Study: Semiautomatic Weapons Make Mass Shootings Deadlier

Students are evacuated by police out of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

(CN) – While semiautomatic rifles killed fewer people in U.S. mass shootings than handguns or rifles in the last 17 years, a new study shows they bring a higher risk of injury or death in those shootings.

Researchers at Harvard University compared the number of people wounded and killed by semiautomatic weapons in shootings between 2000 and 2017 with the number of people killed in shootings where a semiautomatic weapon was not used. The study found semiautomatic weapons were used in about 25 percent of the 248 active shooter incidents in the United States. The remaining 75 percent of incidents involved handguns, shotguns or rifles, according to the study. In those shootings, 898 people were wounded and 718 were killed.

Semiautomatic rifles, which fire a round each time a shooter pulls the trigger and reloads after each shot, were banned in 1994. Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004.

Of the 248 active shooter incidents studied, a semiautomatic rifle was involved in 24.6 percent of the shootings, and a handgun was used in 75.4 percent. Multiple firearm types were involved in 60.7 percent of the shootings involving semiautomatic rifles.

Medics treat the wounded as Las Vegas police respond during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Stirp in Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Active shooter incidents with semiautomatic rifles had a higher risk of people being wounded and killed, the study showed. Although 44 percent of people wounded in active shooter incidents died of their injuries, more people were wounded and killed in incidents where semiautomatic rifles were used compared with incidents involving other firearms.

The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. One of the authors, Dr. Adil Haider of the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, declined comment for this story.

A study from Harvard earlier this year looked at how American youths perceive gun control. In the survey of 772 young people, approximately one-third were against guns in the home. The remaining two-thirds were either “pro” or “conditionally pro” guns in the home, saying gun ownership is acceptable under certain conditions, such as when there was proper storage for the gun or when it is kept away from children.

About a third of respondents in that study said they felt gun control laws would not be enough to affect mass shootings.


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