Rubber bullets should not be used against protesters, experts agree


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As protests against police brutality — in the name of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others — spread across the nation, more and more people have shared pictures of their rubber bullet injuries.

Although rubber bullets are a traditionally used method of “non-lethal” crowd control, medical experts have spoken out against their use.

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When fired at close range, the force of impact from rubber bullets can be “similar to [that] of live ammunition,” Michele Heisler, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, told Inverse.

“Most simply can not be used safely against crowds.”


One issue is the name “rubber” bullet. These projectiles aren’t made entirely of rubber — they often contain a metal interior.

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And despite their “non-lethal” or “less than lethal” designation, studies have shown that rubber bullets can cause life-threatening injuries.

A 2017 study in BMJ Open found that, out of nearly 2000 rubber bullet injuries, 300 of led to permanent disabilities.

That same study found that

53 people died

from their rubber bullet injuries.

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One prevailing myth about rubber bullets is they can’t penetrate skin.

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This is completely wrong. “Blunt trauma can be as lethal as penetrative injuries,” Heisler says.

To learn more about the science surrounding rubber bullets, read Inverse’s deep dive.

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