On Monday morning, The Washington Postpublished a series of 3D animations to show "how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart."
A few hours later, a 28-year-old shooter armed with two assault rifles and a handgun killed six people at a private Christian school in Nashville.
In the wake of that massacre—the 129th mass shooting in the United States in 2023—the Post's exposé has received sustained attention, with one person calling it "the most powerful article you will read this week" and another characterizing it as "one of the most important pieces of journalism ever produced."
Noting that the lethal wounds caused by AR-15s "are rarely seen" by the public, the newspaper demonstrated "the trajectory of two different hypothetical gunshots to the chest—one from an AR-15 and another from a typical handgun—to explain the greater severity of the damage caused by the AR-15."
Then, after obtaining permission from the parents of two school shooting victims, a team of visual reporters created 3D models to depict how bullets fired from "many mass killers' weapon of choice" obliterated their children's bodies.
Noah Ponzer was one of the 26 people who were killed by an AR-15-wielding gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. The 6-year-old was shot three times.
"Noah's wounds were not survivable," the Post reported, citing 2019 court testimony from Wayne Carver, who was the state's chief medical examiner at the time.
Peter Wang was one of 17 people murdered when an attacker armed with an AR-15 opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. The 15-year-old was shot 13 times.
As the Post reported: "The combined energy of those bullets created exit wounds so 'gaping' that the autopsy described his head as 'deformed.' Blood and brain splatter were found on his upper body and the walls. That degree of destruction, according to medical experts, is possible only with a high-velocity weapon."
"This is the trauma witnessed by first responders—but rarely, if ever, seen by the public or the policymakers who write gun laws," the newspaper noted.
Instead, many GOP lawmakers glorify assault rifles, including U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), whose congressional district is home to the Nashville school where Monday's deadly shooting took place.
Another right-wing member of Tennessee's congressional delegation—Republican Rep. Tim Burchett—baldly stated that "we're not gonna fix it" just hours after the shooting.
There are more guns than people in the United States. Due to National Rifle Association-bankrolled Republicans' opposition to meaningful gun safety laws—bolstered by a 2022 ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court's reactionary majority—it is relatively easy for people to purchase firearms in many states.
Two years ago, Tennessee became one of several states that allow most adults to carry handguns without a permit.
There have been thousands of mass shootings since Noah and more than two dozen other individuals suffered gruesome deaths at Sandy Hook, including last year's slaughter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, among hundreds of others. Research shows that U.S. states with weaker gun control laws and higher rates of gun ownership have higher rates of mass shootings.
Research also shows that gun regulations with high levels of public support, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, help reduce the number and severity of fatal mass shootings.
Guns recently became the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States. A study published last year found that roughly 26,000 kids could still be alive today if the U.S. had the same gun mortality rate as Canada.