Despite sixty-five percent of Americans favoring of common sense reforms, the country finds itself faced with yet another mass shooting. This intolerable malignancy has become part of our culture largely, because of the political interests of the NRA and the politicians who carry their water. These coconspirators sanctioned the expiration of the assault weapons ban, opposed closing private-sale loopholes and through the Dickey amendment, effectively barred the CDC from studying the implications of assault style weapons on our society.
The U.S. has 5% of world’s population with 70% of the worlds guns and 31% of the worlds mass shootings. We have just as many mentally ill citizens per capita as the rest of the world, but we have double the number of mass shootings compared to the next 24 countries-combined. The common thread underlying these statistics is the surplus of guns in our culture, specifically, AR-15 assault style weapons.
The AR-15 was engineered as the perfect killing machine to create, what one of its designers called maximum wound effect. The devastating injuries that result from a high capacity AR-15, compared to a typical 9mm handgun or other lower-velocity weapon, is that it doesn’t have to actually hit an organ or artery to cause catastrophic bleeding before leaving an exit wound the size of an orange. Heather Sher, a doctor at the Broward health medical center who treated victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida shared her own remarkable insight in the Atlantic. As radiologist at one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, Dr. Sher describes the injuries between a typical gunshot wound and those of an AR-15. She explains that “in a typical firearm injury, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ which to a radiologist, appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments however, compared to the vital organs of the parkland victims, their organs looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer with extensive bleeding.”
Despite nearly 274 mass shootings last year-nearly one per day, the NRA still refers to the AR-15 as “America’s rifle.” Stating there are several valid uses for the rifle-among them; recreational target shooting, hunting, and home defense. The NRA argues that law-abiding firearms owners shouldn’t be penalized because of homicidal loners who use semi-automatics like the AR-15 for criminal purposes. The reality however, is quite different. This style of weapon is not the first choice- matter of fact, in most cases it is considered the last choice for hunting or home protection. Fact is, the AR-15 is first and foremost designed as an assault weapon. When someone like Adam Lanza, Stephen Paddock or Nikolas Cruz uses it to take out dozens of people in a matter of minutes, they’re not misusing the rifle-that’s exactly what it was engineered to do. “Time and time again we see the AR-15 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. Although the NRA maintains the AR-15-style rifles are NOT “assault weapons” This claim is hard to square with the Army’s own Field Manual, which instructs soldiers on how devastating semi-automatic fire is during modern combat,” Dr. Peter Rhee, a leading trauma surgeon and retired captain with 24 years of active-duty service in the Navy who has treated numerous assault weapon injuries refers to the AR-15 as “the perfect killing machine,”
Nevertheless, the NRA and their republican cohorts continue to frame this as a constitutional justification to peddle weapons of war to civilians with commando fantasies, who are desperately trying to prove their manhood against the myth of a tyrannical government. Many in the Republican party, including Donald Trump who are owned by the NRA, remain opposed to any common-sense restrictions. Trump himself has stated; “the assault-weapon restrictions are a total failure. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people can own.” Not surprisingly, the Conservative solution to this cultural distortion is to add more guns in our schools instead of simply addressing the problem of removing AR-15-style weapons from civilian use. Heather Sher poses the critical question in this debate; “can the answer really be to subject our school children to active shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door and be silent, or is the answer to simply address the problem of removing AR-15-style weapons for civilian use.” The republican party and the NRA’s answer to this question is to arm classroom teachers with guns. This is the same convoluted logic that would have us adding more alcohol to solve drunk driving, more cigarettes to combat cancer and more cheeseburgers to prevent heart disease. The obvious solution is found in the schoolyard itself- if a child hits another child with a stick, do we give everyone else a stick or just take away the stick?
This problem is not about schools. It’s about the proliferation of AR-15 assault style weapons in our culture. Although prickly, common sense solutions are rather straightforward; treat firearms like any other consumer safety product. Create a provenance from manufacture to destruction just like an automobile. Tighten background checks and eliminate loop-holes. Allow the CDC to study the effects of gun violence as a public-health issue in our culture and reinstate the assault weapons ban. The debate should no longer be about the second amendment. It is about ceasing the promotion of assault style weapons to commit public massacres in our schools, churches and streets.