FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Hollow Point Men

by DAVE LINDORFF

I’ve often wondered why so many innocent people who are shot by police end up dead.

Granted that police officers spend a fair amount of time training with their service revolvers, and are thus likely to be better shots with a pistol than your average gun-owner. But even so, in so many cases where some unarmed person is shot by police, the result is death, and it makes you wonder how cops, often in the dark and on the run, manage with their notoriously hard-to-aim pistols to hit a vital organ with such depressing regularity.

The answer, I’ve learned, is that police in most jurisdictions these days routinely use hollow-point bullets, which are designed to do maximum damage to soft tissue targets. Because the tip of the projectile is composed of hollowed-out lead, it flattens on impact and spreads out, vastly enlarging the hole made upon entry into a body, causing catastrophic damage to vital organs, internal bleeding and wounds that are hard to repair even in an emergency room.

Just recently,  we learned that the Department of Homeland Security, a super-agency established by Congress and the Bush-Cheney administration in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, had ordered 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow-point ammo, which will reportedly be used at a rate of 90 million shells a year over the five-year life of the contract. (That represents one bullet for every American citizen over the course of the next four years!)

The Department of Homeland Security told us that it has 135,000 personnel who are licensed to carry a weapon. That means the DHS is buying 667 bullets a year for every one of those people. Let’s say that each of those people runs through three gross of shells in annual training at a shooting range, which would represent a fair amount of target practice. That would still leave them with 235 deadly shells left to account for — and remember — this being the government, most of those licensed fire-arm carrying people are working desk jobs where most of their shooting involves their mouths or balled up paper fired at wastebaskets.

The justification given by the DHS and also by local police departments like the Philadelphia Police and the New York City Police for issuing law-enforcement personnel deadly hollow-point ammo is that it is “less likely” to cause collateral damage. That is, a hollow-point bullet, because it expends its energy by expanding and ripping its way through a body, is less likely to pass through an intended target and, perhaps, wound an innocent bystander. The less-discussed purpose, though, is that police want to do the maximum damage to a perp when they decide they need to shoot. Arguably that makes sense. Police are not supposed to shoot people unless they feel personally at risk or think others are in danger, and then the goal is to shoot to kill, not to wound.

The trouble, of course, is that police aren’t all that great at knowing when a fleeing person is guilty of a crime, or even armed, or even whether the target might be a kid with a toy gun, and when a hollow-point bullet hits an innocent target, as was the case with the bullet fired by an off-duty Chicago cop into the head of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old woman standing in a group of men the cop thought were being too noisy, she didn’t have a chance of survival. His hollow-point shell, fired wildly, instantly destroyed her brain.

There’s a reason that the US military is banned from using hollow-point bullets in war. Hollow-point bullets do incredible damage, cause more pain and suffering, and make it far less likely that a person who is wounded will survive, much less recover. This ban was put in place in the Hague Convention of 1899, making it one of the first rules of war aimed at limiting the atrocities of combat. (Ironically, the US military does allow hollow point bullets to be used by military police, just not for shooting at enemy combatants.)

This huge order by the Department of Homeland Security raises a number of questions that should be getting asked, but so far are not.

First of all, why does the DHS need so much deadly ammo? Are they anticipating a mass surge over the Mexican or Canadian border that would require ICE agents to slaughter the masses “yearning to breathe free”? Are there so many terror cells in America that they feel they need to be ready for a mass extermination campaign? Or are they worried that eventually the quiescent and submissive US population will finally decide it’s had it with the crooked banks and insurance companies, and are going to start taking the law into their own hands, so that the government will have to institute martial law and start gunning down masses of citizens?

If not any of the above, it seems to me that the order for 450 million rounds of ammunition, hollow-point or not, is pretty wildly excessive.

But secondly, I’d suggest we need to rethink this domestic obsession with killing. In the U.K., police are not routinely issued hollow-point rounds. Many other foreign police agencies also do not use them. Here in the US though, they are standard-issue for cops on the beat.

We need to have a national discussion about this American obsession with officially sanctioned killing. Sure cops need to defend themselves against criminals who would try and injure or kill them, but given both the potential for killing the wrong person or someone who is being falsely pursued — for example someone who thinks a plainclothes officer is actually a criminal — and the near certainty that the target of a police shooter will be horribly injured if he or she doesn’t die — do we really want to have police using bullets that soldiers are barred from using in combat?

Finally, when it comes to Homeland Security, the situation is really different. Most of the gun-toting officers working for Homeland Security are not in the business of chasing down vicious killers. They are ICE officers who are going after border crossers, TSA personnel who are patting down air travelers, and the Federal Protective Service, who are really glorified building guards tasked with protecting federal property.

The work these armed personnel do can on occasion be dangerous, I’ll grant, but for the most part their work does not require killing people or dodging bullets. Do we really want them shooting to kill with hollow-point bullets?

The question about hollow-point bullet use by police, and especially federal agents, becomes more critical as we see the nation becoming increasingly brutal totalitarian in its handling of dissent and protest. As University of Alabama law professor Ronald J. Krotosznski Jr. wrote in an op-ed article in the New York times yesterday, police and federal authorities are making plans to essentially crush protests planned for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. this summer. Inevitably, of course, there will be protesters who will not take such repression lightly, and who will resist — perhaps with some degree of violence (fists, kicks, tossing back of tear-gas canisters, and perhaps even rocks, though on the basis of past evidence, probably not guns or other deadly weapons). Do we want such justifiably outraged citizens, who are simply reacting appropriately to the shredding of their First Amendment right to protest and to petition for redress, to be blown away by police firing hollow-point bullets?

Those who answer Yes! have basically abandoned their country and handed it over to the fascists and crypto -fascists who have been gradually dismantling the Constitution. Those who answer No! need to demand that this obsession with up-arming the nation’s police be halted in its tracks.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia. 

 

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail