Washington Post report demonstrates that Americans are largely ignorant of the horrific damage AR-15 bullets inflict on people.

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It’s about time.

Finally, a major news outlet—The Washington Post—had the temerity to show, in 3D, the obscene damage inflicted by high-velocity, needle-nosed bullets from AR-15-type long guns as they blast into and tumble through bodies, leaving “gaping holes” where they exit.

In a special report Tuesday, unflinchingly titled “The Blast Effect: This is how bullets from an AR15 blow bodies apart,” the Post explained it was publishing the report with 3D animations “to show the destructive power of the AR15.”

And that power is beyond awesome. As a 2018 essay in The Atlantic explained:

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. 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.

The Post report ominously notes that a fired AR-15 round “can reach speeds of up to six football fields a second.”

As I’ve long argued, Americans really have only an abstract idea of the horror of mass shootings, especially with these uniquely deadly AR-15-style firearms, which were originally designed for military combat. We don’t have a clear idea of their awful results because we never actually see them, in the flesh, as it were. We don’t see the piles of horrendously torn-up bodies, far too often including children, lying in, literally, bucketsful of blood, we have been told in news reports, each corpse sometimes having been shot nine or 10 times.

I haven’t seen it myself for the same reason you haven’t: News media don’t show such images because sensitive viewers might stop watching a channel or reading a newspaper or magazine if disgusted by what they might view as heartless violence porn. Perhaps more importantly, media advertisers—with their critical funds—may flee news outlets because they don’t want to offend customers who are patrons of those news purveyors.

And government, which has a responsibility to keep people fully informed, ever abdicates this basic obligation for the same reason: Elected officials don’t want to offend the people who have and might later elect them—or, in the case of the National Rifle Association (NRA), politicians don’t want to offend the folks that help bankroll their election campaigns, and who have huge followings of Second Amendment zealots who might down-vote NRA naysayers.

READ: High-capacity-magazine bans could save lives. Will they hold up in court?

Of course, this continuing tragic concealment of the true horrors of mass shootings is not all cynical and self-serving. Government and news media are also compassionate toward survivors of victims, who must grapple with debilitating shock and profound sadness, which seeing the unthinkable results of the murder of their loved ones and others would only vastly compound their misery.

It is a compassion that comes from a good, comforting place.

But the net result is, Americans really have little idea what obscene destruction of human beings mass shootings with these so-called “assault rifles” truly inflict, what shocking mayhem their small, slender bullets cause as they literally explode into bodies, fragment and rage forth.

What we don’t know can hurt people. Without fully understanding how these weapons destroy human bodies, it’s easy, psychologically, to feel as though the victims just left home one day and never came back. Sure, somebody killed someone, but it’s hard to visualize if you weren’t there. It becomes abstract. It’s the difference between, say, hearing about a nasty fight somewhere in your school that you didn’t see, or seeing the bruised and bloody combatants afterward, versus getting beaten to a pulp yourself.

You remember one far better than the other, perhaps well enough to actually do something about it.

Americans really have little idea what obscene destruction of human beings mass shootings with these so-called “assault rifles” truly inflict, what shocking mayhem their small, slender bullets cause as they literally explode into bodies.

The Post’s “The Blast Effect” special report comes as close as I’ve seen, short of graphic Hollywood war movies, to showing what actually happens when an AR-15-armed killer with pathologic grievances enters, say, a school, and opens fire.

Americans, including elected officials—who have also not seen the true aftermath of these rampages—owe it to victims (past, present, and future) to read the report and study the 3D animations on the wounds suffered by several real victims of mass shootings, including children.

I’ve been arguing for years that our collective ignorance of the true effect of mass shootings—and the role commercial and political interests play in marginalizing their tragic consequences—has anesthetized our will and ability to effectively counteract them as a democratic republic.

I tried to present this argument in an OnlySky essay published last summer, titled: “Mass killings: Why we need to see the murdered innocents.”

It’s encouraging to see that I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Read and view the Post report. Without showing the carnage in crime-scene photos and videos, the newspaper found a way with graphic animations to show you not all, but much, of what you need to know about why every AR-15 is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

For one thing, the report shows us that, yes, this serial American tragedy of mass shootings—the latest was this week at a grade school in Nashville, TN (3 kids, 3 adults, dead)—is absolutely about guns.

Kudos to real journalism.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...