The First "Assault Weapon": Banning Guns Based on "Style" Rather than Function


When five schoolchildren were murdered at an elementary school in Stockton, California, in January 1989, the public learned a new phrase: "assault weapon." To most gun owners and non-owners alike, it was a brand new term.

It was also confusing. Whenever "assault weapon" laws have been enacted, they apply to guns that are not machine guns. Yet many people who support such laws think that the guns involved are machine guns.

We can trace the origin of the public confusion back to the Stockton crime. The criminal's murder weapon was a Norinco AKM-56S semi-automatic rifle. Norinco is a large Chinese manufacturer of many products, including military arms and equipment for natural resources extraction. The group has close ties to the Chinese military. "Norinco" is an abbreviation for China North Industries Group Corporation.

Because the firearm is made abroad, the importation of the rifle into the United States was allowed only because federal regulators found it to be "particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes." (18 U.S. Code sect. 925(d)) (Attorney General "shall authorize" imports of firearms that meet the definition.)

The initials "AKM" stand for "Avtomat Kalashnikova modernizirovanniy." Translated from Russian: "Modernized Automatic Kalashnikov." In 1947, Russian inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov created one of the world's best-known automatic rifles: the AK-47. The type 56 was a model that began production in China in 1956. Over the years, China has distributed this automatic military gun to many military allies, guerillas, and terrorist groups.

Automatic weapons are generally not importable into the United States for sale to citizens. (18 U.S. Code sect. 925(d)). In an automatic weapon, when the user presses the trigger, bullets are fired continually. Popularly, automatics are called "machine guns," and that is the term used by the federal statute that very strictly regulates them, the National Firearms Act of 1934 (26 U.S. Code sect. 5801 et seq.).

For the sporting purpose of hunting, machine guns are generally unsuitable. Humane taking of an animal is supposed to involve a single precisely aimed shot, and sometimes a quick second shot. Spraying bullets at the animal is forbidden.

To make the gun importable into the U.S. for civilian sale, Norinco had to change the gun's internal operation. Instead of being an automatic, the gun had to be a semi­-automatic. In a semiautomatic, pressing the trigger fires only one bullet. This is just like every other normal gun, such as revolvers, bolt actions, lever actions, or pump actions.

After a bullet is fired, the empty cartridge case is left behind in the firing chamber. (The case had contained the bullet, primer, and gunpowder.) In a semiautomatic, some of the energy from the gunpowder burning is used to: 1. eject the empty case from the firing chamber, and 2. load a fresh cartridge into the firing chamber. Then the user has to pull the trigger to fire a shot. One trigger pull, only one shot.

Semiautomatics were invented in 1885. Today, they constitute the very large majority of American handguns, and a large fraction of rifles and shotguns.

When Norinco altered its model 56 to be semiautomatic only, the new model was the 56S. Changing the automatic model 56 into the semiautomatic 56S made a huge difference in operation and in law.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1994 case Staples v. United States sharply distinguished automatics from semiautomatics. According to the Court, there are some weapons whose ownership has a "quasi-suspect character." Examples, according to the court, are grenades or machine guns. In contrast, semi­-automatic guns have always been "commonplace and generally available," said the Court. The Staples case was about an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, and the point applies to semiautomatics generally.

(By the way, "AR" stands for "ArmaLite," the company that invented the rifle. The "AR-17" is a shotgun, and the "AR-24" is a handgun.)

Thus, when the automatic Norinco 56 was turned into the semiautomatic 56S, it had a very different legal status. The change also made practical difference. An automatic gun can fire much faster than a semiautomatic.

However, the internal mechanical changes to the 56S made almost no difference in the rifle's outer appearance. On the outside, the Model 56 and the Model 56S looked exactly alike, except that the former has a selector switch, allowing the user to choose automatic fire.

So it was understandable that most people who saw an AKM-56S for the first time would immediately think it was an AK-47. The AK-47 is a very famous gun, and the AKM-56S looks the same, unless a person is looking very closely and knows what to look for. Because of internal parts, the AK-47 can fire much faster than the AKM-56S. But in outer appearance, there is essentially no difference between the two guns.

Most Americans thinks that machine guns should be banned or very strictly regulated. They distinguish machine guns from normal guns, which fire only one shot at a time. A gun with the appearance of the 56S was bound to cause confusion.

This confusion could help advance gun control. In 1988, gun prohibition strategist Josh Sugarmann wrote that the public and press had grown tired of the handgun ban issue. He urged a shift of "assault weapons," and explained why "assault weapon" bans had a better chance of being enacted than handgun bans:

The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.

Sugarmann was exactly right.

As soon as the media began covering the Stockton crime, the vast majority began calling the criminal's gun an "AK-47." Even today, this misinformation persists.

In 1989, most Americans were dependent on the mainstream media for all their news. So they believed media reports that AK-47 rifles were for sale over the counter in gun stores all over the United States. Understandably, they favored greater restrictions on whatever guns the media was talking about.

In 1989–'90, public opinion polls showed support for "assault weapon" bans at 3:1 or 4:1 in favor. In recent years, the issue has become closer to an even split, with ban support often under 50%, and sometimes lower than opposition to the ban.

The change is because a large number of Americans (perhaps about a quarter or a third) over the last three decades have learned what the "assault weapon" ban is about. It does not involve the AK-47, or any other machine gun. Instead, it involves guns that operate exactly the same as the predominant type of ordinary handgun.

Still, there are many Americans who have not learned the difference. People who have little or no personal experience in using firearms are especially vulnerable to deception. Some media figures, politicians, and commentators continue to perpetuate misinformation.

Confusion was inevitable in February 1989, when the "assault weapon" issue was brand new. Three decades later, some public officials and media continue to speak inaccurately. So-called "assault weapons" are not machine guns. Bans on guns that have a military "style" are based on the appearance of firearms, and not their function.

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  1. You might include that importation of machineguns was prohibited by GCA68, so it’s been 50 years rather than when NFA34 first placed federal limits on ownership etc.

    1. 1934 National Firearms Act (Title II of current federal firearms regulations) placed a $200 registration tax on machine guns. I count that as the first federal limit on legal ownership.

      1968 Gun Control Act (Title I of current federal federal firearms regulations) ended import of all military surplus firearms including machine guns. That was an additional federal limit on legal ownership.

      1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act froze the machine gun registry at ones registered by 19 May 1986, banned import of machine guns for civilian ownership, but allowed import of military firearms with “sporting purposes” including semi-auto versions.

      I am amused (not) that Adam Winkler points out between 1934 and 1986, that there was only one murder with a registered machine gun (by a corrupt cop involved in drug trade) and since the 1986 freeze there have been no murders with registered machineguns. To him that proves that registration and then caps on registration prevents crimes. He does not look at crime with illegal machine guns stolen from military and police, smuggled into the US, or manufactured by underground makers. Talk show host Alan Burg was murdered by Silent Brotherhood terrorists using a MAC10 made by another white supremacist group’s gun factory. The lack of murders with NFA registered machine guns is just proof that most owners who registered their guns in good faith were law abiding collectors and the Hughes Amendment was unnecessary.

