Kennedy Letting Personal History Dictate Gun Policy, Group Says

By Carolyn Bolls | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - A gun rights group has issued a controversial challenge to one of the Democratic Party's most prominent figures - Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts - on the issue of safety for America's police officers.

The challenge, issued by the Second Amendment Foundation, references the number of police officers who were killed last year in the line of duty as a result of gunfire and the number killed in automobile crashes. Kennedy, whose two brothers - John and Robert - were assassinated by gunmen, is a staunch supporter of gun control and wants the so-called "cop-killer" bullets banned.

"Where's Ted Kennedy, and why isn't he demanding that automakers be sued into financial oblivion the same way he wants America's gun industry to be devastated?" asked Alan Gottlieb, president of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).

Gottlieb points out that one-third of the police officers killed last year in the line of duty were shot, while one-half died in car crashes.

The U.S. Senate last month passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by a vote of 65 to 31, despite what Gottlieb called Kennedy's "hysteria-laden rhetoric." The Act bars state or federal civil lawsuits from being filed against gun manufacturers and sellers for the unlawful misuse of a firearm. There are exceptions to this rule in cases where the seller of a gun ignores mandated background checks on the buyer or if a defective firearm results in injury or death.

According to Gottlieb, Kennedy repeatedly called for a ban on the "cop-killer bullets" -- ammunition designed for handguns that is meant to pierce armored vests. Kennedy also called opposition to his ban a "national disgrace," according to Gottlieb.

"Ted Kennedy has proven himself to be somewhat of an expert on the subject of national disgraces, as his own personal conduct over the years would attest," Gottlieb responded, a reference to the accident near Chappaquiddick Island in July, 1969 in which Kennedy drove off a bridge into the water and his passenger -- Mary Jo Kopechne - drowned. Kennedy left the scene and did not file a police report until the next day.

Gottlieb does not believe Kennedy will shift his attention to vehicle safety for police officers. "He will continue to attack gun rights," Gottlieb said, "and when it comes to traffic accidents it's something he doesn't want to talk about because of his past record.

In a Senate floor speech, Kennedy called the selling of "cop-killer" bullets "outrageous and unconscionable.

"At a minimum, we owe a duty to police officers who are in more and more jeopardy because of the increasing number of dangerous weapons and ammunition in the hands of criminals," Kennedy said.

He called the Treasury Department's regulations on armor-piercing ammunition "weak" and added that "this ammunition can be easily bought over the counter, by mail, and over the Internet.

"That's a disgrace and a danger to police officers throughout the nation," Kennedy said.

The FBI has tracked the number of police officer deaths and the circumstances surrounding the fatalities. In its recent report entitled "Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted in 2003," the FBI stated that not one police officer fatality has ever resulted from the body armor being penetrated by the so-called "cop-killer bullets." All 19 police fatalities caused by body armor penetration resulted from long range rifles.

Gottlieb told Cybercast News Service that Kennedy's proposed amendment "would have banned all kinds of additional ammunition and expand the definition so that basically nobody can go hunting.

"[Kennedy] likes to pass legislation that controls people ... and gun-[related] civil rights [are] the individual freedom in America that I think Senator Kennedy's overall philosophy tends to oppose," Gottlieb added.

But Kennedy was not alone in his opposition of the legislation aimed at protecting gun makers and dealers. The International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the National Black Police Association, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Latino Peace Officers Association and the Major Cities Chiefs Association all opposed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

"[These organizations] know this legislation will strip away the legal rights of victims of gun violence, including law enforcement officers and their families, to seek redress against irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers," Kennedy said in his speech.

Laura Capps, spokeswoman for Kennedy, told Cybercast News Service that the senator is "not limiting the Second Amendment." Gottlieb's comments amount to a "false statement by a group that opposes [Kennedy's] efforts to make sure that fewer people are killed by gun violence," Capps said.

Regarding Gottlieb's references to Chappaquiddick and his comparison between gun and traffic-related deaths of police officers, Capps said she would not "even honor such a preposterous question with a response."

For the past 30 years, the shooting deaths of police officers have decreased by more than one-third, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), a group dedicated to increasing public awareness of officers killed in the line of duty.

"While shooting deaths have declined by 36 percent over the past three decades, the number of officers killed in automobile accidents during that same period has risen by 40 percent," said Craig Floyd, Chairman of NLEOMF.

Floyd said the decrease in shooting deaths was due to better training and equipment, especially the increased use of armor vests. But Floyd said he believes more needs to be done when it comes to armored vests, better driver training, safer vehicles, and stun-guns to prevent officers from being killed.

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