By R. Blake Brown
The recent mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has sparked another round of the gun control debate.
The shooter reportedly used an AR-15-type rifle, bought just after he turned 18. The AR-15 has been controversial in the United States and Canada for decades, and, in 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government prohibited the weapon.
Assault-style rifle characteristics
Several characteristics of the AR-15 make it dangerous in the wrong hands. It is a semi-automatic firearm, meaning it can be fired repeatedly — once for each pull of the trigger. And it can be reloaded in seconds by removing its cartridge magazine and replacing it with a loaded one.
A less frequently commented upon feature of the AR-15 is that it usually fires a version of the ammunition used by many NATO soldiers to kill enemy troops. As shown in Texas, and many other mass shootings, that ammunition is also extremely effective at harming civilians. The Texas killer purchased 1,600 rounds of the ammunition.
Journalists have debated whether to detail the bodily harms experienced by mass shooting victims. Some believe that failing to describe the physical effects of rifle bullets sanitizes mass shooting events, and suggest that greater public knowledge about victims’ injuries might affect the gun control debate.
Dangerous high-velocity ammunition
Ammunition is often defined by its calibre — that is, by the diameter of the projectile fired. Firearm calibres are designated in millimetres or inches. The .223-inch calibre ammunition (or 5.56mm) used in most AR-15s is smaller than the rounds employed in many rifles traditionally used for hunting game, like the .308.
However, the small size of the .223 ammunition doesn’t mean it’s safe. It was developed in response to the American military’s desire in the post-Second World War period to create a small-calibre, high-velocity weapon. The .223 round was light, meaning that soldiers could easily carry many rounds for their rifles.
The firearms industry mass-marketed semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, and such weapons became increasingly popular by the late 20th century. Unfortunately, rifles firing .223 ammunition also frequently became a favourite weapon of mass shooters.
Defenders of the AR-15 sometimes downplay the dangers of such guns. For example, in 2020, the vice-president of a Canadian gun lobby group, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, tweeted a picture of her AR-15 and called it a “a low-powered sport rifle.”
However, doctors who have treated the victims of mass casualty events have described the serious injuries inflicted by ammunition fired from assault-style rifles.
Graphic detail of injuries and damage
While gun advocates generally avoid discussing the harm that assault-style rifles can cause, there are exceptions.
Before he became CEO of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, Rod Giltaca explained in graphic detail the dangers of the .223 round on his YouTube channel.
Giltaca introduced his 2013 video, focused on wound characteristics, by stating that there was “some misconception about the .223 cartridge” and that he wanted to show “how dangerous that cartridge still is, even though, yes, it’s a small bullet.” He pointed out that unlike rounds fired from handguns, the “.223 travels really, really fast, and that creates some problems should you get hit with it.”
Giltaca detailed the various “problems” a human body experienced if shot with a .223 rifle bullet.
For example, he said the bullet produces a “little shockwave,” which leads to a “temporary stretch cavity.” If the bullet strikes a thigh, for example, “it’s going to suck a bunch of air in there.” This leads to “massive tissue disruption and tissue death” because “your skin has been pulled apart and it tears, and it collapses back together again.”
Giltaca concluded by offering his “bottom line.” Rifles firing ammunition like .223 rounds “are really, really dangerous,” for if “you get hit with a rifle round, you’re not coming back.”
Americans have been reminded of this over and over again in mass shootings committed with assault-style rifles. And, unfortunately, Canadians have also learned about the dangers of such guns.
The rifle used in the Montréal massacre in 1989, the now prohibited Mini-14, fired .223 ammunition. Fourteen young women died as a result.
R. Blake Brown is Professor of History at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada.
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While I don’t disagree with the damage caused by the .223 round but your facts are way off the 5.56 round was not adopted into nato until 1980 the 7.62 round was adopted after ww2 by nato and us around 1963 and was and still is a hunting rifle round. Please if your gonna write a story do the research and have your facts right that all getting at here
Rather than to go into a whole bunch of graphic statements hold theses thoughts. The kids in Texas were so badly damaged by their wounds DNA samples were required to figure out who was who. The funerals are closed casket.
The only reason to have any automatic assault rifles and hand guns is to kill Humans!
Their obviously crazy scared people or sadly, just plain crazy !!
This horrible situation will continue until all automatic firearms are completely outlawed… there’s no reason to have them, unless intended to kill people.
Join the Military if they want one or move to a third world country.
The Geode says
our “inner cities” ARE third-world countries. Where have you been?
Author of this article know very little about ammunition and it sounds like he’s just regurgitating talking points. A hollow point (or expanding ammunition) is just as deadly than the .223 (5.56) FMJ round. Expanding Ammunition comes in all sizes, but it doesn’t come in 5.56. The AR-15 is so popular because you can hand it to a novice, give them 10 minutes of instruction, and they can by hitting targets +100 yards that day. They purpose of this argument is to incrementally banned all guns, not just AR-15’s.
