A hollow point bullet is an expanding bullet that has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip, often intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration, causing the target to absorb more of the impact and disrupting more tissue as it travels through a body. Hollow point bullets are designed to inflict maximum damage to their targets. They’re not practice rounds. The purpose of hollow points is to kill and maim.
In a trend that has received little attention from the media, various US domestic government agencies have been quietly purchasing millions of rounds of these hollow point bullets and other types of ammunition this year. Senator Rand Paul (KY) took some criticism earlier this week for tweeting about these strange hollow point bullet purchases, which include some of the following examples:
In March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed a 5 year contract with ATK (an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company) for the purchase of up to 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow point bullets (HST). The HST is a hollow-point round that holds its jacket even after passing through barriers. Ron Johnson, President of ATK’s Security and Sporting group said, “We are proud to extend our track record as the prime supplier of .40 caliber duty ammunition for DHS, ICE. The HST is a proven design that will continue to serve those who keep our borders safe.”
Recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement (initially reported incorrectly as the National Weather Service, NWS) purchased 46,000 rounds of ammunition for semiautomatic pistols, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) bought 174,000 rounds of hollow point bullets. The primary reason given by SSA for the purchase? Training. Here is an excerpt from that statement:
“Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered. In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies. OIG’s special agents use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety. Additionally, the ammunition our agents use is the same type used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Our special agents need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers.”
Finally, there are reports from Reuters reporter Jason Reed and Irish Daily Mail columnist Mary Ellen Synon (who was also a London-based associate producer for CBS News 60 Minutes) that both say, “The DHS is also planning to purchase a further 750 million rounds of different types of ammo in a separate solicitation…including 357 mag rounds that are able to penetrate walls.”
Such large acquisitions of such deadly ammunition by so many federal domestic agencies– including some puzzling ones like the Social Security Administration– all over such a short period of time might reasonably be expected to elicit some kind of response or comment from the White House and Congress. But they haven’t, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, whose reaction last week was to tweet:
Mad a/b the weather or bad forecasts? I wouldn't complain, Nat'l Weather Svc just ordered 46k hollow-point bullets http://t.co/rKWCCPVC
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) August 14, 2012
Senator Paul was blasted immediately for his tweet by various sources (e.g. Daily Kos, Think Progress) because he incorrectly identified the rounds as going to the National Weather Service instead of NOAA. Paul didn’t even make an accusation, nor ask a question. He simply tweeted what was originally reported by media sources– that the NWS had purchased 46,000 rounds of ammunition.
Because millions of rounds of deadly ammunition have been purchased this year, primarily by DHS, it’s not unreasonable for voters and policymakers to ask questions about it. Why purchase so much ammo, and how will it be used? Why purchase hollow point bullets for training, as SSA is claiming, instead of cheaper firing range bullets? And how does this year’s quantity and type of ammunition purchases by DHS and other government agencies compare to the quantity and type of ammunition in prior year purchases?
And why isn’t the mainstream media asking these questions more?