During my service in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to witness the use of weapons specifically designed to kill or maim as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. My heavy artillery battalion could kill hundreds of Communists at a time with 200-pound high explosive shells, ferocious white phosphorus rounds, and cluster munitions that scattered grenade-sized bomblets over a wide area.
Beehive rounds that contained dozens of small flechettes were used in close combat; they looked like tiny darts. They were designed to tumble upon impact and rip an adversary’s innards apart.
American forces were equipped with the M-16 assault rifle, which could spew out hundreds of rounds per minute. The M-16 has a high velocity round designed to cause maximum damage to the bodies of enemy soldiers.
The M-16 round comes out of the barrel going almost three times faster than a bullet fired from a typical handgun. Consequently, they have much more energy and cause much more damage in a victim’s body, virtually liquifying flesh and nearby organs. A non-lethal hit can cause catastrophic damage. For military purposes, taking an enemy soldier off the battlefield with such an injury is next best to killing him.
Do we really want this kind of horrendous injury to be inflicted on our friends, neighbors and children?
A surgeon who treated victims of the Parkland School shooting in Florida, which involved an AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16, observed that the “high velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.” That is exactly what these war weapons were designed to do.
The surgeon noted, “One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15… Nothing was left to repair — and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.”
When I visited the War Remnants Museum in Saigon in January 2018, I saw exhibits denouncing both the M-16 and the beehive rounds as war crime weapons. The Communists were obviously aware of the grievous injuries these weapons inflicted on their troops. But, they were weapons of war specifically designed to do maximum damage to human bodies. It is doubtful that anyone could have imagined 50 years ago that the civilian version of the M-16 would be commonplace on the streets of civilian America.
The rapid rate of fire of AR-15 style firearms, as well as their excellent killing power, have made them the weapon of choice of mass murder enthusiasts in the United States: Parkland, Fla.; Newtown, Conn.; Las Vegas, Nev.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Aurora, Colo.; Sutherland Springs, Texas; and, most recently Dayton, Ohio; where the shooter managed to kill nine people and wound 17 others in just 32 seconds with an AR-15 pistol. Seems the Dayton guy was going for a world kill record with his 100-round magazines. Darn lucky the police were on the ball and able to end it quickly.
It is high time to get war weapons out of the hands of civilians and off the streets and school grounds of America. We need to ban sales of assault rifles — all variants of the M-16, the Communist AK-47 and its variants (used recently in El Paso), and similar weapons designed to kill human beings quickly and effectively. In the process, all high capacity magazines should also be banned.
This won’t stop all mass shootings, but it will start making a dent. We simply can’t sit on our hands and allow these war-weapon-assisted mass killings to continue devastating communities across the country.
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Jim Jones is a newspaper columnist who previously served as Idaho Attorney General and as Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court.