullet alloy that increase its penetrative potential).
However if we look at two rifle cartridges from the late 1800's & one from the 1940's we find that the bullet proof vest is outclassed:

The .30 Carbine that fires a 110 grain bullet at 1990 feet per second generates 967 foot-pounds of energy.
The .32 Winchester Special firing a 170 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second develops 1911 foot-pounds of energy.
The .45-70 cartridge that launches a 300 grain projectile at 1810 feet per second will have 2182 foot-pounds of energy.

The .45-70 was introduced in 1873. That's 13 years prior to the introduction of the first smokeless powder cartridge: the 8mm Lebel. The .32 Winchester Special was introduced in the late 1890's. The .30 Carbine was introduced in 1941 & its intended role was as a substitute for the 1911 pistol.

So a cartridge designed for blackpowder; a cartridge designed very early in the smokeless powder days & a cartridge intended to replace a handgun cartridge all produce energy in excess of what a bullet proof vest (designed for handgun cartridges) can handle.

I will note that other factors aside from kinetic energy come into play: projectile shape & construction will affect the ability of a projectile to pentrate a vest. But this is only relevant when dealing with a projectile with an energy level below what the vest was designed for. Here's a chart of cartridges that the two most popular levels of bullet proof vests are designed to stop.

Also according to my rough estimates the most powerful ammo that a Level IIIA vest will handle is the .44 magnum with a 240 grain bullet at 1400 feet per second which produces around 1,044 foot-pounds of energy. So it's entriely possible that a Level IIIA vest would stop the .30 Carbine cartridge (if projectile shape & construction don't come into play) but it would still be ineffective against the two other rifle rounds that are each over 100 years old.

Now it should be noted that bullet proof vests are rated according to the National Institute of Justice standards which have been called into question in the past. The gist of it is that the NIJ tests were based on faulty science suspect criteria & has led to bulkier vests than necessary to stop pentration of a projectile. This led to the vest being more unconfortable than necessary & thus not worn as often. While the theory about the NIJ standards being less than ideal makes sense to me I admit I am not as knowledgable as I should be to firmly support or refute this theory.

What remains though is that bullet proof vests which are designed to stop rifle cartridges are simply impractical for everyday wear - well, unless you know that everday there's a significant chance that someone will fire a rifle at you. A NIJ rated Level IV vest will in theory stop a single .30-06 cartridge but you're looking at a minimum of 6 pounds per plate. So a front & back plate with the carrier vest will mean your "shirt" now weighs around 14 pounds or so. Not something you'd want to wear 8 hours a day is it?

So again I would submit that the more common bullet proofs vests are simply incapable of stopping 100+ year old black powder rifle cartridges & it is unreasonable to justify an ammo ban of any sort on a vest not stopping a projectile it was never intended to stop.

& just to be clear I have seen absolutely nothing that indicates the deputy who was killed was wearing a bullet proof vest of any sort. But facts haven't stopped gun control advocates yet & i don't expect this to be an exception. At the most you can expect to hear that "even if he was wearing a vest it wouldn't have stopped these dangerous armor piercing rounds". Which to be fair is almost true - if he'd have been wearing a vest rated for handgun rounds as most vests are then it wouldn't have prevented his death. But if he was wearing a vest designed to stop rifle rounds then it would have. They'll rely on the assumption by most people that a bullet proof vest is actually bullet proof under all circumstances - well, except when special "cop killer amror piercing ammo" is used.

But consider this a warning: the gun control advocates will use this tragic event in an effort to justify more gun control laws. It'd behoove us all to learn what actually happened & be prepared to counter the flawed arguments in support of gun control that will come from this.

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