We have previously discussed dubious constitutional and historical claims by President Joe Biden on gun bans. However, on Friday, he returned to a curious claim that he has made repeatedly: that “the bullet out of an AR-15 travels five times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun.” Conservative and gun rights publications have repeatedly shot down that claim but it does not seem to have any impact. As with Biden’s false claim that certain weapons were banned from private ownership at the ratification of the Second Amendment, the President continues to make the same false claim on velocity speed.
A June 30 Field & Stream column on the “Five Fastest Rifle Cartridges” listed the feet per second (fps) the five fastest rifle cartridges:
.220 Swift — A 40-Grain .220 Swift round moves approximately 4,300 fps.
.257 Weatherby Magnum — An 87-Grain .257 Weatherby Magnum round moves approximately 3,700+ fps.
.30/378 Weatherby — An 165-Grain .30/378 Weatherby round moves approximately 3,400+ fps.
.224 Clark — An 80-Grain .224 Clark round moves approximately 3,500+ fps.
.22 Eargesplitten Loudenboomer — A 50-Grain .22 Eargesplitten Loudenboomer round moves approximately 4,600 fps.
AR-15 rounds move at approximately 2,700 – 3,100 fps. Even handgun bullets can reportedly reach around 2,000 fps (though that is rare).
Even the Washington Post has called Biden’s repeated velocity claim “bungled” and factually incorrect. An AR-15 round, at 100 yards, is only slightly faster than most hunting rifles. However, when measured at the point of the departure from the barrel (as is commonly used on velocity), it is about twice the speed of a common hand gun. It is not the fastest (let alone five times faster) than other guns.
Those false statements can be dismissed as just another gaffe or “Corn Pop” story, but they refer to the factual foundation for gun control under the Second Amendment. Since President Biden is suggesting that such facts are material to a ban, there is a need for accuracy in such details.
The White House is ramping up the President’s call to ban “assault weapons” before the midterm elections. The position remains unclear, including additional references to 9mm handguns are possibly next on the list for prohibitions.
In support of the ban on AR-15s, Vice President Kamala Harris declared: “Do you know what an assault weapon is? It was designed for a specific purpose, to kill a lot of human beings quickly. An assault weapon is a weapon of war, with no place, no place in a civil society.”
Courts likely would press the Biden administration on why it is seeking to ban this model when other higher-caliber weapons are sold. AR-15s can handle a variety of calibers. However, they are no more powerful than other semi-automatic rifles of the same caliber and actually have a lower caliber than some commonly sold weapons which use .30-06, .308 and .300 ammunition; many of these guns fire at the same — or near the same rate — as the AR-15. None of these weapons are classified as actual military “assault weapons,” and most civilians cannot own an automatic weapon.
President Biden showed the same disconnect as Harris between the factual and the rhetorical basis for some gun-control measures. He condemned “high-caliber weapons” like 9mm handguns and said “a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in the lung, and we can probably get it out — may be able to get it and save the life. A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body.”
Moreover, while other politicians like Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke have called for bans, there are obvious practical problems. With an estimated 393 million guns in the United States and an estimated 72 million gun owners; three out of ten Americans say they have guns. Indeed, gun ownership rose during the pandemic, particularly among minority households.
These weapons are worth hundreds of dollars. Owners would not only challenge such a law but might demand compensation for their seized weapons. There are also over 15 million such weapons in the United States. The ATF is a relatively small agency to carry out such a massive confiscation program. Even in Texas, a state confiscation plan would require an unprecedented law enforcement effort.
There are good-faith arguments for gun control, including arguments that the Second Amendment does not create an individual right to bear arms. We should continue to have that worthy debate but we should follow the rule of the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”