Prosecutors routinely try to convict armed citizens who defend themselves. A favorite technique is to ask a trick question that is unanswerable due to its hidden assumptions. E.g.: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” The trick question about ammunition in this essay’s title is meant to show malice by an armed citizen during his or her trial. It has often succeeded, resulting in unjust convictions. This essay presents five jury-persuading answers to the trick question.
Examine the Trick Question
But first let us examine the question itself: “Why Did You Use Illegal Cop-Killer Dum-Dum Bullets?”
Why does the question include the word “dum-dum”? — The term comes from Dum-Dum Arsenal, a British facility near Calcutta where in 1896 Captain Neville Bertie-Clay developed the Mark IV military cartridge. Its slug was designed to mushroom upon impact. Nowadays prosecutors and ideologues use the term “dum-dum” merely to connote something evil-sounding to ignorant listeners.
Why does the question say “illegal”? — Not counting New Jersey, which uniquely outlaws non-LEO possession of hollow-points, the excuse is the Hague Convention. At the Hague Convention of 1899, signatory nations agreed to disallow expanding bullets in warfare but to allow their use by police. Hollow-points were disallowed for military use because of their low overpenetration and their high stopping power. Consider each point.
- Regarding overpenetration: An expanding slug (JHP or jacketed hollow point) will stop inside the first person it hits. A solid slug (FMJ or full-metal jacket), in contrast, will typically go completely through the first person, hit anyone standing behind the first and go then through him and into a third person before stopping. The solid slug’s overpenetration risk to bystanders is a good thing in warfare but a bad thing in law enforcement and self defense.
- Regarding stopping power: Someone hit by an solid slug, which makes a small through-and-through bullet hole, is likely to cry out in pain but unlikely to lose consciousness. Hence, two other soldiers must normally carry the wounded man off the field. This takes three enemies out of action. On the other hand, someone hit by an expanding slug, which makes a large hole and leaves the bullet inside, is more likely to lose consciousness and fall, giving the appearance of death. This takes only one enemy out of action. This is bad in warfare but good in law enforcement and self defense.
Why the words “cop-killer”? — No reason. The words are scary but meaningless. Neither a solid slug (FMJ) nor a hollow-point (JHP) will go through a police vest when fired from a handgun. Either one will go through body armor when fired from a rifle.
Ideologues often add other meaningless words. According to the conservative website American Thinker, in blogs by Lee DeCovnick on September 20, 2012; Tom Roberson on August 19, 2012; and Tom Robertson on August 14, 2012; hollow-point ammunition “is carefully designed to kill its intended targets”. In fact, it is the solid military bullet that is designed to kill its target and anyone standing behind him. The hollow-point is designed to incapacitate its intended target and hurt no one else.
The Five Answers
Q: “Why Did You Use Illegal Cop-Killer Dum-Dum Bullets?”
A: “There are five reasons, counselor:
“First, because my local law enforcement agency uses them. If hollow-points are the right ammunition for police officers to protect themselves and the public, then it must be the right ammunition for me to protect myself and my loved ones.”
Incidentally, virtually all law enforcement agencies in the U.S. today use hollow-points. Few court scenes are more entertaining than cross-examining a prosecution LEO expert witness who has just testified that only vile malicious criminals are so heinous as to use hollow-points, by asking one question: “What ammunition do you use, officer?”
“Second, to avoid overpenetration. I carry a gun only to defend myself and my loved ones from criminal attack, nothing more. So I use ammunition that is most likely to stop a criminal attacker without endangering anyone behind him.
“Third, to stop richochets. Solid bullets bounce wildly off rocks and concrete, endangering everyone around. Hollow-points break into tiny fragments upon hitting something solid, at worst causing a minor stinging feeling.
“Fourth, to save my life and those of my loved ones. The small impact of a solid bullet making a tiny through-and-through hole might stop someone many minutes later due to bleeding, but it seldom stops someone in their tracks. In fact, many people shot with a solid round do not even realize they have been hit until they begin to weaken many minutes later. They can still kill and rape during those minutes. A hollow-point’s impact cannot be ignored because it transfers its momentum to the criminal’s body upon stopping inside, rocking them back on their heels and making a large visible hole.
“Finally hollow-points are less lethal, giving the criminal a better chance of survival once they receive medical attention. Armed citizens in self-defense are fighting for their lives and their loved ones. They are trained to keep shooting until the threat stops. But stopping a criminal with non-expanding slugs usually takes six or more shots because of the low impact and small through-and-though bullet holes. A hollow-point often stops a criminal with one shot because of the high impact, momentum transfer, and large visible bullet hole. Any trauma surgeon will testify that someone with a large chest wound who receives prompt medical treatment has a better than 90 percent chance of survival. Someone with a half-dozen small though-and-through wounds scattered about his torso is unlikely to survive despite medical efforts.”
You Knew All of This Today
The best way of answering the trick question about ammunition and any other trick questions with which prosecutors ensnare armed citizens, is to have an expert give the answers—someone whom the jury can trust to be accurate and honest.
Some judges will allow experts to testify on your behalf. You should cover yourself for this possibility by joining an organization that provides expert witnesses when the need arises. In this context, I recommend The Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.
Other judges will not allow outside experts. They do not care why experts would have used hollow-points, but want to know why you did so. Furthermore, they will not let you even answer on the stand unless you can prove that you knew the answer long before the shooting. And so, you must prove that you knew exactly why hollow-points are the safest, most humane self-defense ammuntion, long before defending yourself. You should cover yourself for this possibility as well. In this context, I suggest that you simply post a comment to this essay. Your comment need say nothing beyond “hello”. The point is that today’s date, time, your IP address, and your username will be permanently recorded in the blog database. The blog comment itself will serve as permanent evidence that you knew everything above as of today (the day that you posted the comment).
Next Time: Prepping for Hyperinflation
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Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to email@example.com. The information above should not be construed as legal advice.
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