What’s all the fuss about assault rifles, Part 1?

• What are assault rifles?
• What are they designed for?
• What is the damage they cause to the human body?
• Why are they allowed to be sold in the USA?

I RARELY LET EMOTION INTO MY BLOGS, BUT I AM TODAY. The 17 schoolyard deaths in Parkland, Florida this week, reportedly carried out by Nikolas Cruz using an AR-15 rifle (the same semi-automatic weapon used during the Sandy Hook and Orlando massacres), made me read up on this rifle. What I found was intensely disturbing.

From USA Today. Click to enlarge or to source.

The following points are excerpts from an article by Dr Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon (Click HERE to see full article):
• The Parkland shooter’s assault rifle AR-15 was designed to kill as efficiently as possible.
• An assault rifle is designed to deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period; it has no other purpose.
• It was made for the military, to allow members of the armed forces to better dispatch multiple enemies in short order.
• There is no reason that these weapons should be broadly available to the civilian population.

AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

• The 9mm handgun is generally regarded as an effective weapon; its bullet travels at 1,200 feet per second and delivers a kinetic energy of 400 foot pounds. By comparison, the standard AR-15 bullet travels at 3,251 feet per second and delivers 1300 foot pounds.
• To compare again, a typical 9mm handgun wound to the liver will produce a pathway of tissue destruction in the order of 1-2 inches. In comparison, an AR-15 round to the liver will literally pulverize it, much like dropping a watermelon onto concrete destroys the watermelon.
• The efficiency of the AR-15 is further compounded by large capacity ammunition magazines that permit feeding 30 or more bullets into the rifle without reloading.

AR-15 rifles are on display during the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia. Alex Wong / Getty Images

• Mass shootings with high fatalities are fundamentally the result of the combination of a deranged individual who wants to end the lives of a large number of random humans and his or her ability to access an assault rifle.
• We’re not likely to be able to institutionalize every person who might be willing to commit a heinous crime, but we can take away their access to the most lethal weapon for doing so with a stroke of a pen.
• As a trauma surgeon for 40 years (and avid hunter for much longer), I am dismayed that we remain paralyzed over preventive measures. There have already been 18 school shootings in 2018, when one would be too many: This cannot remain a political issue when it is clearly an issue of common sense.

(1) I wrote two previous blogs about mass shootings (click HERE and HERE), and I challenged readers to provide any reason why assault rifles should be sold to the public. Not one reason was offered. I issue the same challenge today…..If you know of any reason assault rifles should be sold to the public, please reply in the Comment box at the bottom of this blog.
(2) In this blog, the issue is NOT removing all guns from the public, just assault weapons that were designed purely for the military.
(3) Given the increasing school shootings, isn’t it common sense to ban assault weapons?
(4) Such a ban would obviously cut down on the number of school shooting deaths in 2018, when there already have been 18 such shootings.
(5) The political impasse over this issue is laughable, as illustrated by the Post-Script below.

Rick Scott, governor of Florida. Click to enlarge or to source.

The following is an incisive word-version of Wolf Blitzer of CNN discussing the Parkland shootings with Florida governor, Rick Scott (a Republican). The interview speaks for itself.

Wolf Blitzer, hardly the most outwardly opinionated anchor at CNN, asked Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) a very simple question on Thursday. How is it that the 19-year-old shooter in Parkland, Florida, could legally buy a military-style AR-15 weapon when he can’t even buy a beer?

As Blitzer pointed out, it’s “hard for a lot of us to believe” that Florida laws don’t even allow handgun sales to anyone under 21 but it is perfectly legal for an 18-year-old to purchase an AR-15 with no waiting period.

“We are going to look at all these things to figure out, you know, what works and is not working,” Scott said, speaking by phone from Florida. “Our primary goal, as I bring everybody together, is to say these kids are going to be safe. So we’re going to look at all these issues to figure out how can we make sure these kids are safe and also make sure that people that are struggling with mental illness do not have a gun.”

Unsatisfied with that non-answer to his question, Blitzer said, “Let me phrase it another way, because this is really shocking to so many of us, governor. He wasn’t old enough to buy a beer legally in your state, you’ve got to be 21 years old. So why is it in Florida that he could buy an assault weapon at the age of 19?”

