Gun issue: Intellect, not emotion

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, March 27, 2018


The letter from James Peca (March 2 Herald) about banning “assault” rifles is a prime example of a thoughtful man expounding on a subject about which he knows too little.

The AR-15 is the most common of the “assault” rifles on the market. It is a derivative of the Army’s venerable M16 rifle, and it is typically chambered for .223 ammunition.

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Although the ammunition is available in a variety of configurations, more than 90 percent of the purchases are for the FMJ bullet, which is the full metal jacket. This is the bullet used by the military to comply with the Hague Declarations of 1899 forbidding the use of expanding bullets in warfare.

This bullet, unless it strikes bone in the body, leaves pretty much the same size entrance and exit holes.  Many of the infantry soldiers who served in Vietnam complained that the M16 lacked stopping power, and obtained either 12 gauge shotguns loaded with buckshot or Thompson machine guns.

By contrast, the 9mm bullet is made for handguns, and is typically loaded with either a lead soft-nose or a hollow-point projectile, both designed to inflict maximum damage to the intended target. The exit wound, if any, will be much larger than the entry wound.

While the .223 bullet travels much faster leaving the weapon (3,000 feet per second versus the 9mm’s 1,126 feet per second), it is much lighter (69 grains versus the 9mm’s 117 grains). Most ballistics experts agree that the 9mm’s slower speed and greater mass offsets the higher speed and smaller mass of the .223 bullet in terms of effect.

Firearms are tools. More than 300 million of them are owned by Americans, and all but a tiny minority are lawfully used for hunting, shooting sports and personal defense. Tragically, a very small number are misused in horrible ways when people who should not be able to own them are allowed to get their hands on them.   

Rather than working to limit lawful ownership of firearms, our lawmakers should find ways to keep firearms out of the reach of persons who have demonstrated behaviors likely to lead to harming innocent people. 

The alleged perpetrator of the most recent murders in Florida was identified by the local police two years before the shooting and they requested intervention. Their request was not acted upon by federal authorities. The Las Vegas shooter was seen carrying large cases up to his room several days before the murders there. Hotel personnel noted his actions but never notified police.

Solutions to the epidemic of mass shootings should be approached with intellect, not emotion. Removing legal firearms from honest citizens will solve nothing.    

Finally,  the 2016 FBI crime statistics report listed the most frequent instruments used to commit murder in the past year. The instrument most often used was the handgun. Next on the list were knives, followed by clubs and fists. Way down in fifth place was rifles of all types. That said, should we try to ban knives, or clubs or fists?

John Jamieson