What’s all the fuss about assault rifles, Part 2?

• Definition of an assault rifle?
• How many bullets can be fired in a few minutes?
• An AR-15 type of rifle is an extreme rifle in its killing capacity.
• Is driving cars a good analogy to buying/using guns?

Context: Its one week after the groundswell of support for gun regulation that came forth in last Saturday’s demonstrations across the USA.

Looking west, people fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I recently blogged about assault rifles, Part 1 (see HERE), with the PROPOSITION that assault rifles are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible (as in a ground war) and shouldn’t be available for sale to the public. The blog received several comments, some agreeing, some disagreeing. I appreciate the feedback and admit I wasn’t clear as to what is an assault rifle. I learned some things and am grateful that all the blog comments were respectful.

HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE COMMENTS AGAINST THE PROPOSITION: that assault rifles are designed for killing many people rapidly. My replies are given in italics following the letters IDP. Note: I also appreciated the comments agreeing with the proposition, but they are not the goal of this blog.

COMMENT: What’s needed is a definition for an assault rifle. Is it a fully-automatic rifle? As well as an AR-15, other rifles are semi-automatic, such as a 30-06 or a 270. However, the AR-15 is more maneuverable, has less recoil, and can hold larger-capacity bullet magazines. So the term “assault rifle” is arbitrary. A 9mm Glock is a semi-automatic also, and you can buy a large-magazine for this hand-gun. There are 10-round .22 caliper double action revolvers that deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period, especially if a person carries two of them – one in each hand. One could take out up to twenty individuals in less than 20 seconds. IDP REPLY: See section titled DEFINITIONS below. But for starters, a semi-automatic rifle or hand-gun is one where a bullet comes out every time the trigger is pressed, and the trigger can be pressed rapidly as many times as there are bullets in the magazine (for an AR-15 there may be 30 or even 60 bullets in a magazine). A fully-automatic is one where bullets come out very rapidly and continuously while the trigger is pressed only once.

COMMENT: If we ban assault rifles, why don’t we ban alcohol, trucks, motorcycles, vehicles, medical drugs, cell phones, all of which can kill people? IDP REPLY: the simple answer is because most of these things are for the general good, although alcohol is controversial. Which raises the question, are guns for the general good? Hunters would say yes. Sport-shooters would say yes. People who think they might be threatened might say yes (but others say I’ll carry mace or a stun-gun instead). It’s very difficult to argue that AR-15 style rifles are for the general good.

COMMENT: The gun is not the problem – it’s the shooter behind the gun. We just have to stop irresponsible people from buying or using guns. IDP REPLY: I talked with a rancher in Kansas, and he said he knows people (normally functioning people with regular jobs, etc) who should never own a gun, because they have volatile temperaments, and he wouldn’t trust them to always be safe with their own gun. This is a stable, successful, rancher and hunter (runs deer on his own property). A stat that supports this: for homicides in the USA caused by arguments, about 70% are gun-related (e.g. two people caught up in an argument, and one pulls a gun).

COMMENT: If the USA bans assault rifles, it’s the edge of a slippery slope. Pretty soon all guns will be banned in violation of the Second Amendment. IDP REPLY: this seems like a stretch to me, and a bit paranoid. We don’t ban alcohol, we just apply reasonable limits to drinking while driving. We don’t ban cars, but we do install speed limits. I’m confident there’s enough common sense to ban the extreme guns (e.g. AR-15s) as a reasonable “power” limit without banning all guns.

AR-15 rifles formerly classified as assault weapons under federal law. Magazines up to 60 rounds are available on the internet.

Under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (which elapsed in 2004) the definition of “semiautomatic assault weapon” included specific semi-automatic firearm models by name, and other semi-automatic firearms that possessed two or more from a set certain features.

The ban defined the following semi-automatic firearms, as well as any copies or duplicates of them in any caliber, as assault weapons: Colt AR-15 (see image), Intratec TEC-DC9 (see image), plus seven other categories of guns. So the AR-15 is an assault weapon as defined under the previous Federal Assault Weapons Ban. This is our starting point.

