It’s summer, when network TV ratings traditionally dip. Add to that the fact that we’re heading into a campaign year (the first Democrat presidential debates take place this week), so the producers of CBS’s 60 Minutes decided yesterday was the perfect time to re-run a segment on why AR-15 rifles are unusually deadly and the weapon of choice for mass shooters. Allegedly.
You can view the full segment here (it’s not embeddable).
The misinformation comes fast and thick.
- The AR-15 is the choice of our worst mass murderers.
- They imply that mass shootings are increasing in the US.
- The AR-15 is unusually powerful and deadly.
- They compare .223 to 9mm, but no other rifle rounds, implying that 9mm wounds are like a pin prick in comparison.
- Mass casualty events have become so common that everyone now needs to carry a blowout kit. All Americans must prepare for “the grievous wounds of high velocity rounds” thanks to the AR-15.
As we wrote when the segment originally aired (now slightly updated) . . .
CBS ran a ’60 Minutes’ segment on the AR-15 rifle last night which took a largely ballistic approach. They didn’t talk to anyone on either side of the gun control issue, instead looking at the damage an AR-style rifle does to someone who is shot compared to that of a 9mm round, along with the challenges first responders and emergency rooms face in treating those wounds.
But at the top of the segment, host Scott Pelley pronounced the AR-15 the “weapon of choice” of mass shooters. To back that up, he listed the Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Las Vegas and last week’s Pittsburgh synagogue shootings.
The fact is, however, that long guns in general and rifles in particular are used in a tiny fraction of gunshot deaths in the US. And Pelley conveniently overlooked mass shootings like Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Santa Fe, Texas, the Washington Navy Yard, the Gabby Giffords attack and the Virginia Beach shooting, to name just a few examples, in which shooters used handguns and/or shotguns. Probably just an oversight by the ’60 Minutes’ crew.
But you’d think that Pelley’s producers could have taken five minutes to do a little Googling to make sure their claim has some basis in fact. Apparently not.
It turns out that in a study of mass shootings in the US from 1966 to 2016, handguns are — by far — the actual weapon of choice among mass killers. But pointing that out wouldn’t have made quite the impact on the show’s audience last night.
So yes, it’s true, when someone is shot with a .223/5.56 round, the wound is more devastating than one inflicted with a 9mm bullet. The rifle round has about three to four times the energy of the pistol round.
The ’60 Minutes’ segment did a good job of illustrating that aspect of basic ballistics. And the program’s low information viewers now think that every mass shooting involves a scary black rifle, often equipped with a bump fire stock.