Why millions of Americans — including me — own the AR-15
What everyone is getting wrong about the weapon behind some of the worst mass shootings in America.
“The AR-15 is not an “automatic weapon.” As we’ll see shortly, the range of firearms that fall (to one degree or another) into the category of “AR-15” is staggeringly diverse, but one thing they all have in common is that they all fire only one round with each pull of the trigger. In contrast, the AR-15’s military sibling, the M16, is capable of fully automatic fire, which means that the gun will keep spitting out bullets as long as the trigger is pressed and the magazine is loaded…
“…My point in bringing up the lever action rifle is that civilians have been buying “weapons of war” for a very long time, since the black powder musket days. This is partly because soldiers who come home from wars to enter civilian life often want to buy a version of the weapon they were trained on and trusted their life to. And it’s also because “military grade” is widely (if sometimes mistakenly) understood to mean “this technology has been tested in the real world, the kinks have been worked out, and its reliability and effectiveness have been proven in the field by an entity with the resources of an entire nation at its disposal.” Thus it is that since the dawn of the gunpowder age, gun buyers have snapped up military hardware, because that is often the very best hardware they can get their hands on. In this respect, today’s AR-15 buyers are no different than yesteryear’s lever action rifle buyers….
“…The AR-15 is less a model of rifle than it is an open-source, modular weapons platform that can be customized for a whole range of applications, from varmint control to taking out 500-pound feral hogs to urban combat. Everything about an individual AR-15 can be changed with aftermarket parts — the caliber of ammunition, recoil, range, weight, length, hold and grip, and on and on. In the pre-AR-15 era, if you wanted a gun for shooting little groundhogs, a gun for shooting giant feral hogs, and a gun for home defense, you’d buy three different guns in three different calibers and configurations. With the AR platform, a person with absolutely no gunsmithing expertise can buy one gun and a bunch of accessories, and optimize that gun for the application at hand. You can even make an AR-15 into a pistol….
“…So the “defensive rifle” (as opposed to the “assault rifle”) is a nonsense idea that exists only in the minds of people who know nothing about guns. This being the case, you can’t fault gun owners for not buying or building such a weapon, because that is not a real thing and never will be. An assault rifle is a defense rifle, and a defense rifle is an assault rifle; these two concepts are identical — such is the very nature of armed combat, in which one person is trying to prevent himself from being killed by killing the other guy first. Anyone who “needs” a defense rifle “needs” an assault rifle, because they are the same…
… “You may reject all of the rationales offered above, which is fine. It’s totally respectable for you to admit that you don’t believe the rationales for AR ownership outlined above are legitimate, and therefore we should outlaw civilian ownership of a very large category of weapons. But what isn’t respectable is to argue this way, and then to turn around and claim that “nobody is coming for your guns!” That’s insulting, and we both know it isn’t true. Stop doing that. If you’re serious about banning guns, you can talk about banning all semiautomatic guns, or about restricting guns to a list of approved models or actions. This is may not be politically realistic at the moment, but at least it’s consistent and rational. But talk of banning just the “AR-15” — as if that’s a specific model of gun that you can just up and ban — is technologically infeasible and ultimately counterproductive.