- - Wednesday, May 5, 2021

It keeps happening — a citizen threatens others and a police officer is summoned to the scene. In Columbus, Ohio, a cop pulls up to a home, and is he immediately confronted with a group of young people fighting. Police body-camera shows a teenaged girl, armed with a knife, lunging at another girl with the blade upraised. In the split second before she strikes, the cop fires at the attacker, who falls fatally wounded. A life is saved, a life is lost. Surely, 21st-century alternatives should exist capable of halting a deadly threat without inflicting a deadly result. They do.

Duane Chapman, better known to reality-TV viewers as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” is urging Congress to craft legislation directing police to drop the use of lead in the bullets they load in their service weapons and turn to alternative munitions. Calling his campaign “Take the Lead Out,” he speaks from experience. As a bail enforcement agent, he boasts 8,000 fugitive arrests — without killing a single one.

Rather than arming himself with lead ammunition, says Mr. Chapman, he relies on less-deadly alternatives. “We’ve used all non-lethal weapons,” he told Fox News recently. “We’re going to get the lead out of the bullet and replace it with rubber and or wood. I’ve shown a thousand arrests on different networks in America in the last 15 years and I’ve been attacked [by] machetes, shopping carts, guns, knives.”

Rubber munitions, in particular, lack the density of lead, making them capable of injuring without killing. The rounds are an invention of the British, who used them to quell violence in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. The ammo, together with bullets loaded with other alternatives such as plastic and silica, have since been in use for riot control by nations around the world.

By no means harmless to those targeted, the rounds are rarely lethal. The British Ministry of Defence reported that about 125,000 rounds were fired during a 35-year period, resulting in only 17 deaths.

Lead-free bullets are not new to U.S. law enforcement, but they are mainly used for riot control rather than for routine patrol. They are part of an array of less-lethal munitions that include pepper balls, beanbag rounds, tear gas and pepper spray. Tasers are only effective at close range and even then, amped-up subjects sometimes shrug off the electric shock and continue their dangerous behavior.

Those who have not worn the badge (including us) risk talking out of turn when offering advice to those who have. “Dog the Bounty Hunter” speaks from years of experience on the street, though, and is a voice worth hearing.

Given the current national outcry over police shootings — regardless of the circumstances — a proposal to “Take the Lead Out” of police munitions is worth studying, testing and perhaps adopting. It could save lives.

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