  2. We also now see media say things like “fully semi automatic” at times, and I can’t figure out why they’d say that other than to be misleading.

    One of the proposed bans applied to all semiautomatic centerfire rifles with detachable magazines, rather than focusing on (cosmetic) evil features such as pistol grips. That one at least makes more sense.

    1. Unless I’m misinformed, the reference to “fully semi-automatic” was made one time by one person who was speaking extemporaneously, and who later agreed that he shouldn’t have said that. I don’t know how that single instance has been transformed into “the media” making such statements with the intention of misleading.

      1. It’s not any one statement. It’s the number of profoundly ignorant and misleading statements and images made by the media. It’s a news station showing a shotgun blowing up a watermelon and claiming it was an AR-15 (I suspect out of ignorance, but how ignorant do you have to be to make that mistake). And have we forgotten USA Today and the chainsaw bayonet?

        1. The chainsaw bayonet is real.

          Okay, it’s basically a zombie apocalypse novelty, but it does exist.

          1. I know it exists. But for someone to include it as an attachment in an ostensibly serious piece of journalism is exactly what I am talking about. Either they knew it was a joke, and included it anyways, or didn’t realize it was a novelty item.

  3. I’ve learned over many years that when the “media” report on something I know a lot about they invariably make major errors of fact and context.

    1. When they report on something you DON’T know about, they still make those errors – you just aren’t knowledgable enough to spot them.

      Unless their errors are specific to those particular topics, which doesn’t actually make it any better.

    2. Its called the Geller/Mann effect. check wiki for an explanation.

      To paraphrase, you’re job is analyzing automobile manufacturing trends. You read a story in the NYT That is covering the Auto industry and you cant find a single fact in the story that is close to accurate. You shake your head and go off to other parts of the NYT and come across a lengthy peace on the Palestine/Israel conflict, and spend a lot of time educating your self on what is going on. All the time forgetting about how bad their reporting in your known field was totally without merit

      1. That would be the “Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect” (named after theoretical physicist Murray Gell-Mann).

    3. Some of those errors have to be intentional — for example, CNN ran stock footage of a stack of cinder blocks being destroyed by full-auto fire while talking about what became the Feinstein/Clinton ban. They were called out on it dozens of times over years, and it would not surprise me if they were still running it (I would not know — I don’t watch CNN for blood pressure management reasons).

    4. When the media makes gross factual errors on a topic you know a lot about, understand that they’re making the same gross factual errors about all other topics. It’s a sobering thought.

  4. A couple of nits:
    “In a semiautomatic, some of the recoil energy from the gunpowder burning is used to: 1 eject the empty case from the firing chamber, and 2. load a fresh cartridge into the firing chamber.”

    A semiautomatic firearm can be powered by either recoil or gas. Your statement seems to conflate, or confuse them. Examples of recoil operated semiautos are pistols like the PPK made famous by James Bond, or the even more famous Model 1911. Gas operated include the M1 Garand, AR-15/M-16, and AK-47. There are few gas operated pistols, and few recoil operated rifles, except for small calibers like .22 rimfire.

    You say “”AR” stands for “ArmaLite,” the company that invented the rifle.” It’s actually that AR stands for Armalite Rifle.

    1. There are more than just recoil and gas operation: there’s blowback as well, and recoil is divided into short recoil and long recoil. The PPK is blowback, not recoil operated. Most lower power pistols are blowback (it’s the most common system up to .380 caliber, although some companies like Hi Point make larger caliber blowback pistols), while most higher power pistols are recoil operated (1911, Glock, most Sigs, most modern Berettas, etc). There are a few gas operated pistols (Desert Eagle, AutoMag).

      Rifles and carbines in pistol calibers tend to be blowback, rifles and carbines in intermediate and rifle calibers tend to be gas operated. There are a few long recoil operated rifles (Remington Model 8), and quite a few short recoil operated machineguns (M1919, MG42, etc).

      Modern semiauto shotguns are typically gas operated, although for quite a while long recoil operation was popular (Browning Auto5/Remington 11).

      Armalite referred to non-rifles as AR as well: see the AR-17 (a shotgun) as an example.

      1. That’s interesting. I had always considered both blowback and locked-breech pistols to be recoil operated, i.e., I thought the term “recoil operated” subsumed both blowback and locked breech. Looking into it because of your comment, one might classify blowback as a gas operated design!

        There’s an interesting case of a “mini-1911” design, the Llama III-A, that was initially a locked-breech model, and during its production changed to blowback, with no model number change, or external evidence of the difference.

        1. To me, recoil operated means that the barrel moves.

          I won’t claim that’s the only right definition of it, though.

          Long recoil operation is when the barrel and bolt both move the full distance back together, then the barrel returns forward, then the bolt returns forward. This is uncommon.

          Short recoil operation is when the barrel and bolt both move a short distance back together, then the bolt (or slide) unlocks from the barrel and moves back farther, then everything returns. This is common in handguns (and early machineguns).

          Interesting that they changed it from locked breech to blowback without making it clear.

    2. To be fair, if he’d simply left the word ‘recoil’ out of the sentence, “In a semiautomatic, some of the recoil energy from the gunpowder…”, it would have been unquestionably accurate. As written, it is defensible. He wasn’t writing a treatise on the workings of various types of gun locks. He was simply trying to distinguish one broad category of firearm — semiautomatic — from other types. In that context, the energy from the burning of the propellant that isn’t used to expel out of the barrel can be understood to produce ‘recoil’, a form of wasted energy. Figuratively, the semiautomatic captures some of that wasted energy an puts it to a productive use in ejecting the spent case and loading a fresh cartridge. Is that literally true of all types of semiautomatic actions? No, as has been pointed out, gas operated actions do not take energy from the recoil. But, for the purposes of what was being written, it was more than close enough.

      1. Thanks. For precision, I deleted “recoil.”

      2. “No, as has been pointed out, gas operated actions do not take energy from the recoil. But, for the purposes of what was being written, it was more than close enough.”

        Strictly speaking, gas operated semi-autos are siphoning off energy that would otherwise become part of the recoil. The gas cycling system actually dampens the recoil somewhat. It’s not taking the energy out of the process of recoil, but it is taking energy away from the recoil.

        There is a fixed amount of energy created by firing a gun. In a non semi-auto, that energy get’s split evenly between the bullet and recoil (equal and opposite reaction). If a gas powered semi-auto isn’t stealing energy from the recoil, it’s stealing it from the bullet.

    3. That’s why the ArmaLite shotgun was the model AR-17, the ArmaLite handgun was the model AR-24, and my ArmaLite rifle is the AR-7. The AR means “ArmaLite Rifle” and is not an abbreviation of ARmaLite used by the ArmaLite division of Fairchild from the beginning. ‘Cause picking nits with Kopel is so much fun.

