The Senate voted, 97 to 1, yesterday to ban manufacture and importation of armor-piercing, "cop-killer" bullets after breaking a logjam caused by the lone opponent, Steve Symms (R-Idaho).
The way was cleared for a vote after Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) threatened to attach the bullet ban to farm legislation that Symms supports. Republican leaders, concerned that Symms might "talk the bill to death," as one aide put it, then won agreement to limit debate to two hours.
A Symms amendment that would have limited the ban to bullets made for handguns was tabled, 88 to 10. Opponents said it provided a huge loophole and that the bill contains an exemption for ammunition made for legitimate sporting purposes.
The House passed a stronger bill, 400 to 21, barring sale of an estimated 2 million existing rounds of the bullets, which are made from seven hard metals that can pierce bulletproof vests.
The Senate version, sponsored by Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and 61 colleagues, would not affect existing inventories. A Thurmond aide described a retroactive ban as "an administrative nightmare."
An aide to Symms said that the bill, long sought by law-enforcement groups, involves "the same kind of gun control we've always lobbied against." But he said Symms never planned a filibuster.
In another development, the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime unanimously approved a compromise measure permitting interstate sales of rifles and shotguns, but leaving in effect a ban on cross-state handgun sales.
Subcommittee Chairman William J. Hughes (D-N.J.) said he hoped that the compromise would head off a House petition, backed by the National Rifle Association, that would force a competing bill directly to the House floor.
That measure, which passed the Senate and needs fewer than 20 signatures on the petition, would allow interstate sales of handguns and generally weaken the 1968 Gun Control Act.
The compromise drops Hughes' earlier proposal for a 15-day waiting period on handgun sales, but calls for notification of police to check whether purchasers have criminal backgrounds.
The Hughes bill would create a mandatory 10-year prison term for using or carrying a machine gun during a violent federal crime. It also would ban future sales of silencers and expand a ban on importing parts for cheap handguns known as "Saturday Night Specials."