One of our staff writers with a lot of anti-AR15 friends on their social media channels wrote this for our readers who haven’t been able to articulate their side of the gun debate with their anti-gun friends. We encourage you to share it via Facebook, Twitter, email or any other channel you want to!
Dear anti-gun friends,
I understand you are angry and deeply saddened by the recent loss of innocent lives at the hand of a sick man. I want you to know my heart is broken, too.
You and I both, along with every legal gun owner in America, wish tragic and senseless incidents like the Parkland school shooting would never happen. In fact, I’m with you—I wish there was absolutely no reason to ever own a gun, except for hunting and sport. Unfortunately, humans are genetically predisposed to violence. Since the beginning of time, humans murdering other humans accounts for 2% of all deaths. It has been this way since the beginning of mankind. Academics predict this trend continues into our future. (Dr. José María Gómez, Granada University) As long as there is real evil in the world, there will always be a real need to defend ourselves.
Hunting is Not an Inalienable Right
Self-defense is an inalienable, natural right. It is a right granted to us by nature. These rights are ours simply for being born human. These rights are not given to us by our government, therefore the government cannot take away these rights. It may be easier to think of these rights as human rights.
The founding fathers used these basic human rights to create the laws of our country. The Declaration of Independence states “all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The Second Amendment—the right to own firearms to protect yourself—is one of these unalienable rights.
Saying, “owning guns for hunting is okay” has no credibility under the law. The reason why Americans can own firearms isn’t so we can shoot deer.
There are firearms designed to make it easier to take down a deer. These guns are not intended to use for self-defense and in most cases, would be considered irresponsible to use for self-defense in the home. A typical deer rifle shoots a bullet designed to take down a deer as quickly and ethically as possible. They travel further, faster and can be much bigger than bullets designed for self-defense. This means that if you were to use your deer rifle for self-defense in the home, you would run a high risk of overpenetration—when a bullet does not stop inside its intended target, risking damage to property or innocent people.
Guns designed for hunting and guns designed for self-defense are different and aren’t necessarily interchangeable. The AR-15’s .223 Remington bullet is one of the few rounds that is suitable to use for both medium-sized game and home protection.
How one chooses to defend themselves (or not) is a personal and individualized choice. As you probably already know, my choice is to use the most efficient tool I can—a firearm. And like most tools, different types serve different purposes. Some serve multiple purposes. One of the most versatile of those tools is the AR-15.
Assault Weapons, Assault Rifles, Automatic Weapons and AR-15s are NOT the Same Things
The definition of “assault weapon” as we know it, originated in the mid-1980s. (Journalists had been using the term since 1943, but to describe all different types of things, including baseball bats used in Major League Baseball.) Those who wanted to ban guns used this term, “assault weapon” to describe semi-automatic rifles that had certain aesthetic characteristics.
An “assault rifle” is the term the military uses for a select-fire rifle. These rifles can fire in semi-automatic mode or in three round bursts. The AR-15 is not a select fire rifle. It fires only in semi-automatic mode—one round with each pull of the trigger.
An AR-15 is Not an Assault-Rifle
The A and R do not stand for “assault rifle.” They stand for Armalite Rifle, named after the first company to produce that style of rifle.
In 1955, the military wanted to replace the M1 Garand rifle with something more modern. Firearms designer, Eugene Stoner, developed the AR-10 rifle to submit to the U.S. Military. Stoner innovatively used lightweight aluminum and plastics instead of heavy wood in the design of the AR-10. The AR-10 is chambered for .308 Winchester, which is bigger than the AR-15 .223. Stoner submitted his design late and the AR-10 was never considered.
In 1956, the U.S. Army asked Armalite to develop a rifle based on the AR-10, but in a smaller caliber and the AR-15 was born.
In 1989, the patent for the design of the AR-15 rifle expired allowing other firearm manufacturers to design and produce their own. Lewis Machine and Tool, then operating under Eagle Arms, started making and selling a semi-automatic AR-15 to civilians.
The AR-15 fires a .223 Remington round. The bullet is a part of the .22 family. You can purchase magazines for the AR-15 that hold as little as 5 rounds or as many as 100 rounds. Its operation has nothing to do with how it looks. The pistol grip, telescoping stock, sights, and handguards are added accessories that aid in ease of use and ability to shoot more accurately. There are literally hundreds of rifles and pistols that operate exactly the same way and fire the exact same round as the AR-15. The only things that set them apart are looks and the number of rounds the accompanying magazine will hold. In fact, there are many semi-automatic rifles that fire a round that is much MUCH bigger than the AR-15.
This 3D animation video describes how an AR-15 functions.
