Eric Lichtblau of the Times reports on a Justice Department study of police officer safety. Naturally part of the study involves officers shot by handguns and rifles, and naturally the Times can't get the facts straight. Here we go, my emphasis:
In the killing of 132 officers beginning in 2010, 14 percent of them were not wearing body armor, according to the study, which was funded by the Justice Department in partnership with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a private nonprofit group.
Body armor would not have prevented all of the killings, because about 20 percent of the attackers used rifles, including high-powered models like AR-15s or AK-47s that can penetrate typical armor, researchers found.
The report noted that “the increasing use of high-powered rifles against police” — such as those used in the Dallas and Louisiana attacks — had led some departments to use stronger body armor and ballistic helmets on high-threat calls.
Puzzling - I thought the NY Times style book called for "dreaded AR-15", with "scary AR-15" as an acceptable alternative. Regardless, I won't speak to the AK-47s, but the AR-15 is a firing platform which can be employed for a wide range of ammunition. In fact, when gun controllers are hitting a different set of their talking points, they routinely note that the typical AR-15 is not suitable for any hunting other than small game. Let's go hunting for some background:
The main thing that determines what kind of game you can take with an AR is the size of the round that it’s chambered for. The standard AR-15 is chambered in for .223 Remington or 5.56mm, but many AR makers offer are quite a few different caliber variations, including, but not limited to: 7.62X39, 6.5 Creedmore, 6.8 SPC, .243 .300 Whisper, .50 Beowulf, .458 SOCOM and more. You can even find AR-15s chambered in common handgun calibers such at 9mm, .40S&W and .45ACP to name a few.
That said, unless my eyes deceive me (they might!) even a .223 rifle round is going to be similar in power to a large handgun round such as the .44 Magnum. However, although it is true that there are high-powered rifles using larger ammo on an AR-15 platform, it does not follow that a statement such as "high-powered models like AR-15s" makes sense. Why not talk about "fast cars like a Ford"? After all, the Ford GT can move, and let's not mention the Focus.
The Justice Department study does muddy the distinction between the notions that (a) rifles are generally more powerful than handguns and (b) rifles have a wide range of calibers and power. From the study (p. 63 of .pdf) they get off to a good start:
Although the use of handguns is the clear majority in cases where an officer was killed with a firearm, it should be noted that more than 20 percent of the officers were killed by suspects with rifles. The majority of those rifles were semiautomatic, magazine fed weapons, such as an AR-15 or AK-47 style weapon, not a hunting rifle or bolt action rifle. Most officers are not equipped with body armor that can defend against rifle rounds. Although many cases involved officers shot in the head, where having body armor would not have prevented their death, there are several cases where data provided to us specifically calls out that that a rifle round penetrated the officer’s vest.
Fair enough - they are not claiming that high powered rifles create a special problem not presented by ordinary rifles. And testing standards for bullet proof vests do distinguish rifle rounds at Level III protection, although they use the NATO 7.62. I would be curious to see how a normal .223 round would compare with the .44 Magnum round used at Level III-A.
However, a bit later we see this (p. 70, .pdf) in the DoJ study we encounter blurred lines:
As indicated by an analysis of weapons used against officers, and the fact that 21 percent of officers were shot by suspects using high powered rifles, there is a need to evaluate the issuance of hard body armor, helmets, and ballistic shields that can be quickly-deployed in high-risk incidents. Additionally, the use of ballistic panels for vehicle doors should be evaluated.
Either each rifle was evaluated and placed in the "high-powered rifle" category, or they are repeating the basic point that rifles are generally more powerful than handguns. Troubling.