  5. Let me guess: Coming to us soon on NRA TV?

    1. Are you trying to imply that this information isn’t relevant?

      1. No, I’m trying to imply that no one who doesn’t already own five rifles is likely to read past the first paragraph, because this post is as intemperate as dr. Kopel’s previous one (and, from recollection, most of his posts on the various incarnations of VC). Past that, all this is is an elaborate marketing campaign for gun manufacturers. Scare the conservatives of America into believing that the MSM and the Democrats are coming to grab your guns in order to sell more guns.

        1. I don’t own five rifles and I read past the first paragraph.

          I’m implying that you are kind of dumb.

        2. Scare the conservatives of America into believing that the MSM and the Democrats are coming to grab your guns in order to sell more guns.

          They don’t have to “scare” us. We can read the words they right. They are coming for our guns. They have literally said that. Some just say scary looking guns. Some want all. But in the end, they do want our guns.

          Don’t lie.

          1. no they are coming for your children. to protect them. because the best way to disable a guy with a semi automatic rifle is to not give him a semi automatic rifle in the first place (see Las Vegas where it didn’t matter how many ppl in the crowd or at the hotel owned a gun)

  6. Is the difference purely one of style? I have read a number of articles that say that assault weapons are different from other handguns because the bullets they fire travel at a much higher speed, causing something called “cavitation” which makes them far more lethal. (See, e.g. “What an AR-15 can do to the human body” (Wired, 6/17/16); “What I Saw Treating the Victims from Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns” (The Atlantic, 2/22/18.) Would it be possible to regulate assault weapons based on bullet speed? I’m not arguing here; I’m seeking information.

    1. The contrast in velocity is between rifles and handguns, not between semi-automatic “assault weapons” and other rifles.

    2. That is another area of deception by the media.

      Virtually all centerfire rifle ammunition is considerably higher velocity than handgun ammo. That’s not an”assault weapon” thing, it is a rifle thing.

      The media run with it though because they want people to think there is something especially out of the ordinary for this specific rifle, when in fact it’s (in 5.56/.223) actually pretty weak for a rifle.

      1. “the media” actually includes decorated veterans who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who presumably know a thing or two about guns. why always assume “the media” is dumb and ignorant? why deny the obvious fact that AR-15 have been used in almost all recent cases of mass shootings and can inflict a lot more damage than say a handgun or a hunting rifle that needs to be re-loaded every shot or two?

        1. Yet the majority of homicides are with handguns not rifles.

          I would like to thank you for proving the point by publicly demonstrating your ignorance.

    3. I suspect you’re referring to hydrostatic shock.

      The argument is frequently used to argue that 9mm parabellum bullets are more lethal than .45 caliber because even though the .45 caliber round has a larger diameter, 9mm rounds travel fast enough to cause hydrostatic shock and cavity effects (where .45 caliber rounds don’t).

      Notice, I’m talking about handgun rounds. While it’s true that the same rounds out of a rifle (with a longer barrel) move at a higher velocity, even 9mm handgun rounds travel fast enough to cause hydrostatic shock and cavity effects.

    4. California Dreamer: “I have read a number of articles that say that assault weapons are different from other handguns because the bullets they fire travel at a much higher speed, causing something called “cavitation””

      There are two types of “cavitation.” One is the tissue damage caused by the crushing effect of the bullet. The other (that you refer to) is a temporary cavity caused by the shock wave of the bullet. There’s a lot written about this “temporary cavitation.” It looks dramatic in ballistic gelatin; but it is often a minor aspect of gunshot wounds, as much tissue is elastic and simply stretches and rebounds. It can be important with respect to bones and solid organs.

      More generally, effects of gunshot wounds are caused by the caliber (size) of the bullet and whether it remains intact or instead flattens, fragments, or tumbles within the body, all of which lead to much great wounding. A higher velocity bullet is also more likely to pass deeply into the body or pass through it entirely, leaving a larger permanent cavity.

      For reference, see Martin L. Fackler, “Wound ballistics: a review of common misconceptions.” The following link is to the JAMA article, which is hidden behind a paywall, but I have previously found pdfs of Fackler’s original research, written for the Letterman Army Institute of Research, online.

      Fackler article on gunshot wound misconceptions

    5. I regret to inform you that the articles you have been reading are not well-informed. Neither of your premises are actually true. Many of the weapons called “assault weapons” actually have lower muzzle velocity than comparable hunting rifles. This is primarily the a function of the expected range at which they will be used. Higher muzzle velocity leads to a flatter trajectory which makes it’s easier to be accurate at longer distances. However, they generally fire slower and have higher recoil. Weapons like the AK-47 and M-16 (and their semi-automatic counterparts) are optimized for much shorter ranges and have a lower muzzle velocity as part of that optimizaiton..

      Cavitation is a thing but it’s primarily a function of the bullet design. Velocity at impact plays a part but not nearly as much as the characteristics of the projectile. The rifle (or handgun) can fire either design of bullet so that’s not a useful characteristic for defining “assault weapon”. And before you ask, yes, regulations on bullet type are both allowed and already in place.

      1. I wouldn’t say that they have lower muzzle *velocity*: an AR15 has a higher muzzle velocity than most popular hunting calibers, absent magnums and varmint cartridges.

        Lower muzzle energy absolutely.

        30-30, one of the most popular cartridges for deer and similar size game, is probably most common in 170gr @ 2225fps or so, although 150 @ 2400 is also fairly common, both around 1900ft*lb energy. 5.56 has a most common load of 55gr @ 3250fps, although 62gr @ 3100fps is also fairly common, both around 1300ft*lb energy.

        If you look at 308, 30-06, etc you’ll see higher velocities than 30-30, but not what you see in 5.56.

        1. True, the 5.56 NATO has higher velocity than .30/30, .30-06 and .308, but the latter all have higher muzzle energy than 5.56 NATO

          What kills the target is energy transferred from bullet to target, not how fast it get’s there. Higher velocity is not more lethal if energy is lower.

          Yes, velocity affects energy but so does bullet mass.

          Muzzle energy

          5.56 NATO 4 g (62 gr) M855A1 FMJBT 1,889 J (1,393 ft?lbf) * this is the highest energy variant listed

          .30-30 110 gr (7 g) FP 1,760 ft?lbf (2,390 J) *this is the lowest energy variant listed

          .30-06 150 gr (10 g) Nosler Ballistic Tip 2,820 ft?lbf (3,820 J) *lowest energy variant.

          .308 125 gr (8 g) Spitzer 2,668 ft?lbf (3,617 J)

      2. seems like we are arguing about nitty gritty technicalities here, aren’t we? it doesn’t take a ballistic expert to know that an AK-47 or an AR-15 can kill a lot of people in a short amount of time and that handguns or hunting rifles are no match for them at short distances where many of the mass shootings occur. THAT is the debate.

        1. With a little practice reloading, the Florida shooter would have been more devastating with a pump action shotgun–that only holds seven rounds of buckshot.

        2. Actually most handguns are semiautomatic with similar firing capability as the AR-15.

          BTW: My AR is a .300AAC not 5.56 and used primarily for hunting, replacing my Winchester Model 64 in 30-30, IOW a hunting rifle.

          Again, thank you for demonstrating the ignorance of a Progressive who believe the propaganda.

