Mass shootings prompt Wayne State researchers to study damage from assault rifle vs handgun

Bioengineers at Wayne State University say there is a clear difference between a bullet fired from a handgun and one fired from an assault rifle.

They are showing that difference at a controlled gun in a lab on the Detroit campus.

"We can change the barrel out and we can fire anything from the 9mm to the 223 round," said Cynthia Bir, a professor and chair of biomedical engineering at WSU.

The gun is designed to fire rounds at a block of engineered gelatin mimicking human muscle.

"So that people can really understand the effects that these rounds have on the human bodies," Bir said.

An assault rifle round fired through gelatin exemplifies the impact the bullet has on muscle.

An AR-15 was recovered from the scene after a shooting in Texas over the weekend.

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When the assault rifle is fired at the gelatin, "you have a lot more tissues affected and to a larger degree," Bir said.

This sort of damage means there is often little doctors can do to help someone who has been shot.

"I've heard people, those surgeons that have gone in after something has occurred and said basically it looked like a bomb went off inside the body," Bir said. "This is definitely not a protection round." 

Researchers at this lab conducted this study following the 2018 Parkland, Fla. shooting as a means of educating the public without exploiting victims, and they never dreamed they will still be talking about it five years later.

They now hope that lawmakers will take notice of their research and possibly make it harder for that caliber of bullets to be available for purchase.