What’s all the fuss about assault rifles, Part 2?
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• 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.
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.
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
MANY, MANY BULLETS IN JUST A FEW MINUTES.
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
MAXIMUM WOUND EFFECT OF AR-15 STYLE RIFLES.
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].
FLESHING OUT A NEW PROPOSITION FOR GUNS:
(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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