Scott called the question “legitimate” but still would not answer it, only saying he wants to make sure “we don’t trample on anybody’s constitutional rights.”

Pressing on, Blitzer said that if the shooter had not had an assault rifle with multiple magazines, he never would have “been able to kill as many people” as he did. “So I just want you to tell our viewers you’re going to take action as the governor of Florida to change this to prevent this from happening again for someone, only 19, clearly with a history, this individual, just going into a store and buying an assault weapon.”

“Wolf, we have to,” Scott said, saying he is going to do “everything” he can to “make sure this never happens again.” But again, he would not commit to even supporting a change in the gun laws in his state.

As the governor started laying out the difficulty of passing legislation, Blitzer cut him off, saying, “It’s not that complicated. You’ve just got to pass some new laws to make it more difficult for 19-year-olds to buy assault weapons, right?”

The Gray Nomad ….. Think well and think clearly.
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin – who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought – it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea. (Matthew, chapter 18, Amplified Bible).

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6 years ago

All of the other comments have some relevance to the issue of gun ownership in America, but what is the real issue here? Is it not school shootings and violence in America? So what is the root to this problem? As I see it, it is a multi-faceted problem. So we can argue gun rights, classification of assault weapons, and so on. But friends, what are we as a society going to do? Are we going to debate? Or take the necessary actions and make the sacrifices needed to solve this deplorable problem? What are we willing to give up to protect our friends and family? Will it be our finances, our pride, our selflessness, our “have it our way” attitudes, and so on? Someone once wisely said, “When a society or an individual does not self-govern, they will eventually lose some or all of their rights to self-government.” When we fail to individually govern ourselves, eventually we will be governed. What then is our answer for solving this sad set of social circumstances, which has lead to massive school shootings? Shouldn’t we examine ourselves first and our institutions next, and then make the necessary changes? Just my thoughts.

Terry Brown
Terry Brown
6 years ago

Ian – perhaps you should go into more detail about what constitutes an assault rifle. “Designed to kill efficiently as possible” does not tell me enough. I could easily make the case that most guns are designed to kill as efficiently as possible. Any projectile .22 caliper or larger travelling at more than about 750 feet per second is deadly. “Designed to deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period” is also insufficient. There are 10-round .22 caliper double action revolvers that deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period, especially if one carries two of them – one in each hand. One could take out up to twenty individuals in less than 20 seconds. And to claim that the AR-15 was made for the military – I don’t think that is relevant. I think one could claim that many guns began by being made for the military.
So I think it is important in this discussion to thoroughly and accurately define an assault rifle, which I don’t think you have done.

6 years ago

Hi Ian,

A reason I’ve often read — though not one with which I agree — is that the “right to bear arms” is an implicit reference to the rights of the people to match an army’s weaponry in the event of a need for civilian militia revolt. As I understand it, the rationale is that civilian weaponry should be allowed to mirror that of the military.

I think it’s a deeply flawed interpretation of the Constitution, and a worrisome bow to the gun lobby.

As regards the so-called “mentally ill” it’s too broad a term to be meaningful. We’ve had wonderful world leaders (including US presidents) who suffered from depression or Bipolar Disorder, which are “mental illnesses.” Massive numbers of people in the US take prescribed psychiatric medications for their “mental illness.” It would be more reasonable to look at such issues as a history of aggression toward others, including but not limited to domestic violence.

6 years ago
Reply to  Meg

I’m trying to understand all the reasons why “see something say something” hasn’t been working. We will always have the sick among us and millions of semi auto weapons are already out there.. but when tips to law enforcement go in the waste basket.. We are in serious trouble.

John Cameron
John Cameron
6 years ago

Ian, I too am furious over the lack of responsibility and common sense of so many Americans in supporting the access of assault rifles without adequate screening. I guess the reason why this latest shooting is getting more attention than the much larger Las Vegas massacre is because it occurred in a more sacred setting (school vs. outdoor concert) and involved a teenage shooter. Both shooters were obviously mentally ill and had access to these weapons …. that’s the problem. Also, these weapons, as you pointed out, are military weapons and should remain in the hands only of the military.

The only reasons I can think of why civilian people want these type of weapons is to feel powerful (the bigger gun factor) as well as the “fun” of firing these. The latter reason could be fulfilled by going to an accredited firing range and renting one.