AN ASSAULT RIFLE IS DESIGNED TO DELIVER FATAL WOUNDS TO MULTIPLE INDIVIDUALS WITHIN A SHORT TIME PERIOD. This paragraph was written by Dr Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon for 40 years, also an avid hunter. The AR-15, the civilian version of the military assault rifle (M16 or M4), has become the most commonly used rifle in US mass shootings; the recent shootings in Parkland and Las Vegas, for instance, testify to the effectiveness of this weapon’s design. It was made for the military, to allow members of the armed forces to better dispatch multiple enemies in short order; in the hands of civilians, it not only clearly serves the same purpose for some individuals, but it’s unclear what other purpose it could serve, given how and why it was made.

THE FAMILY OF AR-15 INVENTOR EUGENE STONER said in 2016 (after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting) that he didn’t intend it for civilians. “Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47,” the Stoner family told NBC News late Wednesday. “He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events.”

Stoner designed the original AR-15 in the late 1950s, working on it in his own garage and later as the chief designer for ArmaLite, a then small company in southern California. He made it light and powerful and he fashioned a new bullet for it — a .223 caliber round capable of piercing a metal helmet at 500 yards. The Army loved it and renamed it the M16.

“After many conversations with him, we feel his intent was that he designed it as a military rifle,” his family said, explaining that Stoner was “focused on making the most efficient and superior rifle possible for the military.” But after Stoner’s death in 1997, at the age of 74, a semi-automatic version of the AR-15 became a civilian bestseller, spawning dozens of copy-cat weapons

The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary layed down more than 150 rounds in less than five minutes and slaughtered 20 first-graders (see HERE).

Last week CBS News presented a security camera video of Omar Mateen, the shooter at the Pulse nightclub in Florida in June 2016. He had a semi-automatic AR-15 type rifle and a semi-automatic handgun. He left 49 people killed and 58 injured, some seriously. In the video below you can count 5 shots in just two seconds. According to the autopsy reports, many of the victims were shot multiple times in the front or side, and from a short distance. More than a third were shot in the head, and most had multiple bullet wounds and were likely shot more than 3 feet away.

In total, there were over 200 gunshot wounds counted by autopsies. The video below shows that essentially all of the shooting was done in 6 minutes, at which time several law-enforcing officers entered the nightclub. The shooter then barricaded himself in a bathroom, with hostages.

Click on this link to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiP25BPfdv0

The most common magazines for AR-15s are 30 rounds, but some are 60-rounds.

The AR-15 assault rifle was engineered (see HERE) to create what one of its designers called “maximum wound effect.” Its tiny bullets – needle-nosed and weighing less than four grams – travel nearly three times the speed of sound. As the bullet strikes the body, the payload of kinetic energy rips open a cavity inside the flesh – essentially inert space – which collapses back on itself, destroying inelastic tissue, including nerves, blood vessels and vital organs. “It’s a perfect killing machine,” says Dr. Peter Rhee, a leading trauma surgeon and retired captain with 24 years of active-duty service in the Navy.

The mass-market boom of the AR-15 style rifle has been horrific for the rest of us:
• Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 RIFLE to kill 17 at a Parkland high school in Florida.
• Adam Lanza stormed Sandy Hook Elementary with a BUSHMASTER AR-15, laying down more than 150 rounds in less than five minutes and slaughtering 20 first-graders.
• James Holmes wielded a SMITH & WESSON “MILITARY & POLICE” (M&P) AR-15 fitted with a 100-round drum magazine in his siege of a movie theater that killed 12 and wounded 58.
• The San Bernardino, California, shooters carried A PAIR OF AR-15s in their ISIS-inspired rampage that left 14 dead.
• Orlando shooter Omar Mateen deployed SIG SAUER’S CONCEALABLE “NEXT-GENERATION AR” to murder 49 and injure dozens more at the Pulse nightclub – the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
• Stephen Paddock killed 59 and injured 851 people attending an outdoors concert in late 2017 in Las Vegas. 1,100 rounds of bullets were fired in 10 minutes. Bump-stocks were used to allow his semi-automatic rifles to fire as fully-automatic weapons.