    6. Those articles were liberal hit pieces. If the doctors were horrified by what a 5.56 can do to the human body, they should see what a .30-06 or .308 can do to the human body.

    7. The long established .220 Swift and .22-250 varmint rifles have higher velocity than the .223/5.56 round commonly used in ARmalite style rifles and greater cavitation.

      The wounds I saw on deer shot with an AR rifle in .223 during butchering (a sample of two) … I would expect slightly more damage with the classic .30-30 introduced in 1895.

      In general a rifle round will do more damage than a handgun round.

      1. In many states, including Virginia, it is illegal to hunt deer with a .223, because it is not considered powerful enough to take deer humanely.

    8. Rifle cartridges are significantly more powerful than pistol cartridges.

      Comparing 5.56 to 9mm, the muzzle energy is 3-4x as high. 5.56 is a relatively low power rifle cartridge too, a typical hunting rifle cartridge has significantly more muzzle energy (30-30, historically the most popular for deer etc, is close to 50% higher than 5.56).

      “Assault rifle” cartridges are on the low end of power when it comes to rifle cartridges, to reduce recoil and increase full auto controllability (although next to no crimes are committed with full auto weapons, but the cartridges were designed for use in full auto rifles).

  7. “In 1989, most Americans were dependent on the mainstream media for all their news. So they believed media reports that AK-47 rifles were for sale over the counter in gun stores all over the United States. Understandably, they favored greater restrictions on whatever guns the media was talking about.”

    Feels ripe for an Ilya Somin crossover event.

  8. I maintain that it was the bans and political rhetoric against “assault weapons” that made models like the AR-15 so popular. Before 1989, when the gun control debate was about handguns, hardly anyone knew they wanted an AR-15. All this rhetoric and legislation later, and AR-15s are among the most popular guns in terms of sales. Why?

    The article mentions that rifles like the AR-15 aren’t very useful for hunting. They aren’t very good in close quarters combat for home defense either–shotguns and pistols are better for that. They might be good for recreational shooting, but you can’t find many outdoor shooting ranges where you can do that in urban America. I wouldn’t look to their usefulness to explain their popularity.

    I think we’re looking at something like the Streisand effect, or maybe it’s more like when B-movies used to be advertised as “banned in Boston”. Every time there’s a big mass shooting, the rush on AR-15s is like the rush on bottled water and generators ahead of a hurricane. The politicians start railing against them and, ultimately, people buy them because of that notoriety. In other words, AR-15s are popular because of the notoriety–specifically because the gun control lobby is always trying to ban them.

    Certainly, hardly anybody seems to have wanted an “assault weapon” before the gun control lobby shifted to pushing to ban them circa 1989. If America is awash in AR-15s now, maybe we should blame the shift in tactics of the gun control lobby.

    1. The article mentions that rifles like the AR-15 aren’t very useful for hunting.

      No, it doesn’t. It says that machine guns aren’t very useful for hunting, and explains very clearly that AR-15s aren’t machine guns.

      1. On second look, I guess you’re right.

        Still, AR-15s, AK-47s and AR-10s are not typically used for hunting.

        1. Still, AR-15s, AK-47s and AR-10s are not typically used for hunting.

          AR-15s chambered for 5.56mm NATO aren’t typically used for hunting (most game, there is an exception mentioned below).

          However, AR-15 rifles are available in other, more powerful calibers.

          Popular AR-15 calibers

          A common invasive pest species in the American south west is feral hogs. AR-15s are used for feral hog hunting

          1. I find the suggestion that the popularity of AR-15s is due to hog hunting unpersuasive.

            1. Why would the popularity need to be due to any one particular thing, instead of a combination?

            2. Unpersuasive or not, fact is AR style rifles are used extensively for hunting. I and many other’s use 5.56 for coyote hunting and the .308 caliber for deer and hog hunting.

              There’s is some truth to the media making the AR15 popular. You also zip right over the fact that many, many of us, the AR is the closest we can legally come to owning the weapon that defined whom we are, the M4/M16. Many of us deployed to Iraq and/or A’stan and spent 24/7 with our weapon, we became men, or adults if you prefer during those years. As galling as it may be for many, just as a race car enthusiast may have a 69 GTO in his garage, some of us have weapons instead of cars. Also, in the right hands, the AR is quite useful in self defense of ones house. And I’ll add one more thing, many of us, 10 years after leaving the service are still more well trained in the use of our weapons than the average police officer.

              1. “As galling as it may be for many, just as a race car enthusiast may have a 69 GTO in his garage, some of us have weapons instead of cars.”

                I hope you read further down and saw that I compared them to Harleys.

                I also hope you appreciate that I’m as staunch a defender of the Second Amendment as you’re likely to meet.

                My support for your right to buy and own and use an AR-15 is not predicated on their relative usefulness as home defense weapons or for hunting. Because you want one and the Constitution says you can buy one isn’t far past the end of the argument for me. If we didn’t have the Second Amendment, I’d think we should write it and add it to the Constitution. AR-15s, AR-10s, AK-47s, etc. don’t need to especially useful for me to support your right to buy, own, and use them.

                However, I maintain that the main reason “assault weapons” have become so popular since 1989 isn’t because they’re especially more useful (or less expensive) than other options for hunting, home defense, or even recreation. I maintain that the primary cause of their popularity and proliferation has to do with the mystique the gun control lobby has given with their attempts to ban them.

                1. I butchered that.

                  “Because you want one and the Constitution says you can buy one isn’t [is] far past the end of the argument for me.”

                  That’s fixed.

                  1. I agree with you that the over the top, we have to ban scary black rifles, narrative does increase the sales of these type rifles. I also think the constant drum beat of ‘gun control’ has lead to significant increases in sales of many other weapons also.

                    I for one have no issues using the AR for home defense. Having said that, I am comfortable with this b/c I spent so many years both training and clearing houses with some very bad guys in them that shot back, if not setting of IED’s. I have worked with my family members to defend themselves with a handgun and a shotgun. This is the better way, for them.

            3. The AR-15 is the most popular simply because its open source and thus all manufacturers have one or more versions of it, and its thus widely available and customizable.

              If the AR-15 had never been invented, instead there would be 10 different rifles sharing its marketshare.

              1. That explains why the AR-15 is more popular than other options in its class–not why the class has become so popular.

                Again, hardly anyone wanted an “assault weapon” before 1989, when the gun control lobby switched to trying to ban “assault weapons”. Again, there’s a run on AR-15s and 30 round clips every time there’s a mass shooting or a politician calls for a ban or Barack Obama wins an election.

                People are buying them because the gun control lobby wants to ban them. If the gun control lobby hadn’t switched tactics, the proliferation of the “assault weapons” the gun control lobby claims they’re trying to stop probably wouldn’t have happened.

                I read once that Captain Cook associated eating vegetables with preventing scurvy. Vegetables rot out at sea after a while, but sauerkraut doesn’t. He brought barrels of the stuff on board. However, he couldn’t get his men to eat the stuff, so he announced that from now on, the crew wasn’t allowed to eat it–the sauerkraut was only for the officers. At every meal, the crew grumbled and complained about being excluded–until finally he “relented”. They never knew they wanted sauerkraut until somebody told them they couldn’t have it.

