PRESS EDITORIAL: The killing tool

An AR-15 style rifle did exactly what it was designed to do last week when a horrible person in a small town in Texas killed 19 children and two teachers—slaughter human beings.

The rifle is a near copy of the M-16 and M-4 assault rifles that are issued to American soldiers, Marines, Navy SEALS and other elite special operations forces because they are devastating killing tools.

The 5.5mm cartridges fired by AR-15s have explosive effects on human bodies owing to their 3,260-feet-per-second velocity and designed characteristic of yawing and tumbling through tissue and bones after contact.

A trauma surgeon who has treated victims of AR-15 shootings was quoted by the New York Times in an analysis of the clinical impact of the rifles.

“The tissue destruction is almost unimaginable,” Dr. Jeremy Cannon of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine said. “Bones are exploded; soft tissue is absolutely destroyed. The injuries to the chest or abdomen—it’s like a bomb went off.”

Another trauma surgeon said, “You will see multiple organs shattered. The exit wounds can be a foot wide.”

Military personnel are well trained in applying the killing power of the AR-15 in combat, but civilian users don’t have to be warriors or marksmen or have any firearms training to cause carnage with the weapon. Firing as fast as the trigger can be pulled, the semi-automatic rifle sprays bullets that can kill by merely striking the appendages of victims, and with 30 rounds in each easily replaced magazine, poor marksmanship doesn’t matter because the shooter can just keep shooting until the high-velocity bullets hit a human target.

A teenager was able to walk into a gunshop in a small Texas town, buy two of these weapons and use one of them to commit mass murder in an elementary school.

A society that tolerates that cannot be defended or excused. It will be shamed by this moral failure until it acts to restrict access to  guns that are designed for war but have become the weapons of choice for those who kill the innocent in horrifying numbers in America.

The ability of AR-15-style rifles to make killing easy explains why they have been used in 10 mass shootings in the U.S. in the past decade, causing the deaths of more than 200 people, many of them children.

But to evil doers bent on acting out nightmare fantasies, they are appealing also for their instant empowerment. Possessing these compact killing machines, whose very image is enough to strike fear in the minds of many, confers perceptions of power, strength and menacing manhood (100% of the AR-15 mass shooters have been males) on the weak, ineffective and delusional.

Millions of the various brands of AR-15 style rifles have been purchased by Americans. They are owned by gun collectors and shooting enthusiasts and people who buy them for home defense, and it is safe to say that only the tiniest fraction of them will ever be used to kill a person.

But it can also be said that some AR-15 owners, though law-abiding, cannot resist employing the weapon’s fearsome image to intimidate. This has been evident at protests and rallies around the country where it has become common to see such rifles carried and displayed in menacing fashion. Ozaukee Press readers may remember the front-page photo of two men flaunting AR-15s and wannabe military gear as a threatening presence in a Port Washington park during a Black Lives Matter rally that was peaceful and competently overseen by police with their standard sidearms holstered.

These are manifestations of a gun-owning  culture that was once a benign, sport-oriented element of American life but has gone astray. There is no need for AR-15s to have a role in the exercise of the right to own guns guaranteed by the Second Amendment. They are not suited for hunting or serious target shooting. There are literally thousands of other types and brands of guns—rifles, shotguns and handguns—available to Americans for sport, collecting and, certainly, personal and home defense.

The bloody trail of unspeakable tragedy smeared on American schools, churches, synagogues, stores and other places people gather in their daily lives by one distinct type of war-inspired firearm demands that Congress reinstate the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. AR-15 style rifles should be officially defined as assault weapons and future sales made illegal.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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