Scholarship Highlight Interview: Greg Wallace on "Assault Weapon" Lethality

  • Date:
  • July 16, 2020

As part of our ongoing Scholarship Highlight video series, I recently talked with Greg Wallace, Professor of Law at Campbell University Law School. We discussed his article “‘Assault Weapon’ Lethality,” which is forthcoming in the Tennessee Law Review.

Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction of his piece (with footnotes omitted) and below is our interview.

All guns are lethal, of course. Every firearm is capable of causing serious bodily harm or death. Being dangerous is essential to accomplishing a firearm’s core function. The question is whether “assault weapons” like the AR-15 are far more dangerous than handguns, shotguns, and other rifles. Ban advocates and federal courts say they are, but why? What makes the AR-15 exceptionally lethal? Answers typically come in two forms. The first draws an analogy to military weapons by labeling the AR-15 as an extremely dangerous weapon of war. In Shew v. Malloy, for example, the state argued to the Second Circuit that “it is common sense that weapons with the same killing capacity as modern military weapons are too dangerous for the public sphere.” The second uses metrics based on the AR-15’s rate of fire and wounding capability. Federal courts have relied on these metrics in declaring that the AR-15 has “a capability for lethality—more wounds, more serious, in more victims—far beyond that of other firearms in general, including other semiautomatic guns.”

This Article provides an evidence-based analysis of AR-15’s lethality as justifying bans on these rifles. Part I considers whether the AR-15 is like a combat weapon, and thus too lethal for civilian use. Part II examines claims that the AR-15 is exceptionally lethal because it fires much faster and causes far more serious wounds than non-banned firearms. Part III answers two related questions: first, why have mass shootings with “assault weapons” resulted in much higher casualties? And second, do the same features that make “assault weapons” useful for self-defense also make them the most deadly choice for mass shooters?

Check out the video here: