Assault weapons and public policy

“What makes injuries from these rifles so deadly,” one surgeon said (March 4, NYT), “is that the bullets travel so fast. Those from an M16 or an AR 15 can depart the muzzle at a velocity of more than 3,000 feet per second, while bullets from many common handguns move at less than a half or a third of that speed.” Another said, “the tissue destruction is almost unimaginable. Bones are exploded, soft tissue is absolutely destroyed… it’s like a bomb went off.” Such victims can need a dozen surgeries over months. “You will see multiple organs shattered . The exit wounds can be a foot wide.” Rarely do we hear of the thousands of heartbreaking journeys that may have begun with a trip to the mall, church, a rock concert, the movies, or school and continue for the rest of their lives.

You’re not going to get a much better response time to a shooter than dead in thirty seconds but in those thirty seconds Connor Betts fired 41 shots at a Dayton Mall Saturday killing 9 and leaving 27 with injuries as described above. As we all know, more were killed and injured in El Paso that same day.

Every developed society has its pathologically dangerous people but only in the US do we arm them with assault weapons. In all but a handful of states, if you’re over 18 and can scrape up around two hundred bucks you can legally equip yourself to become a lethal terrorist.

Once upon a time the assault weapon ban (1994-2004) reduced these horrific murders and injuries. Although 70% of Americans support banning them again, it seems representation of the NRA (National Rifle Association)’s position on the matter, in our legislature, outweighs that of our citizens.

But then there’s Mike Turner, US republican representative from Dayton. He discovered that at the time of the shooting his daughter was across the street, shopping. Had she crossed the street or had Betts chosen her store, she could have been another gun statistic, dead, or with lifelong crippling injury.

But she was safe and he could have just moved on — but that’s not what he did. Although strongly endorsed by the NRA for his previous positions, he did not put that ahead of his reconsideration of the facts.

He voiced support for legislation banning assault weapons, concluding: “The carnage these military-style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable.”

Instead of saying: ‘what are the politics,’ representative Turner said: ‘what if it were my daughter, loved one, friend — laying there with their insides blown up?’ He then apparently weighed the societal cost of having legal assault weapons versus the benefits and took a stand.

Phillip Washburn