Two bullets: One from a handgun, the other from an assault rifle. In the former, the bullet will cleanly pierce through the body. Its precise trajectory will knife through the interior vitals, entering suddenly and exiting abruptly.
The AR-15 is not so kind.
With three times the speed, this high velocity compound of lead and alloy is intended for the sole purpose of damage. It crashes through the unsuspecting victims in its path, moments before exploding in fragments of metal and tissue and blood. Maybe it’s a mercy that it happens so fast, that a hit by one of these bullets is so instant that the victim doesn’t have to process the “pulverizing bones, tearing blood vessels, and liquefying organs.”
The diagnosis of a handgun bullet wound is clear, a neat path of injury that can be traced by any radiologist. For an assault rifle there are only “shreds of an organ” left in the aftermath of the collision. It is this assault rifle model, the coveted AR-15, that is most commonly used in mass shootings in the United States.
As I write this, there have already been 358 mass shootings according to Gun Violence Archive in just 2019 alone. For perspective, today is day 312 of 365 in the same year. When you explore these statistics further, you’ll see the numbers in nicely curated visuals, each casualty mapped out with tiny red dots that scatter across this noble land of the free, and home of the brave.
Even staring right at the dots though, it’s hard to humanize them — to remember that each one is a representation of a fellow human who was once living and breathing, with favored clothing styles and specific music tastes, quirky habits, ridiculous memories, and of course dreams, so many of them. They were all people you see day to day: a Walmart shopper on a casual morning, community members celebrating on the Yakama Indian reservation, even just a 15-month girl, who probably didn’t know what a gun was before being killed by it.
I won’t lie and say I’ll remember all these names and cases, it’s not quite possible in a news world drenched with violence. But I thought of these numerous, faceless victims everytime I see a pro-gun stand on campus. It’s common for campus space to be used by a myriad of causes, but it was the first time I’d seen one advocating so proudly for the elimination of limits and regulations on the sale and use of firearms. Small as the stand was, its message was bold along a banner draped across the front, spelling out “COEXIST” with drawings of different gun models.
For a moment I considered stopping, struck with an earnest want to ask these people why they valued these weapons enough to take up shop on a college campus to demonstrate their commitment. I wanted to ask them if they knew was a gun wound looked like, if they’d ever seen the impact of an AR-15 and how it can make an “organ look[ ] like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding.” Did they still assert their pro-gun slogans to grieving mothers and fathers, thinking it would somehow comfort people to know that even if their loved ones were killed, at least they still had their unregulated gun usage?
I wanted to tell them about how I shouldn’t have, but still forced myself to watch the Christchurch shooter’s livestream. It might’ve been so wrong to do so, but I had to see it for myself — to witness the destruction and devastation of one twisted person in possession of such a weapon. My screen had blacked out with the end of the livestream but I sat for several moments afterward, stricken, raging, grieving — unable to understand what drives a human to kill. To let hatred and animosity and bigotry fester so deeply within the heart, and then to release it so violently.
I did not engage with those people on that day, and if that makes me a coward, you’re right: I am scared. I’m wary of how a conversation can escalate into an argument, the skewed dynamic of talking with someone who can acknowledge the weapon being advocated for has killed, will kill, was originally intended to kill, and still stand by policies to not regulate it.
For anyone who argues that’s a matter of constitutional right, that the Second Amendment is for all Americans — I would like to remind you that the law has been wrong. Rules and codes try their best, but they are not always just and moral, we’ve seen this in American history where slavery was once legal, and in the present where concentration camps are legal and used to hold immigrants. How do we prevent an American future where gun deregulation and violence are still legal?
Tajrean Rahman '20, is a concentrator in History and Science in Currier House. Her column appears on alternate Fridays.