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Ralph Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland: Violence, AR-15s & mayhem

| Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, Detective Barbara J. Mattson of the  Connecticut State Police holds a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model of gun used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (AP Photo)
In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, Detective Barbara J. Mattson of the Connecticut State Police holds a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model of gun used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (AP Photo)

“Our first responsibility in the midst of violence is to prevent it from destroying us,” said Henri Nouwen (1932-96), Dutch Catholic priest, professor, theologian and writer.

That advice was especially relevant in America on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 Islamic extremists associated with al-Qaida hijacked four planes with a total of 232 passengers onboard and carried out suicide attacks by crashing the planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers, the Pentagon and a field in rural Shanksville, killing 2,996 and injuring 6,000 in all.

Nouwen's counsel is applicable today regarding the stashes of destructive weapons that can be unleashed with little more than the trouble-free flip of a switch in Pyongyang or Washington, and relevant in light of the mass shooting with an AR-15 rifle killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., allegedly by Nikolas Cruz, 19.

A semi-automatic weapon designed for the military, the AR-15 is seen regularly in other mass shootings, including the 2016 shooting in Orlando, Fla., at gay nightclub Pulse, in which American-born Omar Mateen, 19, killed 49 people and wounded at least 53.

About 20 minutes into his shooting attack, reported CNN, “Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS.”

Parkland was the deadliest school shooting since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which Adam Lanza shot and killed six faculty and staff members, all women, and 20 first-graders, ages 6 and 7. Lanza, 20, used a .223-caliber Remington Bushmaster AR-15 to rapidly kill 27 people — he also shot his mother before he left their house to drive to the school.

Lanza's AR-15 fired 154 bullets in five minutes at the school, a shooting performance sufficiently efficient and quick to accomplish the planned slaughter and also kill himself before first responders could intrude and disrupt the carnage.

“The worst I've seen,” said H. Carver II, M.D., Connecticut chief medical examiner, regarding the autopsies of Lanza's victims.

Carver said each small first-grade body had been pumped with between three and 11 bullets by Lanza's semi-automatic rifle. Some of the victims, he said, had gunshot wounds in their heads, torsos and extremities, some inflicted from close range.

In November, attorney Josh Koskoff, representing some of the Sandy Hook victims' families seeking to hold Remington liable, argued before Connecticut's highest court that Lanza epitomized the buyers wooed and prompted by the advertising campaign mounted for the Bushmaster AR-15.

Lanza heard the message, said Koskoff: “He idolized the military and wanted to be an Army Ranger and Remington marketed the AR-15 as the weapon used by the Army Rangers.”

The rifle was the must-have weapon for any fight, said the ads, boasting that opponents were “single-handedly outnumbered” by an owner of an AR-15. The reward for carrying this particularly lethal weapon: “Consider your man card reissued.”

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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