The Voice Of Reason says
Flaglerbeach, That’s great. 10 minutes of instruction and you’re ready to celebrate with a mass shooting. Isn’t Merica great! We have a mental illness in this country which runs rampant. Gun nutism with an insatiable thirst to stockpile ammunition. I’m so impressed by people who develop mental illness after acquiring weaponry. Or get good and drunk or high on drugs and shoot up their neighbor, wife or girlfriend after getting dumped. Only in Merica is this such a sickeningly common occurence.
That’s why you shouldn’t own anything dangerous even a car but sadly you do.
Your attempt to equate a hollow point bullet to the .223 caliber ammunition for an AR-15 is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, both may be deadly, but all my career in law enforcement I and almost every other LEO in the nation carried, and still do, only hollow point bullets specifically designed so the bullet would do damage to, and hopefully not exit to unintentionally injure or kill anyone other than the person we intended to shoot in the event that deadly force became necessary. AR-15 ammo is much different. Its design is to cause MAXIMUM damage, and since the AR-15 type of weapon has such high velocity when each bullet is fired out of the barrel, there is a very high chance that each bullet fired will not only do extensive damage to a person’s body when hit but also that the bullet will continue completely through the body and then into whatever is behind it… more bodies, other objects, etc. Vastly different and exactly the opposite of what hollow point ammunition is designed to do. In addition to my duty weapon, I carried a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in my patrol car as a deputy sheriff in CA. Now retired, I do not, nor will I ever again own an AR-15, and I also know there is absolutely NO need for any other civilian to own one either. let alone a novice, as you say, with only “10 minutes of instruction”! If you believe that is a rational, sane idea and a proponent of such lunacy, you are exactly the type of individual that needs to stay far, far away from firearms, regardless of your “constitutional right” to do otherwise.
The Geode says
FOH! they can’t hit a target at 10 yards. They use these guns because they CAN’T hit a target and just want to spray as many bullets as they can in the time it takes to “drive-by” or burst for 10 seconds and run…
Michael Cocchiola says
Weapons like this kill. They tear apart flesh and bone. They are not designed for hunting game. They are designed to kill enemy soldiers. They kill so brutally that victims are often unrecognizable. Children are torn apart. Men and women don’t stand a chance.
In 2019, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day in America—one every 2 hours and 36 minutes. Guns killed more children and teens than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined and it gets worse every year.
This is Republican America. The availability of weapons of mass murder are far more important than the children they kill.
Republicans have the blood of thousands of children dripping from their hands.
Lets put some actual facts into this matter. The 5.56 was specifically designed to wound and not kill .It was learned that by injuring a soldier it will take 3 soldiers off the battlefield. You are right only in the sense that The 5.56 is not designed for hunting as it is not nearly powerful enough enough to bring down any sizable game. This is humorous to me seeing misleading articles such as this one just instantly influence people literally with untruthful facts. Almost all hunting rifles are semi automatic and many many have magazines and many are far more deadly than an AR platform firing 5.56 rounds. Laughable at best, If this is what the media wants you to believe-you just read it and believed this article and it is RIDDLED with blatant misinformation
Pierre Tristam says
Come on Mike, Keeping is right. Guns were specifically designed to spread peace and joy. And Newspeak’s birthday is on Wednesday.
Very well stated.
I heard a very telling coment from Bob Costas who has been a sportcaster for years with NBC sports
He went on to say how Republican Lawmakers treat the 2nd Ammendment like a Sacrement
Also Calling CPAC a MartiGras of Lunacy and Ignorance.
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is !
OMG! Then there are the Republican idiots like Billy Long who blame mass shootings on abortions. . . talk about insanity!
Congressional Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) blames gun violence on abortion: “Something has happened to our society. I go back to abortion, when we decided it was okay to murder kids in their mothers’ wombs. Life has no value to a lot of these folks.”
jeffery c. seib says
When will enough of this be too much! Too many children slaughtered, too many shoppers mowed down, too many party-goers and concert-attendees lives cut so short. And for what? So some of the idiots responding to the story can make a point about the gauge of the ammunition. Okay, your an expert. All those young lives just beginning their journey forward, never to go to school, never to fall in love, never to grow into adults. What an absurd, creepy country we live in. A mass of cells in a women’s body is more important then these beautiful young and old lives taken way too soon. We have turned into a nation of mentally challenged clowns!
Willy Boy says
5.56 MM full metal jacket designed to thwart the Geneva Convention ban on expanding bullets. The round (unbalanced at the rear) twitches through the air giving a slight tilt as it strikes flesh and theoretically tumbles, causing a large exit wound. Lots of shock and damage at high speed.
Much misconception. They explained the theory is boot camp, but you would still hear “It tumbles going through the air.” Couldn’t hit the side of a barn if it did.