                If the gun control lobby’s tactics are responsible for the proliferation of the “assault weapons” they’re trying to ban, then they have a lot to answer for–certainly to the people who give them money and support.

            4. @Ken Shultz

              And I’m not suggesting that.

              What I would suggest is that the efforts of the gun control crowd to demonize the AR15 have turned it into a status symbol for gun enthusiasts.

              It has become the super cool sports car of the gun world that everybody want to have just so they can say that they have one.

              However, it’s not accurate to say that the AR15 is not useful for some particular task that other guns would be used for. The AR15 platform was designed to be modular and readily customized. It can be had chambered for any rifle or pistol round you can imagine. I’ve even heard of AR-15 set up for the rim fire .22 short rifle (Why? I have no idea).

              1. I’m not saying they’re useless.

                I’m saying their usefulness at any particular task doesn’t explain their proliferation since 1989.

                Harley Davidson motorcycles are more expensive, slower, and worse at cornering than the Japanese competition.

                Yes, they’re less expensive than some Italian bikes, yes, they can go over the speed limit, and, yes, they can corner. People do, in fact, use them as motorcycles.

                However, they’re usefulness at any of those tasks doesn’t explain their popularity. People buy Harleys instead of Hondas for other reasons.

              2. “I’ve even heard of AR-15 set up for the rim fire .22 short rifle (Why? I have no idea).”

                The original modification was made by the military when there was a shortage of 5.56 rounds but service members still needed qualification training to maintain certifications. Also it is less expensive to fire the .22 than the .223/5.56 so one can get a decent zero of the firearm as well as firing off a bunch of rounds at the range at a low cost. 🙂

    2. So, you’re saying that the tactics of the “gun-control lobby” have caused millions of people to purchase a weapon that you describe as being generally not very useful? Just because some people wanted to ban this not-useful weapon?
      You might be right – that’s pretty much the living definition of what it means to be conservative these days: if the liberals say one thing, you do the opposite.

      1. It’s a typical human reaction to some extent.

        I worked with a Muslim who had lived in France and never realized she wanted to cover until the government there banned it.

        And we’re talking about something a lot of guys buy because it’s . . . badass for want of a better word. If the liberals want to ban it because it’s so dangerous, then, yeah, that makes it more alluring to certain people.

        But American conservatives hardly invented the allure of forbidden fruit.

        1. Progressives promote the idea of controlling behavior that is malum in se by making things malum prohibitum which creates the forbidden fruit allure.
          International prohibition of Absinth (US joined in 1912).
          US Prohibition of alcohol 1919.
          Then they moved to banning handguns (see H.L. Mencken “The Uplifters Are At It Again” 1924).
          Then the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.
          And the ban on Lady Chatterley’s Lover that restored the virginity of Bostonians.
          The Kefauver Commission crusade to end juvenile delinquency by removing “Tales From The Crypt” et al from America newsstands.

          I grew up ages 5-20 under local option prohibition 1953-1968 and saw what a sham malum prohibitum is in controlling bad behavior by bad people. I also discovered Edgar Allan Poe’s Marginalia in high school. One entry struck a note with me:

          “He that is born to be a man,” says Wieland in his “Peregrinus Proteus,” “neither should nor can be anything nobler, greater, or better than a man.” The fact is, that in efforts to soar above our nature, we invariably fall below it. Your reformist demigods are merely devils turned inside out.

          The road to Hades is paved with the unintended consequences of good intentions. Especially those of people who can’t understand why people are motivated to do bad acts but who can seize on some symbol and attack it and its defenders.

      2. Jonny Scrum-half: “purchase a weapon that you describe as being generally not very useful?”

        While someone may be saying that, it isn’t accurate. Here’s an article on the AR-15 by a writer for the liberal magazine Vox, who owns one and thinks highly of them.

        John Stokes, “Why Millions of Americans — including me — own the AR-15

        1. That guy is using it kill rats on his ranch in Texas?

          What about all the urban AR-15 owners who don’t have a ranch?

          Yeah, I know some of these “assault weapons” can be used for hunting, but they’re generally not used for that purpose.

          There are a number of reasons why people wouldn’t want to use an AR-15 for close quarters combat in a home defense situation against an intruder either. Among them, there are typical concerns about penetration through walls and striking a loved one–or rounds even penetrating into other people’s homes or apartments.

          Shotguns will penetrate three sheets of drywall, but not much more than that.

          I’m sure there’s somebody out there who thinks using a rifle for home defense is a great idea. He probably lives on a ranch by himself in Texas. Most other people don’t want to use an AR-15 for home defense.

          1. You now this because of your extensive experience examining bullet penetration for various types of firearms and ammunition?

            Do some googling and you’ll find many who have done comparisons and found the opposite is true.

            1. Here are some penetration tests for the AK-47 and the M-16 (AR-15 variant) conducted by the military.


              I think the tests people quote online and were run by well-meaning people who want to show that AR-15s are useful for something–for fear that “gun grabbers” will ban them otherwise.

              Firing a rifle inside a home or apartment in an urban area, however, is still a bad idea. Shotguns and pistols are a better choice for a number of reasons in close quarters, concerns about penetration among them.

              Hell, the FBI worries about the over-penetration of handgun rounds–that hit their target! Off the top of my head, I believe they reject rounds that penetrate deeper than 18″ in ballistic gel (with or without denim). It’s a serious concern that gun buyers are largely aware of, and given a choice, the AR-15 (or any rifle) is not the first choice of most people for home defense.

              In the context of my original argument, I do not believe that the popularity of AR-15s, as evidenced by the abundance of sales since 1989, is attributable to them being an excellent choice for home defense.

              1. You are wrong. An AR-15 is an EXCELLENT choice for home defense. First, its more accurate than a handgun (longer barrel and longer sight difference). Second, the 5.56 penetrates less than a 9mm or a .45 cal round.

                It is the first choice for many people.

              2. Mr. Shultz: a question for you to ponder – why have SWAT teams almost universally switched away from things like the MP5 (9mm) to .223 rifles? Do you think it’s because they want to maximize the chances of stray rounds zinging down the street and hitting toddlers?

                (FWIW, this isn’t conjecture – I’ve heard that they switched to avoid overpenetration issues directly from them. This is common knowledge among the clueful.)

                1. I’m not sure a SWAT team surrounding a house has the same concerns as a home owner defending his family against an intruder.

                  Regardless, I hope you understand that I’m not saying M-16s are useless.

                  I’m saying that aren’t especially useful for the reasons most people buy guns (as I’ve said repeatedly except for recreation assuming a facility is available and WRoL situations).

                  What I’m saying is that self-defense and hunting doesn’t explain why AR-15s have become so popular. There are less expensive platforms that do a better job of those things.

                  I’m not trying to take your AR-15 away by saying it’s useless. I’m pointing to why ownership of them has proliferated since 1989 (per the change in gun control tactics that this article describes), and I’m pointing the finger at those tactics.

