Panetta: ‘Who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets’ except soldiers?

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon January 10.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon January 10.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Leon Panetta, the man behind the military, said there’s no good reason for a civilian to need an assault weapon.

The secretary of defense threw his hat into the gun control debate with his usual uninhibited candor Thursday, Reuters reports, responding to the political action in the wake of the tragic Newtown gun shooting in December that left 20 children and six adults dead.

“I mean who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?”  Panetta told troops at the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Italy.

On Wednesday, President Obama outlined a 23-point gun control order that tightened laws by enforcing stricter background checks, banning military assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and heightening access to mental health services.

Far-right lawmakers and pundits railed against Obama’s order, which circumvented congressional approval on certain actions, accusing the president of making an unprecedented power grab to weaken Second Amendment rights.

Panetta, who served as former President Bill Clinton’s chief-of-staff when the original assault weapons ban was signed into law in 1994, lamented that the ban was left to die a decade later, the Associated Press reports. Countering the NRA’s argument that more guns in the world mean a safer environment for small children, Panetta said a better protection would be to ban assault weapons “so that the nuts that are out there won’t use these kinds of weapons to wipe them out.”

The out-going defense secretary said that as a duck hunter, he was a believer in the Second Amendment, but he backed the president’s actions to prevent further attacks.

“I’ve been duck hunting since I was 10-years-old. I love to hunt and I love to be able to share that joy with my kids,” he said Thursday. “But for the life of me, I don’t know why the hell people have to have an assault weapon.”