Excellent point and you are exactly right. Too many comments from those who have no idea what they are talking about, giving false and/or misleading info about what is one of the most damaging caliber bullets and why the AR-15 type of weaponry should not be sold to or owned by civilians. If only we had the ability to show the horrendous wounds suffered by someone shot with an AR-15. The latest school shooting that killed 19 kids and 2 teachers is giving America just a glimpse because the news reports and interviews from the coroner to the ER doctors are, at a minimum, at least telling the story of how many of these AR-15 victims were so damaged, so blown apart by the high velocity rounds being fired out of it that they were completely unidentifiable and DNA samples had to be taken in order for the families to properly identify their childrens’ remains. Some of the children who were shot in the head were completely decapitated. One small child could only by identified by the green tennis shoes she wore to school that day. THIS is what an AR-15 does to humans, and people who want to own one of these assault rifles should be required to actually see what a deceased person’s body ends up looking like after being shot to death with such a dangerous weapon of war.
No Skibum. . . “yours’ is the excellent point!
Who in the world cares whether a bullet actually “tumbles” or not! Such discussions are meant to be horrifically stupid distractions by the heartless/mindless “Haters” of innocent children, of human beings!!! Weapons of “WAR” and “MASS DESTRUCTION” do not belong in the hands of ANY civilians “Full Stop”!!!
Sherry, I hope to God this country somehow finds a way to revers course soon because the bloody path we have been going down for years with the gun nutty culture is getting bloodier by the minute. I fear for my nephews’ and neices’ safety in their elementary and secondary schools, and shake my head in abject disgust thinking about the stress and terror of something as simple as going to school in the U.S. today compared to when I was in high school in the 70s. So many of our elected “leaders” have completely lost their minds as well as their moral compass, shirking away their responsibility of prioritizing human lives, childrens’ lives, and instead letting the powerful gun lobby stash millions of dollars in political contributions into their pockets in order to do the unethical bidding for these gun and ammo manufacturers in the U.S. Capitol and state legislatures all across America. It is disgusting and I don’t know how any parent or grandparent could rationalize being a member of what sadly is today’s Republican Party that is against common sense gun reform legislation precisely because the NRA is paying off many, many GOP politicians to ignore the 88% of all Americans who support such legislation. It is blood money, pure and simple in order to make and distribute more guns of every kind into our already far too extremely gun nutty, dangerously over weaponed society to the detriment of everyone in it, especially our young children.
@Skibum. . . the reality is that too many of our Republican political leaders have long ago completely abandoned any trace of “ethical” behavior and leadership. Too many Congressional Republicans have actually become so thoroughly corrupt that they will continue to look the other way as innocent little children are horrifically murdered in their school rooms. . . ALL FOR $$$$$ FROM THE NRA! ALL FOR MAINTAINING THEIR POWER!!!
Congressional Republicans who will not “at least” STOP weapons of war from being owned by ALL civilians should be convicted of “crimes against humanity”! Yet, their FOX “brainwashed” and “soulless” supporters will continue to keep them in office, term after term!
The dangers to our fragile democracy are layered one on top of the other. The Republicans who are hell bent on replacing our democratic processes with a fascist authoritarian regime have been very strategically successful in playing the long game. One that permeates media outlets with political propaganda/disinformation/conspiracy theories. . . ginning up the fear and hate needed to “Divide” and therefore “Control” the masses. One that permeates not only high government positions, but lower levels of government such as school boards and small city councils . . . Flagler county and Palmcoast are great examples. One that permeates decisions made by our entire judicial system from the Supreme court all the way through circuit and local courts.
Unfortunately, the (too naive and optimistic) Democratic party has been rudderless for years. NO strong leadership! NO consistently powerful inspirational messaging! NO consistent strategy for building a bright and successful future for our “entire” populace! The Democrats spend their time being reactive instead of strongly proactive. The key words that describe a Democrat= “I dunno, what do you want to do?” = Too “Consensus” driven! Trying to be all things to all people is ending up being nothing to no one!
Sorry. . . just a very frustrated Democrat speaking out!
You are very insightful, and I agree with you. But I still would rather be a rudderless D rather than an immoral and insurrectionist R. Seriously, both parties have their own issues and inability to get things done. You are right on saying we need powerful, inspirational messaging and real leadership. But somehow, as difficult as it is in today’s world, we desperately need to somehow come together as D’s and Rs and get consensus driven legislation passed that will benefit individuals as well as our country as a whole. It worked in the past. Somehow, some way, it just has to be done or this country will continue to be further and further polarized, and that won’t help solve anything.
@Skibum. . . I couldn’t agree more!
Unfortunately, it is my belief that as long as FOX (the most popular TV outlet) refuses to publish factual information. . . like the Jan. 6th Hearings. . . the millions who tune in “exclusively” to FOX will continue to be fed fear filled conspiracy theories of things like “whites being replaced”. . . “guns being taken away”.
Fear creates ratings=$$$. . . and, is a very powerful motivator that is “intentionally” keeping us divided. “Divide and Conquer”. . .”Dumb Down The Masses”. . . much to the delight of Russia and China, and, the Murdochs!
To the FOX devotees. . . . Try the Associated Press web site, BBC News, PBS News, Reuters!
“THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE!”