‘Cop killer’ bul­let builder aims for bet­ter reg­u­la­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

An en­gi­neer says he is on the cusp of de­vel­op­ing le­gal ar­mor-pen­e­trat­ing am­mu­ni­tion that skirts a 1986 law in­tended to ban “cop-killer” bul­lets — and that he plans to even­tu­ally turn over the plans to the pub­lic along the lines of what oth­ers have done with blue­prints for 3D-printed firearms.

Austin Thomas Jones, who has worked in the aerospace field and helped craft “smart” body ar­mor tech­nol­ogy for com­pet­i­tive mar­tial arts, said he is close to fig­ur­ing out a re­place­ment com­pound that can mimic the prop­er­ties of me­tals in cur­rent ar­mor-pen­e­trat­ing rounds. When he does, he said, he will make the in­struc­tions avail­able pub­licly via his com­pany, At­las Arms.

The project is part busi­ness but is also in­tended to ex­pose the gov­ern­ment’s bungling reg­u­la­tory at­tempts to keep up with tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in weaponry.

“This was the first way I felt like I could hit gun con­trol and ob­so­lete some of the reg­u­la­tions,” Mr. Jones said. “One thing I’d like to kind of ex­pose is that the gov­ern­ment is only ever re­ac­tive. They are very slow to act, and they only barely un­der­stand the world as it cur­rently is.”

His ini­tial fo­cus will be on mak­ing a 9 mm Luger round, plus dig­i­tal code for pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion.

He de­clined to re­veal the ex­act ma­te­ri­als he plans to use to cir­cum­vent cur­rent rules but said what he is plan­ning is “def­i­nitely, ab­so­lutely, not on the list” of banned me­tals.

“I’m not look­ing to start a man­u­fac­tur­ing em­pire,” he said. “I don’t wish to mo­nop­o­lize it. I don’t want to re­strict ac­cess. I would hope [that] the pub­lic would sup­port me, and in re­turn I will give ev­ery­thing that I do back to them.”

Ar­mor-pen­e­trat­ing am­mu­ni­tion be­came known col­lo­qui­ally as “cop-killer bul­lets” af­ter an alarmist 1982 NBC News re­port, and the Law En­force­ment Of­fi­cers Pro­tec­tion Act, signed in 1986, ef­fec­tively banned the rounds for av­er­age Amer­i­cans.

The law de­fined “ar­mor-pierc­ing” am­mu­ni­tion as pro­jec­tiles made for hand­guns based on tung­sten al­loys, steel, brass, bronze, beryl­lium cop­per or de­pleted ura­nium. Am­mu­ni­tion larger than .22 cal­iber with a jacket that makes up more than 25 per­cent of its weight is also deemed “ar­mor-pierc­ing.”

The law didn’t crim­i­nal­ize the pos­ses­sion or sale of the am­mu­ni­tion, but new man­u­fac­tur­ing re­stric­tions dried up the sup­ply.

Mr. Jones said he has been in touch with the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms, and Ex­plo­sives to talk about his plans and that he has made pro­to­types.

“We’ve done about as much devel­op­ment as we can with­out pur­chas­ing bal­lis­tics-test­ing equip­ment,” he said. “We’re look­ing at $10,000-plus just for the bal­lis­tics test­ing equip­ment we need to con­tinue devel­op­ment. Af­ter that, we re­ally be­lieve that it’ll con­tinue very quickly.”

His push for le­gal ar­mor-pen­e­trat­ing am­mu­ni­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of the bat­tle by Cody Wil­son and De­fense Dis­trib­uted, a Texas com­pany that wants to sell plans for 3D-printed firearms.

A fed­eral court last year blocked De­fense Dis­trib­uted from pub­lish­ing its plans on­line, though pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als have taken up the man­tle to share the blue­prints for firearms. Pro­po­nents ar­gue that the ma­te­ri­als are pro­tected free speech.

Mr. Jones said De­fense Dis­trib­uted was an in­spi­ra­tion but he had been imag­in­ing ways to by­pass gun con­trols with tech­nol­ogy long be­fore he heard about its work.

He said his strat­egy is dif­fer­ent.

“Their fight is about ap­ply­ing the tac­tics of de­cen­tral­ism to the present form of the gun con­trol fight and ex­ploit­ing the state’s in­ter­nal con­flicts,” he said. “The di­rec­tion I take is to ob­so­lete the tech­nol­ogy of the firearms them­selves that are de­scribed by the reg­u­la­tions.”

Gun con­trol groups didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on Mr. Jones’ plans, though given their re­ac­tion to 3D-printed guns, it’s a safe bet that they will op­pose his ef­fort.

The last ma­jor bat­tle over am­mu­ni­tion pol­icy started in 2015 when the ATF, un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, moved to ban some pre­vi­ously ex­empted am­mu­ni­tion com­monly used in AR-15-style semi-au­to­matic weapons.

“This seems to be an area where ev­ery­one should agree that if there are ar­mor­pierc­ing bul­lets avail­able that can fit into eas­ily con­cealed weapons, that it puts our law en­force­ment at con­sid­er­ably more risk,” said Josh Earnest, who was White House press sec­re­tary at the time.

But gun rights ad­vo­cates ar­gued that the ban in­fringed the Sec­ond Amend­ment. The pro­posal was ul­ti­mately scrapped, and ATF Di­rec­tor B. Todd Jones re­signed shortly af­ter­ward.

Austin Jones said he hopes his plans pro­voke con­ser­va­tives to con­front the ten­sion be­tween back­ing law en­force­ment and pro­mot­ing civil lib­er­ties.

“It’s mu­tu­ally in­com­pat­i­ble to sup­port gun rights and stand for po­lice priv­i­lege,” he said.

He added that he takes a “pretty hard­line stance” when it comes to his own views about the bal­ance be­tween pub­lic safety and per­sonal free­doms, but he said ev­ery­one should be free to choose their own bal­ance if it doesn’t in­ter­fere with the well-be­ing of oth­ers.

“You don’t get to choose that for some­one else,” he said. “You don’t get to build fences around some­one else’s life and ac­tions to keep your­self safe. You build some­thing on your prop­erty, not mine.”

“One thing I’d like to kind of ex­pose is that the gov­ern­ment is only ever re­ac­tive. They are very slow to act, and they only barely un­der­stand the world as it cur­rently is.” — Austin Thomas Jones, ar­mor-pen­e­trat­ing am­mu­ni­tions en­gi­neer

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