Mass killers’ weapon of choice

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Seventeen people are dead and more than a dozen wounded in just the latest American mass shooting. Parkland, Fla., joins the sorry decades-long record of slaughter that has made ours a uniquely murderous society.

This isn’t even the first mass shooting of the year. As of Feb. 14 there have been 30 across the country. It’s not even the first school shooting of 2018. Before yesterday there had already been 17 other shootings at schools in the United States.

The weapon of choice in the massacre at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and many of the most recent, and deadliest mass shootings that plague the United States, was the AR-15. USA Today has compiled the weapon’s bloody record:

  • Feb. 24, 1984: Tyrone Mitchell, 28, used an AR-15, a Stoeger 12-gauge shotgun and a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun to kill two and wound 12 at 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles before killing himself.
  • Oct. 7, 2007: Tyler Peterson, 20, used an AR-15 to kill six and injure one at an apartment in Crandon, Wis., before killing himself.
  • June 20, 2012: James Eagan Holmes, 24, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber Smith and Wesson rifle with a 100-round magazine, a 12-gauge Remington shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols to kill 12 and injure 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
  • Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, used an AR-15-style rifle, a .223-caliber Bushmaster, to kill 27 people — his mother, 20 students and six teachers — in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself.
  • June 7, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle and a .44-caliber Remington revolver to kill five and injure three at a home in Santa Monica, Calif., before he was killed.
  • March 19, 2015: Justin Fowler, 24, used an AR-15 to kill one and injure two on a street in Little Water, N.M., before he was killed.
  • May 31, 2015: Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, used an AR-15 and .45-caliber handgun to kill two and injure two at a store in Conyers, Ga., before he was killed.
  • Oct. 31, 2015: Noah Jacob Harpham, 33, used an AR-15, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to kill three on a street in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he was killed.
  • Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwyan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, 28 and 27, used two AR-15-style, .223-caliber Remington rifles and two 9 mm handguns to kill 14 and injure 21 at his workplace in San Bernardino, Calif., before they were killed.
  • June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, 29, used an AR-15 style rifle (a Sig Sauer MCX), and a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol to kill 49 people and injure 50 at an Orlando nightclub before he was killed.
  • Oct. 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock, 64, used a stockpile of guns including an AR-15 to kill 58 people and injure hundreds at a music festival in Las Vegas before he killed himself.
  • Nov. 5, 2017: Devin Kelley, 26, used an AR-15 style Ruger rifle to kill 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, before he was killed.
  • Feb. 14, 2018: Police say Nikolas Cruz, 19, used an AR-15-style rifle to kill at least 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The LA Times breaks down this morning some of the reasons why mass shootings are becoming deadlier, and how the AR-15, which according to the National Rifle Association is America’s most popular rifle, is intimately connected to that trend.

AR-15 rifles shoot small but high-velocity .223-caliber rounds that often shatter inside victims’ bodies, creating more devastating injuries than the wounds typically left by larger but lower-velocity handgun rounds.

Shooters also commonly use the rifles with 30-round magazines, which allow them to fire more rounds uninterrupted, compared with the smaller magazines commonly used in handguns.

We don’t yet know how the accused Florida killer, Nickolas Cruz, acquired his weapons and ammunition, but as I wrote following the mass killing in San Bernardino in 2015, we make it ridiculously easy to acquire the hardware needed to carry out slaughter. You can pick an AR-15 up at Walmart, or, if that might raise too many questions, from a private seller through one of many online firearms marketplaces. Bulk orders of ammunition, including hollow-point rounds, and the high capacity magazines to hold them, can also be ordered online from the privacy of your own home.

As long as we make it this easy, we’re going to keep seeing massacres like this happen.

We make it easy

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We don’t yet know the motive behind yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., but here is something we do know:

According to law enforcement sources, the weapons used, .223-caliber assault-style rifles, were purchased legally. According to The New York Times:

Two of the guns recovered were bought by one of the suspects killed in the shootout, and the other two were bought by a third person who is not considered a suspect, said a senior federal law enforcement official, who was spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We believe all four were purchased legally, but are still taking a close look at the two firearms bought by the” person who is not a suspect, the official said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that it had traced all four guns, and that two were purchased legally by someone linked to the investigation. But neither the senior official nor the bureau would identify either buyer by name, nor say which two weapons were bought by a suspect, or where they were bought.

