The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


President Biden's Continuing Misstatements About Guns


J.D. Tuccille here at Reason has a run-down (including links to where mainstream media sources have called the President on the errors, which he nonetheless repeats). An excerpt of one of Tuccille's observations:

"There's no justification for a weapon of war. None. The speed of that bullet is five times that that comes out of the muzzle of most weapons. It can penetrate your vests," President Biden huffed last week. "What in God's name do you need an assault weapon for?" he added.

This wasn't the first time the president insisted on the supposed superpowers of so-called "assault weapons" and especially of AR-15s, which are popular among gun owners.

"Do you realize the bullet out of an AR-15 travels five times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun, five times—is lighter—and can pierce Kevlar?" he insisted on August 30 while touting his administration's "Safer America Plan," which includes tighter firearms restrictions.

Really? Well, no.

"President Biden's statement that a bullet shot from an AR-15 travels 5x faster than a bullet shot out of 'any other gun' is false," Greg Wallace, a Campbell University law professor who focuses on Second Amendment issues, told The Washington Post early in September. As for bullets fired from AR-15s piercing Kevlar, "that is true of almost all centerfire rifle bullets. Body armor protection against rifle bullets require steel, ceramic, or composite plates."

"Biden was clearly wrong in his statement this week," the Post's Glenn Kessler concluded.

In fact, the 5.56x45mm round most commonly fired by an AR-15 (which can be chambered in multiple calibers) is faster than many rifle rounds with a muzzle velocity of roughly 3,100 feet per second, but slower than others (a few exceed 4,000 fps)….

(Note that Biden's revised statement at least said it was five times faster than for "most weapons," but that's still not true for rifles, which are the obvious comparator for the AR-15. And even for the shotguns, which the President has advocated, their muzzle velocity tends to be a bit over a third that of the AR-15; the only modern weapons that have a muzzle velocity that's one-fifth of AR-15s appear to be a handful of handguns. Handguns are a minority of all guns, and even among handguns, many have muzzle velocities of a third or more of the AR-15.)