                  1. The more the gun control lobby has gone after “assault weapons”, the more people have bought them–and their proliferation is probably a result of the gun control lobby’s attempts to ban them. As evidence, watch the spike in AR-15 prices and AR-15 sales in the wake of big mass shooting. That is not a coincidence. People don’t only want these things because they’re afraid they’ll be banned–they want them because the gun control lobby is trying to ban them.

                    The gun control lobby needs to take responsibility for that–and so do the people who take advantage of this issue, not because banning “assault weapons” will have any impact on mass shootings but because they can use it as a wedge issue to eek out a couple of percentage points in the next election.

                  2. “I’m not sure a SWAT team surrounding a house has the same concerns as a home owner defending his family against an intruder.”

                    Police entering a house face exactly the same tradeoffs of range, recoil, overpenetration, and effectiveness that a defender does. The rifle doesn’t do anything differently when in police hands than when in civilian hands.

                    1. SWAT teams are still using pistols and shotguns inside buildings.

                      They have M-4s for other kinds of operations, too.


                      Even so, being trained to forcibly enter a building and take out terrorists in a hostage situation isn’t exactly like defending your family from a burglar.

                      Regardless, for the nth time, the question in this argument isn’t whether AR-15s are useful. The questions are a) whether AR-15s are better than lower priced alternatives and b) what the fact that they’re inferior in the ways most people use guns tell us about why so many people buy them.

                      I’m not a utilitarian, by any means, but I understand there are plenty of people who imagine that the question of whether our gun rights should be protected is answered by justifying their usefulness to individuals and/or their benefit to society. I don’t really think in those terms on the First Amendment, Second Amendment, or any other question of our rights.

                    2. If you want to buy an AR-15 for any reason other than using it to violate someone’s rights, then I’m all for protecting your right to do so. You don’t have to justify wanting to be a Scientologist to me either. If I point out that Scientology is a useless belief system, it doesn’t mean I want to violate your First Amendment rights. And I certainly don’t have to pretend that Scientology is especially useful just to stand up for the First Amendment.

                      Likewise, just because there are other cheaper and better options for home defense and hunting doesn’t mean I think AR-15s should be banned, but just because I don’t think AR-15s should be banned doesn’t mean I have to pretend that they’re especially useful either.

                    3. “whether AR-15s are better than lower priced alternatives”

                      What semi rifles are cheaper than AR’s? Once upon a time Mini-14’s and SKS’s filled that role, but not anymore.

                      You’re trying too hard to fit the data to your conclusion. A few points you’re missing:

                      -AR’s have superb ergonomics. IMHO they’re ugly (YMMV) but they have excellent ergonomics.
                      -because they are popular, the knowledge base for e.g. troubleshooting them is widespread. This is an advantage for any popular platform; if your Chevy or Glock is having problems it’s easier to find expertise than for your Aston Martin or CZ.
                      -ditto for parts availability.
                      -you can get an AR lower and a 22LR upper for plinking, a 223 upper for varmints, a 6.8 upper for deer, etc, etc. You get to use that same $300 match trigger for all of them. Try that with your Remington 700 or Mini-14.
                      -fixing them is bolt off/on, not master craftsmanship. Want to rebarrel your Rem 700? Buy a lathe. Want to rebarrel your AR? A new barrel and bolt and one wrench.
                      -for over 50 years we’ve been training service members to use them. If you were in the Army from 1970 to 1990, it’s not like walnut stocks seem normal to you.

                      If you go to the range people are only too happy to tell you why they bought their particular gun. You’re ignoring the common reasons I hear.

                    4. “What semi rifles are cheaper than AR’s? Once upon a time Mini-14’s and SKS’s filled that role, but not anymore.”

                      That’s the point.

                      Maybe semi-auto rifles aren’t the best thing for hunting or home defense–and maybe they aren’t the least expensive.

                      In wooded areas, maybe the old Winchester 94 in 30-30 is the way to go if you’re shooting a buck.

                      For home defense, maybe shotguns and pistols are the way to go.

                      The point is that people are buying semi-automatic rifles that hold 30 rounds for other reasons–and the most obvious reasons are associated with the fact that the gun control lobby is trying to ban them. Among other things, it makes them seem especially “bad ass” and exclusive when the gun control lobby is trying to take them away.

                      Consumer tastes seem to have changed dramatically since 1989, and there is a reason for that. When I was in high school, tough guys put a shotgun in a rack in the back window of their pickup. Nowadays, guys who may not know anything else about guns know that they want an AR-15–and there’s a reason for that.

                    5. Surely, you’ve noticed that AR-15 sales and prices spike in the wake of a mass shooting in anticipation that the gun control lobby may be successful in banning them.

                      That is an obvious indication that there is a cause/effect relationship between the gun control rhetoric on “assault weapons” and the spot demand for AR-15s.

                      I maintain that the demand for them is driven by such concerns in between mass shootings, too. Sales also spike when the Democrats win a major election–and there’s a reason for that.

                    6. “Maybe semi-auto rifles aren’t the best thing for hunting or home defense–and maybe they aren’t the least expensive.

                      In wooded areas, maybe the old Winchester 94 in 30-30 is the way to go if you’re shooting a buck.”

                      Just FWIW, Davidson’s lists the cheapest Winchester 30-30 at $1229. You can get other brands of lever 30/30’s for $535, though.

                      I picked one of the value AR makers at random (Primary Arms) and they are selling AR’s in 300BLK for $499, which isn’t even the cheapest I’ve seen.

                      I get that you really, really like the theory you’ve constructed, but the facts you are basing it on don’t seem very well researched.

                    7. I’m looking at Gunbroker.

                      In the top four with expiring bids–with no reserve–I’m seeing a ’74 model 94 for $336 and another Ranger model for $325.

                      Pre-’64 models are generally preferred. I have to admit that I like those pre-’64 models for aesthetic, nostalgic, and patriotic reasons myself–I like them just because I think they’re cool.

                      There are so many old model 94s out there, plenty people get ’em the old fashioned way–they inherit them from grand pa.

                      If you want to get one of those sweet looking Henrys, you can pay through the nose if you want, I’m sure.

                      Again, the question is why AR-15 ownership proliferated over other options since 1989, and while I have no doubt that AR-15 prices may have come down as production ramped up over that period, I don’t think the affordability vs. more traditional purpose built guns explains it.

                    8. I’m not sure that current bids on not yet completed auctions … for used guns … are directly comparable to new ones.

                    9. I understand your point. I used a Winchester Model 64, from my father, for decades to hunt. I now use my AR in .300AAC (Blackout). The AR platform, especially with a shorter barrel and collapsible stock, is similar feel to the weapon I used in the military (GAU-5.) I also used to bring a firearm to school in my vehicle, whether shotgun or rifle depended on the season.

                    10. I would move the date forward to 2001. In conjunction with the calls to ban the AR, terrorism on TV, the Wars on TV, and thousands of us returning year after year from those wars made the platform popular. Right, wrong or indifferent, having an AR or two or three gives someone wanting nothing more than to protect his family, a little more confidence that he can do so.

