I was a senior in high school in 1999 when the massacre at Columbine High School took place. We were already home from school because of the time difference, I was on the East Coast, and I remember watching it all unfold on TV.
It seemed at the time like an unbelievable, one-off situation that eventually hijacked my senior year by changing my school from an open campus with lots of freedom for students, to a virtual prison with locked doors, metal detectors and ID badges worn around the necks of every student. To think we actually had the nerve to complain about all of those security measures.
Little did we know that this was the beginning of what would become an almost weekly occurrence in America by 2018. It was such a simple time in 1999. We were too worried about Y2K to care about much else, it seemed.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) came out following Columbine and said that all schools should be gun-free zones, and that they were interested in closing the “gun show loophole” that allowed the two shooters to buy weapons without background checks.
Flash forward to 2018. The NRA is no longer interested in gun-free zones, in fact, quite the opposite. Apparently, the only way to stop a school shooting now, or in NRA vice-president Wayne Lapierre’s quotes following the massacre of elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut, is “a good guy with a gun.” Instead of having less guns in school, the NRA would like everyone to have them.
As far as the “gun show loophole,” well of course it’s not closed. That would infringe on the gun-owner’s rights–and the school shooter’s ability to buy their weapon of choice, or the AR-15.
Semi-automatic weapons played a role in all of the following:
Aurora Movie Theater: Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle
Orlando PULSE night club: SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle
Las Vegas concert: 14 different AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles
Sandy Hook Elementary School: Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle
Sutherland Springs church: Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle
San Bernardino office: Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle
When I joined the Army a few months after the Columbine shooting, I was issued my first of many M-16 rifles. I would carry them across continents to do the bidding of our leaders, to defend myself while getting shot at from only feet away – even to kill.
It was never easy, never fun and never glorious, in part, because I was taught in basic training how the bullet—a 5.56 round—rips apart the body of my enemy.
The round is small, smaller than your average 9mm round. It is sharp, almost like a knife. The point and the light weight of the round are devastating to a human body. They enter the flesh, perhaps smoothly, not tumbling if the round has not grazed anything in flight toward it’s target.
It glides through the meat, until it finds sinew or bone, anything to redirect its path. Then the almost inch-long bullet, perhaps only slightly slowed down from it’s just over 3,000 feet per second entrance speed, tumbles and tears through it’s target.
Often U.S. medics, who treat our enemies when required of them, search for bullet exit wounds from M-16s and find that a round that entered a victim’s arm hit a humerus bone and tumbled out and into the rib cage, through a lung and out a pelvis.
It is easy to survive the initial gunshot often times, especially to an extremity, but what the bullet does after that destroys a human body, especially a 5-year-old human body.
When people talk about an assault weapon ban, take it from somebody who has been there, let those weapons stay in war zones. I know what it feels like, trust me.
If the bullet that hit me in the spine in my junior year of high school from the weapon of an angry neighbor was anything more than a .22 caliber, small, rounded bullet – I would not be here to testify today. I have seen the worst of mankind on the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan and I have seen what semi-automatic, high-caliber weapons can do to a human body.
There is no animal that can be preserved or eaten once shot with any type of AR-15. Even I, someone who has been shot and has PTSD from war, has a gun for protection in my house. I have never felt like I need anything close to a semi-automatic for that purpose. If I am facing an army of home invaders, then the world has already gone to shit anyway. There is no reason for these weapons to exist in the civilian world.
Perhaps LaPierre should spend more time with veterans—or veterans of school shootings, sadly—and learn what it’s like to face bullets flying at you. Then maybe his tune will change. Unfortunately, we have NRA-funded politicians with no military experience—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Richard Burr to name a few—fighting hard to do what the NRA tells them and keep assault rifles available to every school shooter who needs them.
Follow Jason Green on Twitter @greenevansj