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.
But the fact is, 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 Fort Hood, Santa Fe, Texas, the Washington Navy Yard and the Gabby Giffords 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 viewers now think that every mass shooting involves a scary black rifle. Mission accomplished.