The level of ignorance and stupidity I read in this OpEd from The Washington Post blew my mind.

Brace yourselves.

Want an assault weapons ban that works? Focus on ballistics.

Here is the kicker:

Julius Wachtel is a retired agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a university lecturer.

Yeah, this guy was Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s Long Beach office.  Let that sink it when you read this.

America’s assault weapons laws seem largely a failure. The federal ban, enacted in 1994, did not demonstrably reduce violence and was allowed to expire 10 years later. State-level equivalents seem equally ineffective.

That is accurate.

In California, whose 1989 assault weapons act was first in the nation, gunmen armed with .223- and 7.62 mm-caliber rifles, respectively, took the lives of Sacramento police officer Tara O’Sullivan in June and California Highway Patrol officer Andre Moye last month. Another gunman killed three people and wounded a dozen more at an outdoor festival in July.

So should we give up on banning dangerous firearms? Absolutely not. The reason these laws have proved ineffective isn’t because a ban can’t work; it’s because none have addressed the underlying characteristic that makes some firearms so lethal in the first place: their ballistics.


After O’Sullivan’s death, Sacramento’s grieving police chief pointed out that “bulletproof” vests are no match for high-power rifles. He’s correct. According to FBI data, 471 police officers were feloniously shot and killed in the United States during the past decade. More than 100 were killed by rifles, 65 in the powerful .223, 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm calibers common to assault-style weapons. Rifles also figured in 20 of the 21 fatalities caused by rounds that penetrated body armor.

We’re talking 223, 5.56, and 7.62×39, which at most have muzzle energies barely making 1,500 ft-lbs.

Any hunter will tell you that this is fairly insubstantial compared to the common short and standard action length centerfire rifle cartridges that most game hunters use.  Some states won’t let hunters take deer with 223 because it lacks power.

Also, not one soft armor vest, the types that police wear under their uniform shirts, are NIJ rated for rifle calibers.

California, six other states and the District “ban” assault weapons. But these laws skirt around caliber. Instead, they focus on a weapon’s physical attributes. For example, California requires that semiautomatic firearms with external baubles such as handgrips have non-detachable magazines and limits ammunition capacity to 10 rounds.

Those characteristics, though, aren’t the main reason assault-style weapons are so dangerous. That’s fundamentally a matter of ballistics. High-energy, high-velocity .223-, 5.56- and 7.62-caliber projectiles have unbelievable penetration power. When these bullets pierce flesh, they produce massive wound cavities, pulverizing blood vessels and destroying nearby organs. Rifles can deliver this mayhem from a distance. That’s what happened in 2017 when an ostensibly law-abiding gambler opened fire with AR-15-type rifles from his Las Vegas hotel room, killing 58 and wounding more than 400 others.

Right…  If this guy has a problem with what the 223 does, he’s shit his pants at the terminal ballistic of a 162 grain 308 out of a bolt action Model 700.

Such massacres have become commonplace. On Aug. 3, a 21-year-old man allegedly used an AK-47-style rifle to kill 22 and wound more than two dozen at an El Paso shopping center. One day later, a 24-year-old man donned body armor, grabbed an AR-15-type rifle and burst into a Dayton, Ohio, nightclub, killing nine and wounding more than two dozen. Then came the carnage in West Texas, where another AR-15-style rifle was used to kill seven and wound 22, including three police officers.

Despite the deplorable toll, not one state has dared address ballistics. Why? Because it might offend hobbyists who get a thrill from tinkering with powerful guns, as well as citizens who want such weapons for self-defense. It would also threaten the interests of the gun industry, whose economic viability depends on producing and importing ever-more-formidable hardware.

Because it’s a bullshit approach because as soon as any state goes down the path of banning gun based on the ballistic performance of the cartridges they fire every centerfire hunting rifle on the market gets banned.  All of them.  The 30-30 Winchester, which dates to 1895 and is the first smokeless powder cartridge commonly available in the United States bests the 223 by over 600 ft-lbs of energy.

This isn’t going to “offend hobbyists,” it’s going to nullify a substantial part of the Second Amendment.

So lawmakers have chipped away at the margins — say, by limiting ammunition capacity. But even 10 highly lethal rounds are an awful lot. With guns and gun parts readily available from private parties and through the Internet, restrictions on how weapons are configured are also easy to circumvent. Consider the 2015 San Bernardino massacre, when a married couple murdered 14 and wounded 22 with a pair of state-legal AR-15 clones. Both weapons had been modified to accept high-capacity magazines, in a simple process that’s described online.

Bottom line: Many semiautomatic firearms are exceptionally lethal whether they’re short- or long-barreled, have handgrips or extended magazines. What can be done? Following the examples set by Britain and, most recently, New Zealand, we could ban them outright. Or we could create a scale of lethality, assigning scores for penetration ability and wounding effect along with ammunition capacity, rate of fire and accuracy at range. Guns that wind up at the dangerous extreme could be prohibited, while others would be subject to a range of controls.

Goodbye centerfire rifles and magnum caliber handguns, because the 223 is on the weak end of the scale.