I carried assault weapons in the Army for about a year. I slept with them and constantly had one with me except when going on RandR or to the hospital. I felt a little vulnerable when I turned my weapon in upon leaving the service but I soon got over the feeling. The reason is that I no longer am in a combat zone and rules of behavior are considerably different. Thus, in a civilian setting, people should not have access to military weapons. The government should ban all such weapons (buy them back if necessary). Also, certainly screening potential gun buyers for mental problems would be prudent … reinstate this requirement which Trump repealed last year.

Thanks for commenting about this important issue. I think a change in the leadership of the NRA to reflect more humane and sane gun policies would also go a long way in helping our government behave in a more rational manner.

Barbara Leachman
Barbara Leachman
6 years ago

The NRA didn’t shoot anyone. They aren’t even listed in the top 20 lobbyists in WA. I’ve never read how much money the NRA donated to any candidate but I don’t think President Trump is moved by money donated to his campaign like most of the other candidates and elected officials have been. He did away with an Obama mandate concerning the mentally ill being able to purchase guns. Even the ACLU was against this because it was so far reaching that it would have infringed on the rights of too many citizens. Let’s look at why people feel the need to kill. Could the entertainment industry and pushing God out of the culture have an impact on our young people’s lives?

6 years ago

Thank you, Ian, for sharing this. The increasingly frequent mass shootings in the USA is so very disturbing. Too much money from the gun industry going to politicians? Or too much emotionally charged dialogue? But it really is time to address the vehicles of delivery…

Kevin K
Kevin K
6 years ago

Sorry Ian, I didn’t specifically answer your questions 1,2, and 3 which is: there is not a specific definition of an assault rifle that I am aware of which doesn’t also prevent my ownership of any semi-automatic hunting rifle. And further, most semi-automatic handguns are just as lethal as semi-automatic rifles. I would be willing to ban rifles or handguns that shoot by themselves, but my experience is that shootings generally have someone who pulls the trigger that is the problem and not the weapon.

Kevin K
Kevin K
6 years ago

Ian, the individual you quote who was a trauma surgeon for 40 years and an avid hunter for supposedly more is not being truthful, or only hunted with a shotgun or .22. I have a 30-06, a 270, and an AR-15 and all are semi-automatic and might be classified an assault rifle by those who want to say our 2nd amendment rights should have some arbitrary limit determined by the “righteous”. My AR is only slightly more manuverable than my other two weapons, thought it has a larger magazine capacity than the other two. I would guess you can find several other calibers available in semi-auto version with large capacity magazines similar to my AR, so the use of the term “assault rifle” is a creation of the beholder. At close range, e.g., 21′ or less, I can put several 9 mm shots in less than 10 seconds into a target the size of a human head as can the rest of my family members (we’re trained) and one can buy a 9 mm large capacity magazine. Most people won’t know the difference if they were hit with 3 or 4 400 ft-lb shots or 1300 ft-lb shots as unless they are gigantic or high on some PCP type drug, they will be prone and inanimate. Contrary to Mr. Moulton’s suggestion, Australia’s “tough gun laws” have not prevented carnage: Hectorville, 2011 – 3 dead, 3 wounded; Hunt, NSW – 5 dead; Sydney siege, Dec 2014, 3 dead, 4 injured, ditto in Norway in 2011, 80 dead even though they have a restriction for “hunting and sport shooting” only.

Bob Moulton
Bob Moulton
6 years ago

Hi Ian,
After Martin Bryant massacred 35 people and injured 23 others at Port Arthur, Tasmania, using automatic rifles in April1996, John Howard’s Liberal government introduced a gun amnesty which “triggered’ the surrender of many thousands of weapons.It is illegal in Australia to own an unregistered firearm and the penalties are severe – up to 14 years in prison or a fine of up to $280,000. It is complete madness to allow the sale of weapons – particularly automatic weapons – to anyone who walks in off the street.
Unfortunately the USA elections are heavily influenced by the national firearms lobby and I believe that they contributed around $65 million towards Donald Trump’s election campaign. It is an indictment on the successive governments of the USA that they have allowed the manufacturers and users of these weapons to ‘call the shots’! Its a simple trade-off of money and power before human lives. Show some courage America.
Albert Einstein’s definition of ‘insanity’ – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.
Bob Moulton
South Australia

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