Commentary: As America recoils, the NRA celebrates

Gun Rights

The 18-year-old accused of killing 10 Black Americans and wounding three others at a Buffalo Tops Market on May 14 was armed, police say, with a Bushmaster XM-15.

And the 18-year-old accused of massacring 19 children and two teachers and wounding 17 other people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, chose a DDM4 V7 rifle manufactured by Daniel Defense, authorities say.

In its May 25 edition, Scientific American reminded us that the average age of the last 13 school shooting gunmen was 18. School shootings that left 146 dead and 182 wounded. This, of course, is the demographic the gun lobby is so keen to groom and enthrall. Think Mad Men meet the Oath Keepers.

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Many among us – including a frequently quiescent press – have been inveigled by NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry and its allies in Congress into believing that while these and other AR-15 type rifles may look like military weapons they are but “modern sporting rifles.” They are not.

Both rifles are offsprings of the AR-15 and its successors, the M16 and the M4, weapons designed, intended and manufactured for military use. They all fire the same ammunition.

The AR was designed in 1956 by ArmaLite in response to the Army’s need for a new fast, lightweight, rapid-fire rifle chambered with a new, high-velocity, small-caliber cartridge capable of delivering maximum killing power in combat. The weapon’s new lightweight ammunition would also allow troops to bring significantly greater fire superiority to the fight.

That new round was the 5.56 mm cartridge. And it is the same bullet, fired from the same AR-15 platform, that was used to kill and wound 13 innocent people in Buffalo and 38 in Uvalde.

Colt Manufacturing acquired the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite in 1959, and in 1964, then designated the M16 in accordance with the Army Nomenclature System, it entered military service. 

All guns can kill, but some are much more proficient killers than others. The AR-15, the M16, the Bushmaster XM-15, the DDM4 V7 and their cousins are particularly adept. They perform their function very well. 

All have a muzzle velocity of over 3,200 feet per second and a semiautomatic rate of fire of 45 to 60 rounds per minute, essentially one round per second. Their lack of recoil enhances their speed and accuracy. And they all share the same ballistic characteristics.

At short range the 5.56 mm bullet enters the human body at approximately three times the speed of sound and delivers 1,100 foot-pounds of kinetic energy to bone, organ and soft tissue in waves. The muscle and soft tissue within several inches of its path die and must be surgically removed. Once the bleeders are tied off the wound is left open. Sections of long bone can be reduced to splinters.

The energy released is so great that it ruptures major arteries far removed from the bullet’s course. After a 5.56 round enters the body it has a tendency to yaw and break up. The fragments are frequently widely distributed, lacerating organs and perforating the bowel.

Whole blood, plasma and blood volume expanders ooze out as fast as transfused. Surgeons and medics curse, throw instruments. 

On May 27, just three days and only 300 miles removed from the Uvalde shooting, the NRA convened its annual meeting in Houston to “… celebrate Freedom, Firearms, and the Second Amendment!”

By all accounts it was a grand affair, although it began on a solemn note. Before the convocation the NRA took pause: “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims involved in this horrific and evil crime.”

And on that touching note, the NRA’s annual meeting launched into its agenda. And what an agenda it was. For only $5,000 you could reserve a table for the NRA Dinner and Auction and bid on “engraved” weapons and “suppressors” (silencers). No reason why a modern sporting rifle or semi-automatic pistol needs to be outfitted with a silencer was given.

Then there were three sessions titled “The NRA 2022 Political Update” to allow attendees “… to get educated and engaged for the fights …” ahead.

But the event that caught my eye was the Sunday morning National Prayer Breakfast where, according to the program, “… NRA members come together in Christian devotion to hear inspirational messages and music.” Perhaps “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” was sung.

Lew Benton, of Saratoga Springs, served as the city’s commissioner of public safety from 1988 to 1995. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Medical Training Center and the Medical Field Services School and served with the 67th Medical Group in Vietnam.

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