“Time and time again we see it used to do what it was designed to do, which is to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time,” says Mark Barden, managing director of the Sandy Hook Promise, a group dedicated to protecting children from gun violence. Barden’s son Daniel – precocious, kindhearted, an ace at foosball – was one of the students murdered in Sandy Hook. “It’s designed for combat,” he says. “It doesn’t have any practical application in civilized society.”

A commenter of my blog Part 1 suggested that driving cars is a good analogy to buying/using guns. He suggested to treat guns like cars….which are regulated:
(1) a starting age to drive (18) [we need a starting age of 21 to own a gun].
(2) a permit to drive a registered car (after a theory and a practical driving test) [we need background checks for criminal or abusive behavior before selling a gun].
(3) a speed limit because the speed of the car kills (currently 70 or 75 on highways, less in towns) and penalties for abuse of the regulation [we need a killing-power limit for guns, e.g. ban AR-15 type guns, because the power and rapid fire and a large magazine kills].

(1) Make bumpstocks illegal. These are used to convert a semi-automatic to an automatic rifle, and there is no justification for this.
(2) Make the minimum age 21 for buying all guns in all states. It’s ridiculous to allow an 18-year old to buy an AR-15 but not a handgun and not a beer (as was the case in Florida).
(3) Improve the background checks. And install a waiting period. And be diligent about reporting and putting criminals or abusers on an accessible “no-firearms” list. Absolutely yes.
(4) Ban the AR-15 rifle and other same-class rifles with similar high-power, maneuverability, and size of magazines. The AR-15 seems to be at the extreme of semi-automatic gun power, and it was classified as an assault rifle in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It’s hard to see that a ban on AR-15s would be any real loss to people who hunt. Or any real advantage to a homeowner intent on killing an intruder (as one commenter said, you can kill just as effectively with a 9mm handgun within 20 feet). Or any serious threat to the Second Amendment. But it would surely cut down on the number of people killed in school attacks.

LET’S EXPLORE THE CAR ANALOGY FURTHER. I drive a lot and become fearful when some crazy driver passes me and weaves in and out at 90 mph. That car has become a killing machine. But we have regulation checks to catch these guys: a speed limit, radar traps and breathalyzers, for example.

With AR-15s we lack critical regulations that I know of. These guns can shoot 150-200 rounds in about 5 minutes (see above). We don’t even have a regulation on magazine size. The only checks we have, or are supposed to have, are reports of criminal or abusive activities in a database system. This is something but is limited, for we all know someone who is bipolar, or takes illicit drugs, or just has a violent temperament, and they won’t be in the system. But right now they can go out and buy an AR-15. See the piece on the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58…..he had done nothing to warrant being reported to the system.

One way to regulate and catch an AR-15 bent on killing would be a metal detector. Do we need to install metal detectors in our schools, our theaters, our malls, and our churches? It would be a whole lot simpler to ban AR-15 style rifles.

I appreciate any feedback that you would like to share……respectfully.

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The Gray Nomad ….. Think well and stay informed.

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6 years ago

Regarding truth. The truth is not always obvious. Psychologist and economist know that. Everyone has his own version of the truth in many issues/matters. This is why, instead of one true Christian church, there are scores of different denominations. The best we can do is gather and present the data and draw conclusions in an unbiased, reasoning manner. If we base truth on emotions, it can be very different from this. For example, some people opposed to gun control laws are highly emotional.

Now regarding laws of the land. Laws do not stop some people from breaking laws, but most people try to live within the law. A teen under 21 can’t legally buy alcohol, but some do break the law. Laws give us a sense of what is acceptable and what is not, and we need these guidelines. Passing a law restricting gun ownership, and enforcing it, will cut down on some, but not all crimes. It is unlawful to own a “grenade launcher rifle,” so only a few may be able to acquire one illegally, but if it was lawful, a lot of our citizens would own one or more. Maybe a law restricting 30 round clips and bump-stocks would have saved some, but not all the lives taken in the past mass shootings. Would that be worth the effort to pass a law that protects us and saves some of our children?