Of course, even the best-crafted scale won’t solve our epidemic of gun violence. By all means, expand background checks and implement “red flag” laws. But don’t use that as an excuse to keep ignoring what lies at the root of the mayhem: fearsome ballistics. Address that, and the toll will ease.

The fact is that some European countries already use a system like this.

England limits air guns by Joules of muzzle energy.  Anything that exceeds 2.4 Joules (the limit that breaks the skin) requires a permit.

France and Italy both have laws for handguns that limit the energy of the cartridges they can fire to low power target loads.  Anything more potent than a 38 special wadcutter is banned.

Such a system in the United States would gut the intent of the Second Amendment because the very things the government would want to ban – large wound channels and deep penetration – are the exact criteria that make certain types of ammunition preferred for defensive use.

The more a bullet does what you want it to and engineers work hard to make it do, the more it will be banned.

It seems that this guy wants to make us into England or Australia where the only guns we can (relatively) easily have are rimfire and shotgun limited to birdshot.

This is ridiculously bad, and coming from an ATF special agent makes it all the worse.



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By J. Kb

11 thoughts on “ATF agent publishes the dumbest anti-gun OpEd ever in The Washington Post”
  1. Ah, the old fallacy of “expert opinion” rears its ugly head. We need to reiterate to all and sundry what the second amendment really means, especially the “shall not be infringed” part.

  2. Maybe a few articles like this will wake up the FUDDS. They ARE coming for your Bambi-killing ‘sniper’ rifles. AND your over-under skeet gun…..
    Or maybe the FUDDS will keep sticking their heads in the sand, leaving a MUCH more sensitive part of their anatomy exposed, hoping that the bear will eat them last. (sorry for the mixing of metaphors)

  3. I disagree … This isn’t a dumb proposal, on the face of it, and it’s also the kind we’ve been almost daring the antis to try.

    Various 2A community news and commentary outlets have been pointing out, for years now, that the “assault weapon” bans based on features are are stupid. It’s like charging a woman with prostitution based on how much makeup she’s wearing. (I forget where I read that analogy, otherwise I’d attribute it.)

    I’m not at all surprised to see a muzzle energy based restriction proposal come out. It would in fact be a “science based” regulatory scheme. I’d severely disagree with it, for all of the reasons mentioned here … but it does stand as a more sensible (from the point of view that the gun community itself has pointed out) approach than basing bans on appearances.

    For me this simply highlights the need to keep saying “no.” We will not agree with any ban, no matter how it’s presented, no matter how limited, because they all lead to the same place.

  4. For people who are determined to kill other people, there will always be ways to achieve that goal. Even a total ban on all firearms, not that it could ever be achieved, will not prevent the use of knives, arrows, IEDs, automobiles, rocks, clubs or anything else capable of inflicting lethal damage. What is the ballistic effect of U-Haul truck driving into a crowd?

    Also puts to the lie that ATF agents only want to enforce the laws but don’t want to take our guns.

  5. How many TRILLION rounds are out there? Sigh… And how many sets of reloading equipment? If this even gets close, you will see a run on primers and powder, and people haunting tire shops for the lead weights… Just sayin’

    1. The wheel weights are no longer made of lead. It’s been that way for many years now. I know because I asked for some several years ago for a project. I’m not sure if lead splitshot fishing sinkers are even made of lead these days.

  6. Retired agent of what? Paper pushing? SF communist government relations? Napa Valley winery regulation?
    Just because he has the letters ATF on his business card doesn’t mean he’s any more expert than AOC or Joe Biden. That assumes his claimed history is even accurate.

  7. My father is retired military, twice retired law enforcement (one as a Chief LEO) and is very much pro 2A! What did this California based ATFe “agent” ever do out in the “real world”? I’d like to see his service records. Another comment listed here referred to him as a “paper pusher” in other words, a deskjockey. Perhaps that is actually the case. Which hardly makes him (the “agent”) an “expert”. “Common sense gun laws”… I’ve heard that term bounced around quite a bit lately. But most of what I’ve heard is far from common sense. People with ZERO life experience with firearms are hardly the people to propose “common sense” gun laws. In order to have common sense one would need to have some experiences in many facets of an issue in order to formulate such laws. One sided, opinion based, knee jerk, parroting opinion, emotional tunnel vision does not equate to “common sense”.

  8. If someone wants to kill people they are gonna do it no matter what! The police need to upgrade their equipment to better protect themselves! At least the mass gun violence is pretty contained. What would they do of someone started poisioning the water systems where we get our water? What would happen if some smart whack job figured out how to make an EMP bomb and wipe our electric infrastructure? Or even a suitcase nuclear bomb? There are more things to worry about then just a few cases of gun violence that only account for the fraction of the millions and billions of people on the earth.

    1. Yup, good to remember ATF is Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms explosives added later. If he worked in the A or T parts of ATF he was an excise tax collector and perhaps never saw a firearm…

  9. ATF management runs to inept and/or stupid. These are the people who brought you Waco and Ruby Ridge, not to mention Fast and Furious.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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