Though the Second Amendment protects the citizen’s rights to bear arms, there are certain restrictions in place by federal, state, and local statutes that regulate the sell and possession of certain kinds of weapons. Though there is an on-going arbitration battle as to the legality and constitutionality of the imposed regulations, it does serve logic to protect the commonwealth from people possessing and purchasing military-grade firearms, regardless if they are qualified or experienced.
The same ideal is applied to ammunition and certain types that may prove too dangerous to be used a public or societal realm. Though there is much controversy surrounding the issue, there are certain laws in place that regulate the sell or possession of certain types of ammunition, namely armor-piercing bullets. Hollow tip bullets, though not regulated, are also an issue of controversy because of its intended purpose of expanding or mushrooming upon impact.
Armor-piercing bullets are primarily developed with the use of small or conventional firearms with the purpose of penetrating body armor, such as a ballistics vest used by law enforcement officials.
This type of ammunition is also capable of penetrating through car armor, concrete, and in some cases, tanks. Armor-piercing bullets consist of hardened steel at the tip, or extremely dense materials such as tungsten or depleted uranium. The penetrating component is often encased in a softer metal, such as copper or aluminum. This design is common for pistols or handguns.
The rifle version of this ammunition is similar, but sometimes also employs the use of an explosive or incendiary tip to aid in penetrating the target. This may be the case when the ammunition used for anti-tank purposes. Typically, upon impact, the casing is destroyed, and only the hardened bullet penetrates the target.
The argument regarding the legality of armor piercing bullets may seem to favor those who oppose them at first glance. Firstly, there is no reason why a civilian should have the use of armor piercing bullets. In conventional and legal use of firearms, this type of ammunition is not a necessity. In using a firearm for recreational, hunting, or sports shooting, armor piercing bullets are not only completely unnecessary, but also become a hazard. The very design of this type of bullet makes it dangerous because of how they are made to penetrate their targets completely.
This proves to be dangerous in any situation where the shooting environment is surrounded by people, or the surroundings themselves are not completely known. An armor piercing bullet can easily penetrate a target and continue through it, hitting other objects in its trajectory. Because this type of ammunition is unpredictable in terms of its power and the plausible damage it might incur, many states in the country have made it illegal to possess or buy any kind of ammunition that is under this category.
Currently there are eleven states that have barred the sale or possession of armor-piercing bullets: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Though the severity of breaking any of these states armor-piercing bullets provisions all vary, they all impose a jail sentence, a fine, and sometimes both. These range from imprisonment for a minimum of one month to a maximum of ten years. The fines can range from $500 to a maximum of $15,000. Many of these states will implement a combination of both penalties, depending on the severity of the crime.
Though there are no federal or imposed regulations regarding hollow points, there may be some local legislation in place restricting their possession or use. A hollow point or hollow tip bullet is a bullet that is designed to expand upon impact. The hollow tip is usually made of lead, because the softer material allows for the bullet to expand much easier. The main reason for this is to stop the bullet from penetrating too deeply.
A secondary reason for the expansion, or mushrooming, upon impact is that is it causes much more damage to the muscle tissue or bones as it penetrates and travels through a target. The design of a hollow tip also lends for the bullet to be more accurate because the center of gravity is toward the rear of the bullet.
The controversy surrounding this type of ammunition is one that can be tiredly debated. The fact is that there are both positive and negative factors regarding the use of hollow tips. The main purpose behind the hollow tip is to expand upon impact, which allows for greater stopping power; the projectile slows down as it enters the target because of the increased surface area due the expansion. This prevents the over-penetration of the bullet, thus reducing the risk of any collateral damage.
Hunters and some law enforcement agencies favor this kind of bullet because there is virtually no risk of ricochet, and has extreme stopping power. Stopping power does not only refer to bullet’s ability to slow and come to halt better than other types, but also the stopping power it has due to the damage it causes a target. A hollow tip causes much more damage than a conventional bullet because of its expanding effect; due to its increase of surface area as it enters the target, more damage is done.
This is another reason why hunters and law enforcement agencies favor this bullet. For hunters, it creates an opportunity to more humanely catch game because of the bullet’s ability to kill in one shot. For law enforcement officials, it provides them with a considerable force and the ability to stop perpetrators with one or two shots, which other bullets will take several more to disable the suspect.
However, stopping power in terms of damage and harm is one of the reasons that is also viewed as a negative. Military use of the hollow tips is prohibited under the Hague Convention of 1899. It states that during warfare, no bullet shall be used that easily expands or flattens in the body. Hollow tips undoubtedly cause more pain and are more fatal than bullets that pierce through a target. Countries that are part of NATO follow the Hague Convention and do not employ the use of hollow tips or hollow point bullets.