Rick Santorum ABC This Week Interview: People Need Armor-Piercing Bullets For Self-Defense

Just how much self-protection do you need in America? A handgun? A shotgun? A semi-automatic rifle? What if just having a high-caliber gun isn't enough – how about armor-piercing bullets?

Rick Santorum says all of the above.

The former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania senator said on ABC's This Week Sunday that Americans should have practically unrestricted access to military-style weapons and ammunition, including armor-piercing bullets with seemingly no utility other than to shoot through the bulletproof vests almost exclusively used by high-end security personnel and police officers.

While debating gun control with former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Santorum said that President Obama should have focused on the root causes of gun violence – which he identifies as violent movies and video games – rather than restrict access to assault weapons or high capacity magazines or specific types of ammunition.

Granholm pressed Santorum on why the average citizen needs high-power ammunition for self-defense. Santorum briefly sputtered, before insisting that armor-piercing rounds are critical to the right to self-defense:

GRANHOLM: Why do you need armor-piercing bullets, why do you need that?

SANTORUM: Because we're talking about a particular type of bullet that is and can be available.

GRANHOLM: Deer don't wear armor. Why do you need an armor-piercing bullet?

SANTORUM: Criminals could and having, having…

GRANHOLM: And police officers certainly do…

SANTORUM: And having the ability to defend yourself is a right in our country.

This accompanied by yet another citation by Santorum about how much better things were 50 years ago. But are armor-piercing bullets really necessary to fight home invaders – or are they mainly used against police officers?

As ThinkProgress notes, police departments and prosecutors across the nation support restricting access to armor-piercing ammunition, fearing that the primary purpose of such rounds would be use against law enforcement. Military commanders – who have seen firsthand what such weaponry is capable of – also question the need for civilian ownership of the so-called "cop killer" rounds. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked an audience of soldiers, "I mean, who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?"

As Slate notes, body armor use by criminals is a serious problem – but the vast majority of the recorded incidents appeared to involved active shooters or criminals armoring themselves to survive confrontations with law enforcement. Cops, of course, already have access to armor-piercing rounds.

Even for gun rights supporters, this one should be a no-brainer: there's also a real ballistic danger to using AP bullets in self-defense. Armor-piercing bullets are more likely to travel through the walls of your home, putting unseen neighbors or bystanders at risk.

And ironically, they do less damage to unarmored targets because they don't deform or splinter as rapidly when hitting a person.

It's a little ironic that Rick Santorum, an evangelical Christian who's as pro-life as they get, supports civilian access to bullets with amazing destructive capability and little hunting or self-defense utility.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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