Rhino Bullets

January 01, 1995|By VINCENT DeMARCO Did Gun-Ban Lobby Cook Up This Furor?

David Keen says his Rhino bullets will cause baseball-size wounds. Lawmakers want to ban them. The National Rifle Association says they may be a hoax. Meanwhile, Mr. Keen says he will delay release of a bullet that will pierce bullet-proof vests, but he will continue work on another Rhino bullet. Here are two views of the controversy.

Technology, Violence Must Be Stopped Now

This past week, David Keen, manufacturer of the new killer handgun ammunition called "Rhino," bragged to the world that when someone is shot with a Rhino, "There is no way to stop the bleeding." But whose bleeding was he talking about? Did he mean children caught in the drug war crossfires who will die on emergency room tables because doctors won't be able to stop the blood flow? Or, did he mean police officers who are shot and wounded in the line of duty and who bleed to death?

The person shot will not be the only victim of the Rhino. According to Dr. David Johnson Jr. of the American Medical Association, medical professionals will themselves be in danger of injury from the Rhino's "razor-like fragments."

There also will be no way to stop the bleeding in the hearts of the Rhino victim's family and friends. What would Mr. Keen say to the bereaved parent whose child would have lived if doctors could have stopped the bleeding? Does he really expect parents of slaughtered children to forgive him because he only intended his bullet to be used against "bad guys"?

Sadly, the Rhino is only the tip of a huge and growing gun violence iceberg that threatens our society. Every year, more than 25,000 Americans are killed by handguns. What Rhino teaches us is how advancing technology can be used to make the carnage much, much worse. Using techniques honed for the Cold War, Mr. Keen claims to have developed a bullet that not only devastates the human body but can also pierce a police officer's "bulletproof" vest. What's next? A "Mastodon" bullet that could blow up a building or wipe out a schoolyard filled with children?

The real shame, however, is not only that there are people around like Mr. Keen who will threaten public safety to make a fast buck -- but we let them do it.

Our state and national gun laws are so weak that someone could legally develop and market a Mastodon bulletand it could be out on the street before we could do anything about it. The reason the laws are so weak, of course, is the power of the NRA and the gun manufacturers. When they cannot kill a gun control measure, they often manage to water it down so much that it can be evaded. So, besides banning Rhino, we must treat ammunition like prescription drugs and require prior approval of any new bullet before it can be manufactured or sold. Although this must be done at the national level as soon as possible, we should not wait for Congress to act before we take action here in Maryland. Our newly elected pro-gun control governor and General Assembly majority should make ammunition control a high priority.

Beyond ammunition, we must enact comprehensive legislation at the state and national levels to curtail handgun proliferation and abuse. Most importantly, anyone who wants to obtain a handgun or handgun ammunition should first have to get a license from the state police. We must also do the following: require all handgun transactions to be registered; limit the number of handguns that individuals can purchase or possess; deny handguns to spousal abusers; ban assault rifles and gun magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets at one time; and impose civil liability on anyone who transfers a handgun illegally.

And beyond legislation, we must all work to educate each other, particularly young people, about the hazards of handguns.

How many of us know, for example, that a handgun in the home is much more likely to kill a family member than an intruder -- or that every day in America a child is killed accidentally by a gun in the home? One Baltimore City public school, Tench Tilghman Elementary, is leading the way on the education front by using a nationally acclaimed gun violence prevention curriculum known as Straight Talk About Risks. This curriculum was developed by Sarah Brady's Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

Yes, we can stop the bleeding. But only if all of us make doing so a top priority.

Vincent DeMarco is the executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse. Every year about this time, the Gun Ban Klan starts screaming that some new gun or new product related to firearms is a horrible danger to society and must be banned before it is even made and tested. Their current paranoia centers around a pair of new handgun bullets called "Rhino-Ammo" and "Black Rhino."

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