                    11. “SWAT teams are still using pistols and shotguns inside buildings.”

                      For goodness sakes. They carry pistols as a backup. Just find one of the 11 million videos of police going through a door and see what’s in their hands. Or ask some of them. Similarly, shotguns these days are usually used as specialized breaching tools.

                      There are exceptions – in some circumstances a guy with a shield will not have a rifle, because, well, one arm is holding the shield. On patrol work there are still a few holdouts for shotguns, but ‘patrol rifles’ are taking over. This is so pervasive I’m not sure how even a casual observer can miss it.

                    12. Well, frankly, I don’t think the SWAT team members give two F&%^’s about killing an innocent person because of over penetration, unfortunately. Angers me that cops are held to a lower standard with US Citizens than the 18 year old KIDS that were new to the Batt. for each deployment to Iraq/A’Stan.

          2. Tested against samples typical inner wall construction (thin wood paneling, sheet rock, nominal 4″ seperation, sheet rock, wall paper), typical AR bullets (55gr .223 @ 3000 feet per second) are more likely to break up and fail to penetrate than typical handgun rounds, or shotgun rounds like buckshot or rifled slug.

            .223 fired indoors without hearing protection is harder on your hearing than most handgun or shotgun blasts.

            1. Which is why I keep a suppressor on mine.

          3. AR15s often penetrate less drywall than pistols or shotguns, because the lighter bullet is more likely to fragment.

            If you’re firing a shotgun cartridge that’s effective at quickly stopping people, it’ll go through many more than 3 sheets of drywall. If you’re firing birdshot, you’ve selected a cartridge with insufficient penetration to quickly incapacitate – it’ll be a nasty wound, but not deep enough to reach vital organs. If you’re firing buckshot (#4 minimum, preferably #1, 00 is also good), it’ll go through many more than 3 sheets of drywall.

      3. “Just because some people wanted to ban this not-useful weapon?”

        No, not just because some people wanted to ban it, but because the people who wanted to ban it gave it loads of press that made it seem more powerful than it really is.

        Many of the popular forms of large game (deer for example) are actually smaller than people in terms of body mass. The gun control lobby made “assault weapons” sound like they were more lethal to people than most typical hunting rifles and if they are more lethal to people, they should be more lethal to most game.

        Some people bought into this lie/error and were frightened into supporting the assault weapons ban, others bought into it, but instead of joining the band wagon for banning them, decided that they wanted one to hunt with.

        Later it just become a status symbol for gun enthusiasts to own an “assault weapon”.

    3. Ken — I believe you’re simply wrong about the AR-15. Generally speaking, it’s considered an accurate, reliable, low-recoil rifle that is fun and relatively inexpensive to shoot. Many use it as an adult version of a .22 rimfire. It’s great for plinking and for varmint hunting. It’s underpowered for larger game.

      If you’re going to use a rifle for home defense, the AR-15 is a good choice. While it’s a rifle, it’s relatively short and easy to handle. Also, the .223 cartridge is less likely to cause damage from over penetration than other standard rifle cartridges, such as the 30-06. As you note, a handgun or a shotgun might be a better choice for a home defense weapon, but only if you’re comfortable using one. Many gun owners have only shot rifles. For them, an AR-15 that they’ve used frequently is a better choice than a handgun or shotgun they’ve only fired once or twice.

      1. I’m not directing this comment to you specifically. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

        I suspect some people in this thread are arguing that AR-15s are especially useful for certain situations because they think that associating it with uselessness is a pro-gun control argument.

        I have no problem with people buying them for any reason that doesn’t include violating someone’s rights. Because someone thinks it’s pretty on the wall and the Second Amendment says so are perfectly legitimate reasons for them to remain legal as far as I’m concerned.

        I maintain that the main reason people buy AR-15s isn’t because they’re an excellent choice for doing anything in particular–except perhaps recreation. Even then, the opportunities to use them for that purpose tend to be limited by the local availability of outdoor shooting ranges in urban areas. Maybe they’d be a good choice in the aftermath of a Katrina type disaster or a situation like the LA riots of 1992.

        Regardless, I would like gun control advocates to take stock of the consequences of actively advocating the violation of other people’s rights as a wedge issue. Doing this on assault weapons is not without consequences and may be responsible for the very proliferation of “assault weapons” they say they’re trying to prevent.

        1. The usefulness of the AR-15 is exactly aligned with the fundamental right enumerated in the 2nd Amendment: to arm the unorganized militia (i.e., the citizenry), and to defend against tyranny. In both cases the “target” is (unfortunately) a person, and the AR is a fighting weapon. In this role it is extremely well suited: inexpensive, rugged, reliable, serviceable, versatile, and so on.

          I believe many own these for this reason; perhaps symbolically, perhaps patriotically.

          As mentioned, it’s an effective arm for personal and property protection in a riot.

          1. I agree.

            “If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”

            —-Federalist No. 29

            This is the reasoning behind the Second Amendment, and a good reason to keep AR-15s legal.

            I remain unpersuaded that this is why AR-15s are so popular.

            Harley Davidson motorcycles aren’t especially useful–not compared to the performance of Japanese rivals. But people don’t buy a Harley for those reasons. There’s an image associated with them, and AR-15s have become popular over recent decades for similar reasons.

        2. I maintain that the main reason people buy AR-15s isn’t because they’re an excellent choice for doing anything in particular–except perhaps recreation.

          You are completely wrong. People buy them because they are fun AND useful. They are easy to shoot- especially for women. They are an excellent choice for both target shooting and home & self defense.

          Sure it doesn’t hurt that it pisses off the right people, but for the most part, people buy them for other reasons.

    4. Well yes, that’s what the NRA is for: gun marketing.

    5. AR15s are absolutely useful for hunting: they’re lightweight (in some varieties) and accurate, and available in cartridges with plenty of power for most game in North America. Some game requires more power, yes, but something like 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC is plenty for deer, hogs, etc.

      AR15s are good for close quarters combat as well: they’re relatively short, and recoil is minimal. It’s much easier to aim a long gun than a handgun in a stressful situation, so you’re more likely to hit your target. The lightweight, high velocity bullets that they typically fire will fragment, and therefore don’t go through as many walls as the heavier, lower velocity handgun bullets, or the heavier, lower velocity shotgun pellets (if you choose a shot size that’s effective at stopping people).

      I’m not sure why you think you can’t find ranges to shoot recreationally in urban America, they’re certainly around in the SF Bay Area where I am.

    6. AR-15 style weapons have a lot going for them. It is almost like the US Army spent millions of dollars and several years improving on the original Stoner design to produce a weapon that was light, easy to use (especially for folks first shooting a rifle who don’t like heavy recoil) and fairly inexpensive to make in great numbers. With the added factor that lots of ammo was also available at fairly low cost.

      Wait a second, that is just what happened.

