The AR-15 has become the weapon of choice for U.S. mass murderers.
This image shows an AR-15-style rifle used by a 19-year-old gunman who killed a teacher and a 15-year-old girl at a St. Louis high school on Oct. 24, 2022. Credit: Courtesy of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department via AP

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Charles Rasmussen is an artist in Bass Harbor. He is a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran.

“Expanding bullets were given the name Dum-dum, or dumdum, after an early British example produced in the Dum Dum Arsenal, near Calcutta, India by Captain Neville Bertie-Clay. There were several expanding bullets produced by this arsenal for the .303 British cartridge, including soft-point and hollow-point designs,” according to  Wikipedia.

These bullets and others ushered in an era of increasingly destructive firearms, bordering on the evil. In Geneva in 1899, a convention was established to determine international rules of conduct in wars and other conflicts around the world. Even during war, it was decided, there needed to be limits placed on what human beings could be allowed to do to one another. So it was determined that Dum Dum, mushrooming, flattening and disintegrating bullets were too inhumane for use in warfare and their use would henceforth be deemed a war crime. And so it was and remains to this day.

In 1966, a few months after graduating from high school, and waiting a bit too long to register for college, I received the biggest shock of my life. I got drafted. To avoid Vietnam, I took the option of joining the Navy instead. The plan failed, and I got sent to war anyway.

Before going off to Vietnam, I attended counterinsurgency training at Coronado, California. Though I was not a Navy SEAL, I took some of their classes in weapons use, where I learned the following.

By the mid-1950s, the United States had become the world’s superpower and was developing a nuclear weapons system with a destructive potential exceeding anything in human history. We could now incinerate entire cities at the push of a button. However, on the battlefield, the individual soldier’s killing potential hadn’t improved in a hundred years. Something needed to be done. We needed better guns to kill more people.

That pesky Geneva accord outlawing inhumane bullets was viewed by many as an obstacle to the increased killing power of the American foot soldier, so the military industrial complex connived a plan. A way would be found to create a bullet that would surpass the tissue destruction of even the most inhumanely destructive bullets.

In 1955, the U.S. military commissioned the Armalite Corp., led by an arms designer named Eugene M. Stoner, to create the weapon that would revolutionize warfare: the AR-15. (AR stands for ArmaLite, not assault rifle.)

The AR-15 round is a small .223 caliber bullet propelled by a large amount of gunpowder to an astonishingly high rate of speed. It is weighted in such a way that causes it to lose balance when it hits flesh, making it tumble wildly, “zinging through the human body like a Waring blender on puree,” as a Navy instructor put it. It turns human flesh into gaping holes filled with pulp. Rarely does a person survive a wound of this magnitude.

The fully automatic version, the M-16, was the weapon responsible for a majority of the deaths of about 3 million Southeast Asians during the Vietnam War. It has become the weapon of choice in armed conflicts across the globe. And so too, the AR-15 has become the weapon of choice for gun enthusiasts, psychopaths and mass murderers across America.