Robert Wright at The Atlantic:
And then there’s the part of the story the Reuters piece doesn’t address: According to other reports, Zimmerman’s gun was loaded with hollow-point bullets–bullets that expand upon impact, maximizing internal damage and the chances of death. You don’t need hollow-point bullets to stop a pit bull. And you don’t need hollow-point bullets to stop a robber.
Sure, some gun enthusiasts may warn that if you face an armed bad guy, hollow points minimize the chances of his returning fire after being shot. But how likely is it–in real life, not the movies–that this would actually come into play? And, anyway, there was no evidence that the robbers who had afflicted the neighborhood were armed; they were burglars, not muggers, and when in danger of being caught they’d fled. (And as for the reason police sometimes use hollow points–to cut the chances that the bullet will harm bystanders after passing through the victim’s body or after ricocheting: that makes a lot of sense in a crowded urban environment, but not much in Zimmerman’s neighborhood.)
The logic of this Reuters piece cuts two ways. If Zimmerman had in mind a profile of the neighborhood burglars as young black males, then, yes, it’s likely that he honestly believed Trayvon Martin was a criminal. But that also means that, on those nights when he patrolled the neighborhood, looking for would-be burglars, he probably had in mind the prospect of confronting a young black man. What we’ll never know is whether that prospect had anything to do with the fact that Zimmerman chose not just to carry a gun, but to load it with the kind of bullet that was most likely to kill anyone he shot.
I have held two different jobs where I carried a gun. The first was the military police. We carried those old M1911A1 .45 caliber pistols that were military issue from 1911 until today. They were loaded with six fully jacketed .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) rounds, but full metal jacket is required military ammunition by the Geneva Conventions.
I also carried a gun while working security. My weapon was a 9mm Smith and Wesson semi-automatic loaded with 115 grain semi-jacket hollow points.
Guns are serious business. If you ever have to shoot someone it better be because you are in fear for your life or the lives of your loved ones. That means somebody is doing something that constitutes a threat. You want to stop that person, fast. You don’t want to piss them off. You don’t want to cause a bunch of neat little holes in them and then wait for them to slowly bleed to death.
You want to shoot them a minimum number of times and have them go down and stay down. And you don’t want your bullet to pass thru them and harm anyone else. That’s why the vast majority of law enforcement agencies use hollow points.
1. Because each bullet does more damage, you can stop the attacker more quickly. When the attacker stops quickly, you are less likely to be injured. So hollowpoint bullets are safer for you.
2. Because each bullet does more damage, you will probably need to shoot fewer times to stop the attack. Leaving fewer holes in the attacker makes it more likely that the attacker will survive to go to trial. So hollowpoint bullets are actually safer for the bad guy.
3. The mushrooming or fragmenting activity of the bullet “puts the brakes on” inside the attacker’s body. That creates more damage. But it also makes the bullet far less likely to go through the attacker to strike a bystander or the loved ones you are trying to protect. Because of their shape, hollowpoint bullets that miss their intended target are also less likely to ricochet and hit innocent others. So hollowpoint bullets are safer for bystanders.
Why was George Zimmerman using hollow points? I don’t know.
Maybe he wanted maximum stopping power. Maybe he was concerned about a pass-thru bullet hitting someone besides his target. Maybe the person who trained him to use his pistol recommended them. Maybe they were on sale the day he bought ammo.
But we should not assume some racist intent on his part just because he was using a very common type of ammunition.