Is Use Of Rubber Bullets Justified?
M Mir, U Malik, M Buch, H Wani
injury, less lethal weapon, protestors., riots, rubber bullet
M Mir, U Malik, M Buch, H Wani. Is Use Of Rubber Bullets Justified?. The Internet Journal of Surgery. 2013 Volume 29 Number 1.
Currently, mob control is enforced by trained police or military and paramilitary forces by using less lethal weapons, and the rubber bullet is one of these. Rubber bullets are rubber or rubber-coated projectiles that can be fired from either standard firearms or dedicated riot guns. They are intended to be a non-lethal alternative to metal projectiles. Like other similar projectiles made from plastic, wax, and wood, rubber bullets may be used for short range practice and animal control, but are most commonly associated with use in riot control and to disperse protestors1-4. Rubber projectiles have largely been replaced by other materials as rubber tends to bounce uncontrollably. Such kinetic impact munitions are meant to cause pain but not serious injury. They are expected to produce contusions, abrasions, and hematomas. However, they may also cause bone fractures, injuries to internal organs, or death. Lethal injuries are often the result of head injuries caused by misuse. When a projectile strikes a person, its kinetic energy at impact is defined by its mass and its velocity (1/2 × mass × velocity2). Ballistic studies suggest that a projectile needs to apply a threshold energy density of greater than 0.1 J/mm2 to skin in order to penetrate and cause internal injuries1-4. Manufacturers of rubber bullets modify the mass (composition), ballistic properties (velocity) and size (cross-sectional area) in order to reduce the likelihood of skin penetration. Furthermore, law-enforcement officers often have specific rules of engagement for using these types of munitions that further reduce the likelihood of penetration and serious injury; such rules include firing at distances over 40 meters and changing the point of aim to body regions where skin has increased elastic properties (lower limbs) to allow the energy to dissipate over a larger cross-sectional area5.
Patients and Methods
This prospective study was conducted in the Department of General Surgery, Government Medical College, Srinagar. The study included 64 consecutive patients of rubber bullet injury who reported to the surgical department of this hospital over a period of three years from 1 st June 2008 to 31 st May 2011. After detailed history and clinical examination, hemodynamically stable patients were subjected to investigations and unstable ones were operated. Operative findings were noted. Data collected was tabulated and subjected to appropriate statistical analysis.
In our study, teenagers were most commonly injured (34; 53.125%), males (58; 90.625%) were more frequently injured than females (6; 9.375%). Males predominated in each age group. Most of the cases were from urban areas (46; 71.875%). Urban people were mostly injured in each age group (Table I). Rubber bullets caused blunt injury in 46 (71.875%) and penetrating injury in 18 (28.125%) of cases. The limbs were the most common and less severely injured sites (38; 59.375%), while the head and neck region was least commonly and most severely injured (4; 6.25%) (Table II and III). The mortality observed was 1.563%, which was due to carotid artery injury by rubber bullet (Table III and Figures A and B). The colon (Figure C) and small gut were the most common hollow viscera injured with 8 cases (12.5%) each and the kidneys and the liver (Figure C) were most commonly injured solid viscera with 6 cases (9.375%) each (Table III).
In Indian Administered Kashmir valley mass protests happened against the Indian Occupation in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. The state police and paramilitary forces fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors and we received many injuries at the emergency department of our hospital. We received 64 rubber bullet injuries during these three years of riots. In our study we observed that urban male teenagers were often injured by rubber bullets, limbs were mostly injured, serious injuries occurred in head and neck, chest and abdomen. The mortality observed was because of great vessel injury like carotid artery. Direct-fire rubber bullets were used for the first time by the British Forces in Northern Ireland in 19706. These bullets were also relatively inaccurate; many injuries and even some deaths were associated with their use3,6,7. Children, teenagers, and women who are of a smaller built were reported to sustain severe injuries more often than larger individuals, particularly to the skull, eyes, brain, lungs liver, and spleen3,7-9. The seriousness of rubber bullet injury observed in our study was probably due to closed range firing of rubber bullets and their greater rebound from roads which then caused injury of the upper part of the torso. Almost similar observations were noted by Rocke3, Mahajna et al.5 and Millar et al.6 in their studies.
We concluded in our study that