Registration of Firearms
Due to federal law, there is no national registration of firearms. So, there are no hard numbers of how many firearms Americans own. Guns can be legally purchased without a federal background check when purchased from an individual. It is still illegal, however, to sell a firearm to a prohibited person. Because there is no federal registration of firearms, we can only estimate how many there are based on the number of background checks performed annually, along with manufacturing numbers. Using the information available, the National Rifle Association estimates around five million AR-15s are owned by Americans with that number growing every day.
It would be impossible to track down and collect every firearm that fell under any new “assault weapons” ban. Multiple studies conducted by professors from Duke University and the University of Chicago found that only 3% of gun crimes are committed using legally-bought firearms. I think we can all agree that if an “assault weapons” ban was reinstated, it wouldn’t be the criminals turning in their firearms.
Fully Automatic Firearms are NOT Illegal
Automatic weapons or machine guns are guns that fire fully automatic. This means that the gun will fire repeatedly as long as the trigger is pressed down. It stops firing once the trigger is released. Machine guns aren’t limited to rifles. There are fully-automatic handguns, as well.
The National Firearms Act passed in 1934 restricted the ownership of certain firearms—including fully automatic rifles and pistols; however, it did not make them illegal. The Hughes Amendment in the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, virtually banned the ownership of machine guns made after 1986 for regular folks. Any machine gun made before 1986 can be legally owned, bought or sold. They are very expensive, you must pass an extensive background check, pay a $200 tax fee, submit photos and fingerprints, get the signature of a chief law enforcement officer and register it before you are able to take possession of the gun. The ATF reports that there are 240,000 registered machine guns. Since 1934, there have only been two accounts of murder committed by a person using a licensed fully automatic firearm. One of those murders was committed by a police officer using his service weapon.
Modern Sporting Rifles
The accurate term for the AR-15 is modern sporting rifle or MSR. There are many different types of semi-automatic rifles in this style that are not AR-15s. To relieve the stigma of the AR-15, Randy Luth, founder of AR-15 manufacturer DPMS, made a push to call this style of rifles something other than the misnomer “assault rifle.” In 2009, the National Shooting Sports Foundation created a campaign to popularize the phrase “modern sporting rifle.” There are countless rifles that fall under the MSR category, including the AR-15, AK-47, IWI Tavor, PTR 91, Steyr AUG, FNH FAL, Kriss Vector and Saiga—to name a few of the most popular ones.
So, What is an “Assault Weapon?”
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. A subsection of the law included the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB,) which outlawed the manufacture of semi-automatic rifles that had a detachable magazine and two additional features from this list: folding or collapsible stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor, threaded barrel, or grenade launcher mount.
- The stock and pistol grip help the shooter be more comfortable and shoot more accurately.
- The bayonet and grenade launcher mounts are not much use to civilians—not this civilian anyway.
- A flash suppressor reduces the amount of flash from the end of the barrel when the gun is fired, as well as help reduce recoil and noise. Results are minimal.
- The threaded barrel allows you to attach a suppressor.
The AWB also named 18 specific models. If you already owned one, it was grandfathered in—you could keep it, just not sell it. It also banned magazines that held more than 10 rounds. The Assault Weapons Ban expired on September 13, 2004. However, Washington D.C., the city of Chicago and seven states still ban “assault weapons”—California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York.
No feature on the law list has any effect on the way the firearm functions. Strip any of these features off the AR-15 or any other MSR and the gun is going to work exactly the same way. Exactly. It will fire a bullet just as far and just as fast.
When you say you want to ban assault weapons, the AR-15, or “assault rifles,” you are saying you want a firearm to be illegal based solely on the way it looks.
ON THE WAY IT LOOKS.
I’ll let that sink in.
A Few Facts About The Federal Assault Weapons Ban
- In 2012, despite Connecticut’s assault weapons ban, Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults using his mother’s legal AR-15.
- In 1999, during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at Columbine High School using a 9mm handgun, two 12-gauge shotguns, and a rifle chambered for the handgun caliber 9mm.
- Only 2% of gun crimes are done with “assault weapons.” (Gun Violence Archive)
- Gun murders increased by 20% during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. (Christopher S. Koper)
- There have been only 8 mass school shootings (more than four deaths) since 1996. (James Alan Fox and Emma E. Fridel/Northeastern University)
The problem with saying we should ban “assault weapons” or the AR-15 is that it completely ignores how firearms operate and focuses only on a few features that make no difference in the function of the gun. To those of us that understand guns, it sounds like someone saying, “we need to ban hammers, but not mallets.” It just doesn’t make logical sense. Not to mention that it doesn’t even come close to solving the problem of someone who’s intent is to do harm.
I hope that after reading this, you have a greater understanding of what these bans mean and how firearms function.