The tension continues in the United States as protesters continue to create chaos in cities after the death of George Floyd died on May 25. In an attempt to quell the unrest in cities across the country, police departments are firing rubber bullets into mobs. Even with five-decade research, it can disable, disfigure, and even kill people.
The police department has also used tear gas, flash-bang grenades, pepper spray gas, and projectiles to control the crowds of protesters demanding justice for the death of the 46-year-old Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Are Rubber Bullets Safe to Use?
According to CNN, some protesters have turned violent, with people smashing glass windows, setting buildings on fire and looting stores. Upon learning that the police force is using rubber bullets, violent graphic images have started appearing on social media, showing people who have lost an eye or suffered injuries after getting hit by the ball.
A 2017 study published in the BMJ found that people that get hit by the bullets died 3% of the time. In 1984, 15% of the people hit were permanently injured caused by the rubber bullets. This phenomenon is called the "kinetic impact projectiles."
According to Brian Higgins, the former police chief of Bergen County, New Jersey, rubber bullets should only be used to control "an extremely dangerous crowd." It would be reckless and dangerous to shoot them into open crowds, said Dr. Douglas Lazzaro, NYU Langone Health's professor and expert in the eye examination.
Cases of rubber bullet injuries have come into surface, such as the grandmother who was hospitalized in an intensive care unit after being hit between the eyes. Likewise, actor Kindrick Sampson also said that while at a Los Angeles protest, he was hit by rubber bullets seven times.
Moreover, in Washington, D.C., the National Guard fired rubber bullets to disperse peaceful protesters near a historic church where President Donald Trump was subsequently photographed on Monday.
To their defense, Attorney General William Barr said that the actions of the local and federal law enforcement officers in Washington had restored order to the nation's capital.
Nobody knows how often police use rubber bullets or how many people they have already harmed as they are not allowed to document their use of the bullets, and many victims do not go to the hospital.
To date, there no nationally agreed-upon standards for their use. But, rubber bullets can effectively stop a dangerous person or crowd from getting near the police officer when aimed at the legs. But in close range, they can penetrate the skin, break bones, fracture the skull and explode the eyeball, said Lazzaro.
But firing rubber bullets from a distance reduces its force and accuracy, increasing the chances of hitting the face or the bystanders Lazzaro added.
Banning the Rubber Bullets
A group based on New York, known as Physicians for Human Rights, has called for rubber bullets to be banned.
Rubber bullets were an invention of the British military 50 years ago to control nationalist rioters in Northern Ireland, though the United Kingdom has stopped using those decades ago.
"Rubber bullets are used almost every day somewhere in the world. Using them against unarmed civilians is a huge violation of human rights, said Dr. Rohini Haar, a lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health and medical expert with Physicians for Human Rights.