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Hollow point bullets are too brutal for warfare, yet U.S. police use them.

The amount of different kinds of bullets available for both civilian and professional use is immense but can mostly be put into one of two categories: full metal jacket or hollow point. The difference between full metal jacket and hollow point ammunition is small in design but massive in their effects. 

The tips of full metal jacket rounds are encased completely by some soft metal like copper or lead so the bullet doesn’t damage the gun’s barrel and flies as accurately as possible. The main problem with this kind of bullet is that they often pass through their target and cause minimal damage. 

Hollow points aren’t designed for accuracy or safety; they’re designed to break up on impact and do as much damage as possible. Hollow point rounds have a large cavity at the bullet’s tip instead of a smooth round tip like full metal jackets. When a hollow point impacts its target, the cavity begins to fill up, expanding the bullet’s casing outward and creating a flower shape much larger than the original bullet. In addition, the metal can fragment and disperse a multitude of shards that bounce around and tear up their target even further. Bullet fragments from a hollow point can bounce off bones and spread through the victim’s organs and flesh to make survival much less likely. Hollow point bullets are designed to kill their target. 

That’s why since the 1899 Hague convention they’ve been illegal under international law for almost every country in the world to use during warfare. The point of war isn’t to claim as many lives as possible, so most of the world’s governments have banned weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Hollow points are joined on this list by weapons like landmines, mustard gas, cluster bombs and incendiary weapons, according to We Are The Mighty.  

So if every major government in the world agrees that this weapon is too deadly even for war, then why is it the standard ammunition used by American police officers? Hollow point bullets are the most common type of round used by American police. 

This sounds like a horrific realization, but there’s justification for it, however faulty it may be. The most common argument for why police use hollow points over full metal jackets is that hollow points minimize the risk of an unintended target being hit. As mentioned earlier, hollow points break up inside their targets instead of passing through, potentially protecting the lives of bystanders. 

However, this logic seems seriously flawed when one considers that if there was a bystander in the same line of fire as an officer’s target, the officer probably shouldn’t shoot anyway. If they did, they’d risk missing the intended target and guaranteeing much smaller odds of survival for the unintended target. 

It’s unfortunate when an officer has to draw their weapon and fire, but it does have to happen sometimes. Officers are often put in situations where their only choice is the use of a firearm, whether it be because of the ineffectiveness of nonlethal weapons, a lack of time to de-escalate the situation or any number of dangerous circumstances. 

If a firearm must be used, why not make a national switch to the much less dangerous bullet? Police reform is one of the most prominent issues in the U.S., and the small change from hollow point bullets to full metal jackets would prevent unnecessary suffering on a national scale. 

The objective of war isn’t to claim as many human lives as possible and neither is it the goal of U.S. police. 

Evan Holden is a sophomore political science major. Contact Evan at holdened@dukes.jmu.edu.