Norway’s Police Directorate recommended on Thursday that officers switch from using regular bullets to expanding ammunition, also known as dum-dum bullets. The government has twice in the past refused the directorate’s request to use the controversial bullets, which are banned during armed conflicts under international law but remain legal in non-war situations.
Expanding ammunition explodes inside a target rather than passing straight through, like full metal jacket bullets can. The bullets pose less risk of collateral damage to bystanders, but cause considerably more harm to the person who is hit. They are commonly used in hunting to quickly stop an animal and result in a more humane death.
“We want to reduce the danger of third persons being hit by a projectile,” directorate section leader Jørn Olav Schjelderup told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Therefore we want Norwegian police to go over to expanding ammunition. Experience shows that steadily more assignments are solved in areas with high population density. On impact with people, the projectile goes through and continues.”
Expanding bullets are used by police forces in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Finland, France, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands.
Greater ability to stop a perpetrator
When the directorate argued for the change in 2003 and 2005, it was on the grounds that expanding ammunition was more effective at stopping a target than regular bullets – in other words, dum-dum bullets did more damage. The government rejected the proposal both times.
The directorate argued on Thursday that technological developments have meant the bullets now cause “almost equal” damage as regular ammunition. “The new ammunition does not fragment in the same way as the ammunition did 10 years ago,” said inspector Rune Andersen. “So it will be far closer to the same damage than it was with the old expanding ammunition.”
The use of expanding bullets was discussed in the wake of the July 22 terror attacks. At the time, the now Justice Minister Anders Anundsen flagged his concern about police officers’ ability to stop a perpetrator among civilians. “Today there is a serious problem, for example with school shootings or terrorism where the terrorist is in a crowd, that the police will affect more people than the perpetrator by shooting,” he argued at the time. Anders Behring Breivik himself used expanding ammunition himself during the shootings on Utøya.
It was Anundsen’s ministry that would consider the matter, reported NRK. The Ministry of Justice refused to comment while the matter was under consideration.
The Socialist Left party was among those who remained skeptical about the measure. “I am willing to listen to the police if they can demonstrate development that shows this ammunition does not have the dramatic effects that expanding ammunition has had previously,” said party leader Audun Lysbakken.
“But it is a fact that this type of ammunition is banned in war, and that it is used in big game hunting because it more effectively takes the lives of animals,” Lysbakken argued. “Then there is very little temptation that police in Norway should use this type of ammunition.”