Dr. Ernest E. Moore / NBC News & Sarah Zhang / Wired Magazine & Rebecca Corral / KCBS – 2018-02-27 18:30:18
The Parkland Shooter’s AR-15 Was Designed to Kill
Dr. Ernest E. Moore / NBC News
“I am a trauma surgeon, and I’ve seen what AR-15s can do. There’s no reason for civilians to own them.”
(February15.2018) — An assault rifle is designed to deliver fatal wounds to multiple individuals within a short time period; it has no other purpose. 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.
Given that, there is no reason that these weapons should be broadly available to the civilian population. But, given that they are, let’s all understand how they are designed to kill people, not simply to shoot targets for fun.
The effectiveness of these weapons comes, first and foremost, from their ability to deliver relatively small sized, high velocity bullets in rapid sequence into a body, inflicting lethal damage.
The killing potential of a gun is primarily based on the amount of energy imparted by the bullet when it strikes the body. The bullet’s kinetic energy is equal to half of the bullet weight multiplied by the speed of the bullet when fired, squared — in other words, the velocity that a gun can impart on a bullet is the dominant factor in determining its killing potential.
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.
Tissue destruction of the AR-15 is further enhanced by cavitation, which is the destruction of tissue beyond the direct pathway of the bullet; this occurs with high velocity bullets because their kinetic energies are over 2,500 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 results in the destruction of the watermelon. Wounds like this, as one sees in school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland where AR-15s were used, have high fatality rates.
The AR-15 is, by design, easier to shoot accurately and rapidly than a a typical hunting rifle because it mitigates recoil. The standard AR-15 bullet, as previously stated, carries kinetic energy of 1300 foot pounds; a typical hunting rifle bullet has between 2600 and 4000 foot pounds, meaning it has greater recoil.
The excessive recoil of a hunting rifle precludes rapid firing on target, because of the obligatory motion of the gun and its impact on the shooter. But the moderate energy of the AR-15 allows shooting on target literally as rapidly as the trigger can be pulled, while providing ample bullet speed to inflict lethal wounds.
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.
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. And while there is no real debate about the need for improved mental health care in the United States, any discussion of limiting civilians’ access to assault rifles has been a political non-starter for far too long.
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.
Ernest E Moore, MD, is the editor of the Journal of Trauma.
The Damage of Bullets
Rebecca Corral / KCBS
Listen to the audio here.
SAN FRANCISCO (February 26, 2018) — Dr. Andre Campbell, Zuckerman San Francisco General Hospital, interviewed by Rebecca Corral:
“Instead of just entering the body and creating a cone of destruction a couple of inches around it, what it essentially does is it pulverizes and destroys tissue. Some people use the example of dropping a watermelon on the concrete and watching the destruction of the watermelon. That is what happens when an AR-15 assault rifle bullet enters the liver of someone.”
Corral: When than happens, there is no liver to patch up. The organ is destroyed. Multiply that by two, three, five or ten bullets, which a rapid-fire weapon can pump out and it’s a picture of devastation.
“It can destroy the entire blood supply to the arm. It can destroy muscles; it can also destroy bones.”
Corral: It’s like the ripple effect of a speedboat racing through water only this is a speeding bullet slamming through someone’s spleen, bowels, lung, liver â€“ the energy blasting surrounding tissue into pulp.
“All it takes is one bullet to utterly devastate someone. A young 17-, 18-year-old-person, they have their entire life ahead of them. One minute, next minute they’re dead. It’s really a tragedy.”
Corral: So, when you read that 17 lives were lost â€“ a simple phrase â€“ Dr. Campbell wants people to understand what really happens.
What an AR-15 Can Do to the Human Body
Sarah Zhang / Wired Magazine
(June 17, 2016) — ALL GUNS CAN kill, but they do not kill equally.
Compare the damage an AR-15 and a 9mm handgun can do to the human body: “One looks like a grenade went off in there,” says Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona. “The other looks like a bad knife cut.”
The AR-15 is America’s most popular rifle. It has also been the weapon of choice in mass shootings from Sandy Hook to Aurora to San Bernardino. In Orlando this past week, the shooter used a Sig Sauer MCX, an AR-15 style rifle originally developed for special ops, to kill 49 people in the Pulse nightclub. The carnage sparked new calls to reinstate a ban on assault rifles like the AR-15, which were designed as weapons of war.
It’s possible to argue about everything when it comes to the politics of guns — including about the definition of “assault rifle” itself — but it’s harder to argue about physics. So let’s consider the physics of an AR-15.
A bullet with more energy can do more damage. Its total kinetic energy is equal to one-half the mass of the bullet times its velocity squared. The bullet from a handgun is — as absurd as it may sound — slow compared to that from an AR-15. It can be stopped by the thick bone of the upper leg. It might pass through the body, only to become lodged in skin, which is surprisingly elastic.
The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It’s relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone.
“It would just turn it to dust,” says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. If it hits the liver, “the liver looks like a jello mold that’s been dropped on the floor.” And the exit wound can be a nasty, jagged hole the size of an orange.
These high-velocity bullets can damage flesh inches away from their path, either because they fragment or because they cause something called cavitation. When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well — but much more violently.
The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss. A swath of stretched and torn tissue around the wound may die. That’s why, says Rhee, a handgun wound might require only one surgery but an AR-15 bullet wound might require three to ten.
Then, multiply the damage from a single bullet by the ease of shooting an AR-15, which doesn’t kick. “The gun barely moves. You can sit there boom boom boom and reel off shots as fast as you can move your finger,” says Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon at Denver Health and editor of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery, which just published an issue dedicated to gun violence.
Handguns kill plenty of people too, of course, and they’re responsible for the vast majority of America’s gun deaths. But a single bullet from a handgun is not likely to be as deadly as one from an AR-15.
I Made an Untraceable AR-15 ‘Ghost Gun’ In My Office
WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg puts new homemade gunsmithing tools to the test as he tries three ways of building an untraceable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle — a so-called “ghost gun” — while skirting all gun control laws.
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