Heather Sher, MD, has seen CT scans that most radiologists never have. The radiologist was on call during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and examined first-hand the gruesome damage that AR-15 bullets do to the body.
In an essay for The Atlantic, Dr. Sher reflects on how the shock of seeing the brutal affliction of the AR-15 rifle in comparison to the lacerations made by handguns.
“With an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate… The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun,” she writes. “The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.”
Dr. Sher also diagnosed several of the victims from the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting in January 2017. All of the patients she observed survived since they suffered “low-velocity” handgun injuries that are often times sustained. “If a victim takes a direct hit to the liver from an AR-15, the damage is far graver than that of a simple handgun-shot injury,” she said. “Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care.”
The AR-15 has been used in practically every mass shooting in recent history. Without effective legislation, the U.S. can never be safe from another gun massacre. Politicians with strong ties to the National Rifle Association continue to abstain from discussions about creating adequate gun policy. “It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet,” pleads Sher.