Guns, Politics, and Freedom
December 21, 2008

What about ‘BOB’?

By F. Paul Valone


The following ran in the Durham Herald-Sun on Sunday, December 21, 2008 under the title “’Bullet bill’ horribly misnamed.”


Like the hapless obsessive played by Bill Murray in that classic comedy “What About Bob?”, Reverend Melvin Whitley’s homegrown version of “BOB” (in this case, “Bullet Ownership Bill”1) just won’t go away.


Having agitated for “BOB” for two-plus years, Rev. Whitley recently assured the Durham City Council that, “This is not gun control…[t]his is gun safety.” By requiring buyers of ammunition statewide to first get permits from sheriffs, the reverend pledges it will prohibit sales to “felons, drug addicts, mental patients, juvenile delinquents, the mentally retarded and illegal aliens.”2 This, he says, will close “loopholes” in existing gun laws.


Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, according to Whitley a “convict” can “go across the street to Wal-Mart or a gun store and buy all the bullets they want.” Guns aren’t the only problem, he says, since “the bullets are the ones that are killing on [sic] us.”3


What Whitley neglects mentioning is that under both state and federal law, felons are already prohibited from possessing the firearms necessary to fire those bullets. And thanks to recent state and federal legislation, the computerized National Instant Check System (NICS) bars gun sales not only to felons, substance abusers, illegal aliens and domestic violence offenders, but also to anyone whose mental state has been adjudicated as dangerous to themselves or others.


As for those indelicately described as “mentally retarded,” does the reverend suggest we start IQ testing for ammunition sales? (If so, I suggest we also test voters.) And who exactly are these “mental patients” he wants to bar? Do they include tens of thousands taking anti-depressants or seeing counselors?


Even more breath-taking is the fundamental ignorance which underpins the entire scheme. While one might expect a proposal for regulating something to at least correctly identify what it seeks to regulate, such is not the case.


While Whitley wants to restrict “bullets,” anyone remotely familiar with firearms knows a “bullet” is the piece of lead and/or copper which exits the muzzle of a gun when fired. Making a “bullet” requires little more than melting lead into a mold.


Whether he knows it or not, what Whitley really wants to regulate is a “cartridge,” composed of the bullet, a “case” containing gun powder, and an explosive “primer” which, when struck by the gun’s firing pin, ignites the powder and sends the bullet into flight.


Unbeknownst to Rev. Whitley, any of these components can easily be bought and assembled into functioning ammunition. While shooting competitively, I carefully assembled thousands of cartridges from components ordered by mail, saving thousands of dollars on ammunition which could otherwise have cost $20+ per box.


Imagine, for a moment, that “BOB” passes and felons can no longer frequent Wal-Mart for “bullets.” If you like meth labs, you’re going to love illegal ammunition factories, where the same miscreants currently dealing crack will stockpile tons of hazardous materials such as gun powder and primers. Setting aside the prospect of thousands of rounds of unregulated, unsafe ammunition being sold from street corners, how long will pass before a “bullet” factory catches fire and levels an apartment building?


To glean the intent behind “BOB,” understand that it is patterned after Illinois law. Ponder for yourself the wisdom of emulating a state where violent crime rates are 14 % higher than ours4; where Chicago continues to ban handguns in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision striking down precisely such bans; and where politics are so monumentally corrupt that the governor is led away in handcuffs.


Most salient is the fact that, in Illinois, a “Firearms Owner Identification Card” is required not only to buy ammunition, but to own any gun. That’s right: In Whitley’s utopia, all guns require licenses and all gun owners are registered. This, he believes, is not gun control.


On January 8, a legislative subcommittee of the City Council consisting of Mayor William Bell, Mayor Pro Tem Cara Cole-McFadden, and council members Mike Woodard and Eugene Brown will decide whether to recommend Whitley’s proposal to the full council and, ultimately, whether it will make the legislative agenda presented to the General Assembly.


This is the scene in the comedy where Rev. Whitley’s creation is hovering on the porch, peering into the screen door and looking for an invitation. If you let him in, he won’t be moving out anytime soon.




  1. The “Bullet Ownership Bill” is referred to as “BOB” in the Agenda Item Request E-Form submitted by Reverend Melvin Whitley on 11/25/2008 (interestingly, seven days after the published deadline for such requests).


  1. “’Bullet ownership bill’ gets apparent City Council backing”, Herald-Sun, December 5, 2008.


  1. Verbatim remarks of Rev. Whitley during April 22, 2007 edition of NBC-17 “At Issue” while debating Grass Roots North Carolina president Paul Valone.


  1. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, “2007 Crime in the United States,” Table 5, violent crime rate by state, available at: