The AR-15 assault rifle was engineered to create what one of its designers called "maximum wound effect." Its tiny bullets – needle-nosed and weighing less than four grams – travel nearly three times the speed of sound. As the bullet strikes the body, the payload of kinetic energy rips open a cavity inside the flesh – essentially inert space – which collapses back on itself, destroying inelastic tissue, including nerves, blood vessels and vital organs. "It's a perfect killing machine," says Dr. Peter Rhee, a leading trauma surgeon and retired captain with 24 years of active-duty service in the Navy. … "A handgun [wound] is simply a stabbing with a bullet," says Rhee. "It goes in like a nail." With the high-velocity rounds of the AR-15, he adds, "its [sic] as if you shot somebody with a Coke can."
Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino, and Orlando: each one of these mass shootings was perpetrated using a version of the AR-15.
Cruz hadn’t even reached drinking age. The Miami New Times notes that his behavior at school and violent posts on social media had already spurred concerns. Neither fact impinged on his ability to secure an assault rifle.
Cruz made it abundantly clear that he wanted to harm people and that he was obsessed with getting the weapons to do so.
Yet nothing in Florida's gun laws — which have been loosened by decades of NRA-funded Republican control to the point they barely exist — would prevent him not only from buying guns but also from buying the most deadly military-style weapons available on the market.
Beyond online and on-campus behavior, Cruz may have even associated with and participated in trainings by a white supremacist group, the Republic of Florida. This, too, does more than hint at a propensity for violence. The Anti-Defamation League offers a terrifying rundown of the ROF:
The alt right white supremacist group borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement). ROF describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida. Most ROF members are young and the group itself is only a few years old.
For his part, Trump has been riling up racists—sorry, “white identitarians”—and encouraging violence even as he works to make it easier to get and wield assault weapons.
Before the election of Donald Trump, the legal tide had been turning. Federal courts had backed state laws limiting the deadliness of the AR-15. The Supreme Court even let stand a local ordinance banning them outright. The NRA would never admit it, says Adam Skaggs, litigation director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, but current precedent is clear: The Second Amendment, he says, "is not violated by a law that says you can't walk down the street with an AR-15 and a 30-round magazine."
Now, the future of civilian assault rifles looks much more secure. Trump, helped to the White House by millions in advertising paid for by the NRA, is poised to overhaul the federal judiciary to the gun lobby's specifications.
Trump’s quest to pack the judiciary—the most critical branch of late when it comes to gun safety—with judges who will lift rather than uphold gun restrictions is a much, much greater threat than any lawmaker’s bluster. Legislation can be repealed, but federal judges enjoy lifetime appointments.
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