Officials said the two assault rifles were variants of the AR-15, the semiautomatic version of the military M-16 rifle; one was made by DPMS Panther Arms, and the other was a Smith & Wesson M&P model, a designation meaning military and police. The senior law enforcement official said one handgun was made by Llama, and the other by Smith and Wesson.

Want to know where to buy a couple of guns like this yourself? Shop online at Walmart and save.

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Or if that might raise too many questions, check out a site like Armslist.com, the online firearms marketplace, where the terms of use amount to an honor system for essentially unregulated gun sales:

I understand that ARMSLIST DOES NOT become involved in transactions between parties and does not certify, investigate, or in any way guarantee the legal capacity of any party to transact.

I am responsible for obeying all applicable enforcement mechanisms, including, but not limited to federal, state, municipal, and tribal statutes, rules, regulations, ordinances, and judicial decisions, including compliance with all applicable licensing requirements.

I will not use Armslist.com for any illegal purpose.

If I am at all unsure about firearm sales or transfers, I will contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive at 1-800-ATF-GUNS and visit the ATF website at http://www.atf.gov.

Need some hollow-point rounds for that shiny new (to you) gun? That’s easy and legal too. Check out freedommunitions.com where a case of 1,000 Rem 77 gr. hollow-point boat-tail rounds can be yours for under $600.  If you want to comparison shop, try bulkammo.com.

How about high-capacity magazines to maximize rounds on target and minimize reloading time? Gunmagwarehouse.com is the place for you. Here you can pick up a 42-round tan polymer magazine for your .223-caliber AR-15 for the low sale price of only $7.92.

OK, so you’ve got your guns and ammo, now, like the San Bernardino shooters, you need tactical clothes to complete the look. Rothco.com has you covered. And so you can stay in the fight as long as possible, armysurplusworld.com or govx.com can provide you with body armor you can trust.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, I did an interview with one of the Detroit news radio stations, and one of the questions they asked was whether something like that could happen here. I was asked the same question after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Of course it can. Everything you need to carry out an attack can be easily, and legally, acquired in the United States. We make it easy.

The meme is bullshit, just sayin’

gun memeSo this showed up in my Facebook feed this morning:

But given what we all know about the prevalence of gun violence in this country, I figured it was bullshit. But who knows? Maybe, just maybe, this simple-minded meme, designed to make gun owners feel better about themselves, was right. Maybe yesterday was different and no one, no one was killed by a firearm anywhere in the United States on Oct. 7, 2015.

So I looked. And I was right. The meme is bullshit.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks and has a rolling 72-hour update of incident reports involving firearms, there were 39 shootings across the U.S. yesterday which together left seven dead and 20 wounded. Here are each of the killings with links to the incident reports:

So, sure, most of America’s gun owners didn’t kill anyone yesterday. Except for the ones who killed those seven.

Just sayin’.

American holocaust (updated)

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I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. — President Barack Obama

I had come in to my office this morning planing to answer the president’s call to display, side by side, the number of Americans killed by terrorism over the last 10 years versus those slain by gun violence. Turns out I don’t have to.

First, from CNN:

Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2004 and 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2004 to 2013 was 277.

In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S.* and found that between 2004 and 2013, there were 36 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism. This brings the total to 313.

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Second from the Washington Post:

It’s incontrovertibly true that more people in America die from gun violence each year than die from terrorism. How “terrorism” is defined can be tricky, as we’ve noted in the past, but we can look at data compiled by the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland.

It estimates that 18 people died in terror attacks in the United States last year — of 3,521 total between 1970 and 2014. By comparison, the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive figures that 9,948 people have been killed by gun violence so far in 2015.

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Finally from Forbes:

According to Justice and State Department data published by Vox, over ten thousand Americans are killed by gun violence every year. Since 9/11, the number of U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks each year has never surpassed 75. Obama has pointed out that while the U.S. rightfully pours trillions of dollars into protecting its citizens from terrorism, Congress is unwilling to take even the most minor steps to eradicate gun violence.

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Yes, the raw numbers in each graph are different, but the relationship is unmistakable. Deaths of Americans due to terrorism are trivial compared to the slaughter that Americans inflict upon themselves through gun violence.

A political system that cannot address this crisis is nothing less than a failure. Political leaders who refuse to take even the most modest steps to address this crisis have the blood of innocents on their hands.


Update

Speaking of leaders refusing to take modest steps, or even acknowledge that there’s a problem, this today from Jeb Bush:

We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. It’s very sad to see, and I resist this notion because we had this challenge as governor – stuff happens. There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.

You can listen for yourself.