Regarding speed limits. When Montana reinstated a no-speed-limit law in the daytime, after the Federal Government gave that right back to the individual states, the highway fatalities went up beyond anyone’s expectations. So Montana had to pass laws and post speed limits again, and the highway fatality rate dropped accordingly. Laws have to be enforced, or they are not as effective, so we have State Highway Police, etc.

Regarding AR-15s. First, it is totally unreasonable to have no background checks at public gun sales events. Second, it is totally unreasonable to have no laws controlling the sale and ownership of certain guns, and accessories. Do people own a grenade launcher or even a grenade, and if not, why not? No….because it’s not legal and it’s not beneficial or useful. What about AR-15s and like weapons on the market? If people buying these need toys, which some consider these weapons to be, because they “play” with them at the shooting ranges, then they can be satisfied with a lesser weapon, and get the same satisfaction. Some people have to have a 600 horse power car, because they need to feel powerful. Some people need an AR-15 to feel powerful, or need to feel the power of this gun, in order to feel good about themselves. At least this is how I view it. Despite psychological needs like this, we need to practice good sense in order to protect our children and others from mass shootings using AR-15s.

I understand that people don’t want to have their liberties restricted, neither do I. However the citizens of Montana had their liberty to govern themselves, in regard to safe highway speeds, but they couldn’t govern themselves, and that liberty was taken away. So it is, or should be, with gun controls on AR-15 style assault weapons, and large bullet magazines for all automatic weapons.

Ken LLoyd
Ken LLoyd
6 years ago

Ian, I recall the experiences of Korean shop owners during the Watts and LA Riots in 1965 and in 1992. The government lost control and police abdicated their responsibility to protect the citizenry. Some shop owners tried to protect their property and livelihoods with guns – some considered semi-automatic assault weapons. What would you do? Here is a retrospective. https://www.npr.org/2012/04/27/151526930/korean-store-owner-on-arming-himself-for-riots

6 years ago
Reply to  Ken LLoyd

Ken, I watched the video, and I have to admit I hadn’t given riots and looters any thought. My first thought is I would like to have a gun to scare off looters, like Mr Ha did (altho he didn’t try to kill anyone). Second thought: now 26 years later, the looters would likely have an AR-15. So if I now have an AR-15, there will be dead bodies in the streets and houses. So I’m not sure owning an AR-15 is a solution for a riot. PS: I’m also not sure arming guards or teachers in a school is a solution as I would expect serious crossfire deaths if the shooter and guards both have AR-15s.

David Gardner
David Gardner
6 years ago
Reply to  Ian

Hi Ian, in regard to your reply of Ken LLoyd where you state:

“I’m also not sure arming guards or teachers in a school is a solution as I would expect serious crossfire deaths if the shooter and guards both have AR-15s.”

Your argument seems to be that there is greater danger to bystanders/students due to potential cross-fire between the armed guard(s) and the shooter than leaving the shooter un-challenged? Surely you’re not serious about this argument are you? How much worse were the results at the school in Florida where the armed guard at the school in Florida refused to engage the shooter, how many lives might he have saved if he’d done so, though his own might have been a risk?

Gary McFarland
Gary McFarland
6 years ago

The Second Amendment was established to provide citizens with the means to protect themselves from the government, according to many gun rights advocates. Since the government forces have automatic weapons, citizens need equal firepower. That is their “practical application” of the assault rifle. Sadly, we are left with armed camps of paranoid people who are waiting for armageddon.

Terry Brown
Terry Brown
6 years ago

Ian – I would suggest that you and your readers (pro and con) watch this YouTube video:

Magazine capacity does not make much difference. A shooter can carry additional magazines and load them very quickly, and they sometimes carry multiple firearms (i.e., two or three pistols and a rifle).

Secondly, I suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Would I rather get shot with a 9 mm bullet travelling 1,000 ft/sec from a pistol or a 223 bullet travelling 3,000 ft/sec from an AR-15? Fact is, both will kill you or hurt you very badly depending on where they hit.

