(Lancet) French protests: why defensive bullet launchers should be bannedArchived Message
Posted by Der on September 12, 2020, 9:26 am
French protests: why defensive bullet launchers should be banned
Laurčne Dufayet, Nicolas Soussy, Charlotte Gorgiard. Sept 12, 2020
Defensive bullet launchers were introduced to the French police force in 1995, but their use was popularised after the French riots of 2005. Since 2009, defensive bullet launchers, equipped with an ammunition launcher of 40 mm in diameter and non-spherical rubber projectiles, have been used. The projectiles are designed to deform themselves, limiting the risk of penetration into the body. The use of these defensive bullet launchers is regulated by an official bulletin from the Ministry of the Interior, which recommends aiming for the trunk or the upper limbs, and an optimal shooting distance of 30 m.
By March 7, 2019, the Ministry of the Interior had recorded 13 095 shots of defensive bullet launchers since the first act of the yellow vests movement on Nov 17, 2018.
Our medico-judicial unit is in charge of assessing damages from a judicial point of view in injured patients, provided that these individuals press charges. Since the beginning of the yellow vests movement, we have managed 48 patients, allegedly injured by the French police during these protests. All these patients were examined at the request of the inspector general of the national police. These individuals were mostly men (40 [83%] of 48), with a mean age of 36·3 years (SD 15·2). 19 of these patients reported injuries from defensive bullet launchers, including 14 head injuries (eg, facial fractures in six patients). The mean total incapacity to work, a French legal concept allowing magistrates to assess the severity of an assault, was 16 days (SD 21). The number of days of incapacity assess the duration of the patient's inability to fulfil usual physical activities. Injuries from defensive bullet launchers were frequently localised to the head and physically disabling. Defensive bullet launchers should only be used for self-defence or in situations of extreme violence, when there is no alternative. Police officers are trained to aim for the limbs or the lower body, never the head. Unfortunately, given the high number of head injuries observed, safety guidelines were ignored too many times. Our findings support previous reports from French ophthalmologists and maxillofacial surgeons.
A law aiming to prohibit the use of defensive bullet launchers was drafted, but was rejected by the French Senate in March, 2019.
Even if France is currently under lockdown, we believe that such protests will reappear. We advocate for a ban of defensive bullet launchers, at least in protests, and we encourage the use of alternative methods such as water launchers.