The term "cop-killers" is generally used to describe bullets capable of penetrating police officers' bulletproof vests. Police officers supported the Law Enforcement Officers' Protection Act (PL 99-408), which became law in 1986. It amended the 1968 Gun Control Act to ban the manufacture or importation of certain varieties of armorpiercing ammunition. The law defined the banned ammunition as handgun bullets made of specific hard metals: tungsten alloys, steel, brass, bronze, iron, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium. (Standard ammunition is made from lead.) It also decreed that the licenses of dealers who knowingly sold such ammunition should be revoked.
The 1994 Violent Crime Control Act broadened the ban to include other metal-alloy ammunition. Both laws limit the sale of such bullets to the U.S. military or to the police.
The legislation banning armor-piercing ammunition was politically important because it polarized two traditionally allied groups—police officers and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA had long assisted in training police officers in marksmanship. The police saw the ammunition ban as a personal issue, because the socalled "cop-killer" bullets were intended to harm them. A police lobbying group, the Law Enforcement Steering Committee (LESC), was formed to get this and other legislation passed. The NRA opposed the legislation as originally written because, it said, it would have also banned most of the types of ammunition used for hunting and target shooting. The final version of the legislation exempted bullets made for rifles and sporting purposes.