All of this move to ban the AR-15 is really about banning all guns. If the government bans AR-15 type rifles, then mass shooters will use another type of gun, and then there will be a move to ban those. The process will not end until all guns are banned. Then only the criminals will have guns purchased from the black market or printed on a 3D printer. Law abiding citizens will be defenseless. The Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for a very good reason.

Terry Brown
Terry Brown
6 years ago
Reply to  Ian Palmer

Ian – I have tried to post twice but it does not seem to register. Is there a word / letter count limit?

6 years ago
Reply to  Ian Palmer

This is an interesting a provocative discussion. … so to continue…

Federalist Paper No. 46, written by James Madison, is one founding document that addresses the purpose of the Second Amendment.

The Founding Fathers were aware of a prevalent concern in America at the time that a national standing army would gain too much power and, therefore, lead to eventual possible tyranny.

Wikipedia states the following: “In an effort to further dissuade fears over a national military force, Madison indicates that, at any point, the maximum force that can be brought to bear by the government to enforce its mandates is but a small fraction (~1/5) the might of a militia:”

The actual text of the Federalist Paper No. 46 reads:

“Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.”

So the preceding document as well as other founding documents demonstrate that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to provide a level of protection of the individuals’ rights from a tyrannical Federal Government. It is well documented in the founding documents. And the Founding Fathers considered the “well regulated militia” to be all citizens (see quote from George Mason below):

“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual State. In a single State, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except their courage and despair.” (Federalist Paper No. 28 by Alexander Hamilton).

Founding Father George Mason is quoted: “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” (from his speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778).

The idea of segregating the militia from the people is one that is not supported by the Founding Fathers. The militia was perceived by the Founding Fathers to be an entity comprised of all of the common people in America. The difference, though, is that all men in that era were trained to use their arms, while many modern men have not ever fired a gun.

Also, militia is a clarifying phrase in the Second Amendment. It does not say that the right of “militia” to bear arms shall not be infringed. It is specifically the right of the people (who, in fact, are the militia and make up the militia).

You make reference to gun control legislation and interpretations during the first 200 years in our country. I am not aware of any national gun law legislation or court interpretations until the mid-1900’s. Can you enlighten me? Your example in 1939 is 150 years later (OK, that is within 200 years), but your statement implies that there was a trend of several court decisions during the first 200 years. I have cited the Founding Fathers (including two of the Federalist Papers). You have cited a 1939 court interpretation. One case does not demonstrate a trend for the first 200 years. And many think the court erred in the 1939 decision.

Your response to my question was “how would I feel about facing a man spraying high-killing bullets around the room.” Are you, then, claiming that the students would have felt better if the perpetrator had been shooting 9mm semi-automatic pistols? Or even .22lr pistols? If I were in a school and a shooter began shooting, say, a Ruger 10/22 rifle (.22 lr bullets) with a 10 round magazine in the rifle and a few more in his pocket, I would not respond, “Oh, that’s just a 22. I do not feel so bad about that. At least it is not an AR-15.” The fact still is that he will be able to fire about 30 or 40 rounds in about one minute and it is very likely that many students will die or be maimed. It may be the case that instead of 17 who die, it may be 12 or 14, but maybe 17 or more depending on where they are hit. It is a fact that more people in the U.S. are killed with .22 caliber bullets than any other round. The 22 caliper, the 38 special, the 9mm, the 357 magnum, the 45 caliper, etc. are all deadly rounds as is the 223.

Again, I go back my original claim. If you ban one gun, you will end up banning them all. And then law abiding citizens will be defenseless and only criminals will have guns because they, by definition, do not follow the law. You did not address that point in my post. It is a crucial point – one that greatly concerns gun owners in America.

John Adams wrote in a letter that “… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The implication is that our Constitution would not work if we departed from being a moral and religious people. If Adams was correct, perhaps it the case the we are no longer a moral and religious people, so the Founding Principles in the U.S. Constitution will cease to work (including the Second Amendment). Perhaps that is why we, as a country, are having this debate and others. That idea may be worthy of discussion also.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x