      For a lot of things shooters want like pest control and plinking the AR-15 style is a great choice since it is less expensive than many other choices and the furniture available allow easy customization to fit many size bodies. Shooting with the capable iron sights many AR style rifle shooters have an easy time hitting targets to 50 meters and more. With good optics pest control to maybe 400 meters is realistic, something a 30-30 could never match. Even a .308 or 30-06 does not provide the accuracy for novice shooters at distance that the 5.6/.223 does. Not to mention the added recoil and extra cost for those larger and louder rounds.

      Course I shoot a Tikka T3x TAC A1 in 6.5 Creedmoor so all those other options are like toys to me and get left in the dust in terms of almost everything except history.

    7. classic “blame the victim” rhetoric. if AR-15’s are not useful for self defense or hunting and if their availability enables mass murders, why exactly do we need them around? I understand that mass shootings are the doing of a few deranged people but if the majority of AR-15 gun owners derive no use from their guns, why are we weighing their interest above the lives of children and adults killed in mass shootings?

      1. “Why are we weighing their interest above the lives of children and adults killed in mass shootings?”

        You’re asking me why the government shouldn’t violate the rights of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong?

        I admit I have a qualitative preference for liberty and justice, but don’t think that you can violate innocent people’s rights without negative consequences in the real world.

        Assuming you can get enough people to support repealing the Second Amendment (or stare at it cross-eyed long enough to think it doesn’t protect our right to bear arms), how do you intend to disarm these millions of otherwise innocent Americans?

      2. I’m trying to imagine this argument to ignore people’s rights on some other topic. Do you imagine the world would be a better place if accused criminals had no right to an attorney, no right to confront witnesses against them, no right to a trial by jury, or no right not to testify against themselves?

        Maybe there would be less crime!

        I shudder to think of all the innocent people who might be subjected to injustice that way, but that’s only part of it. The benefit of living in a free and just society, where the government protects rather than violates our rights, is that we get to live in a free and just society. There are real negative consequences associated with injustice, and you can’t escape them without standing up for the rights of people regardless of whether violating their rights in any particular instance would be good for society given your own personal qualitative preferences.

        In your mind, do Mormons only have the right to freedom of religion so long as it’s in everyone else’s interests to respect their rights?

  9. Just a note to hopefully help the clarity of the discussion: ‘AR-15’ is a type of gun, not a caliber. You can get AR-15’s in calibers raging from 22LR, to 9mm and other pistol calibers, to .223, and up to 300 Win Mag and 45/70.

    Moreover, that’s just actual most-parts-interchange AR-15’s. The legal battles are usually over things that look similar to AR-15’s, and those definitions include shotgun calibers up through 50 BMG.

    So saying ‘AR’s have low recoil’ or ‘AR’s have high velocity bullets’ is a little confusing. An AR in 9mm or 300BLK might be subsonic; a 22LR AR is certainly not high powered by anyone’s definition, and a 45/70 AR with hot loads isn’t likely to meet anyone’s definition of ‘low recoil’.

    Moreover, there are things that look a lot like AR’s, but are straight pull bolt or pump actions actions. A pump rifle in 223 will have all the advantages and disadvantages of an AR, for uses good and bad.

    And before getting too carried away with ‘it’s the detachable mags allowing rapid reloading’, play around a little with a Krag-Jorgensen.

    1. While you might be able to get ARs in 300WM, you can’t get AR15s in 300WM (unless you’re talking about single shot or side fed bolt action uppers), as it’s too long to fit in an AR15 magwell.

      There are dozens of calibers that can be used in AR15s, though.

      1. Absolutely, I sit corrected. You can get actual AR-15’s in e.g. 458 SOCOM. Longer cartridges would be an AR-10 platform (originally in 308) or something similar. The terms are a little squishy – for example there are manufacturers selling 9mm ‘AR-15s that take Glock mags’. Something that takes Glock mags directly (as opposed to adapter blocks) obviously isn’t magwell compatible with a 223 AR, but is frequently (rightly or wrongly) called an ‘AR-15’.

        FWIW, my sense is that when people talk about banning AR-15’s, they plan to include AR-10s and everything else that’s visually similar. Heck Shannon Watts tweeted a picture of a Ruger Precision Rimfire a couple of days ago, and that’s a 22LR bolt action.

        But your point is exactly right; the discussion needs precision; mea culpa.

  10. how to deflect the real debate by arguing on technicalities. seriously, who gives a shit about whether an AR-15 is an “assault weapon” or a “tactical rifle”? however you call them, those are weapons capable of firing high velocity ammunition that are way beyond the scope of personal self defense or deer hunting. i’d recommend everyone here (incl. most of the comment section) to take a deep breath and stop being so condescending – people arguing against the free circulation of this type of guns are not dumb. they can see the difference between that and a handgun or a hunting rifle. instead of going into a long discussion on technicality, why don’t you address the main argument of the debate – that these types of gun don’t belong to the civil sphere no more than say grenade launchers.

    1. ANY semi-automatic rifle is capable of hiring high velocity ammunition (including those you dismiss as “safe” hunting rifles). You prove exactly the point of this article, that you don’t know anything and are calling for bans based on things you don’t understand.

    2. I think you’re missing the point that making distinctions in the law based on your “common sense” observations may not be possible. I dare you to write a rule here in this thread as an example that wouldn’t be arbitrary.

      There are excellent applications for long range rifles at high velocities. I’m familiar with people in Utah who help provide for their families by shooting an Elk when they get a chance. You can only shoot bulls, there aren’t any trees to hide behind, the bulls are typically in the middle of the herd, and they often run away if you get closer than 300 yards.

      If you want to ban certain rifles based on the velocities of some imaginary standard load, you’re taking away these people’s ability to provide for their families. Don’t be surprised when they cry foul.

      . . . and that’s just one example.

      Ultimately, what you’re missing is the fact that any rule based on your “common sense” observations a) will be arbitrary and b) will necessarily violate the constitutional rights of real people–who have done nothing wrong. Ultimately, what you’re missing is the fact that you cannot write a rule with your “common sense” observations that won’t violate somebody’s constitutional rights in an arbitrary way.

      1. I’m not overly sympathetic to the idea that we need to protect guns so that people can hunt to “provide for their families.” That’s not the purpose not even an important part of the reason we protect gun rights.

        1. I argue that rights are choices. It isn’t really the guns the Second Amendment is protecting–it’s the right to make choices for ourselves. Own a gun and be free to use your gun as you see fit so long as you don’t violate anybody’s rights.

          The Second Amendment doesn’t give us the right to arbitrarily shoot people–it just protects our right to choose to bear arms.

          The First Amendment doesn’t give us the right to violate people’s rights with perjury, fraud, or writing a threatening note to a bank teller in a robbery. It just protects our right to choose what we say.

          Property rights mean I get to choose how something is used, who uses it, etc–so long as I don’t use it to violate someone’s rights.

          I guess we got off topic in this thread because there are so many people on both sides of the gun control debate who imagine that our rights only exist if they’re useful in some way, but I’m nowhere near that ballpark.

          Our right to make choices for ourselves arises naturally as an aspect of our agency, and we all have an obligation to respect each others’ right to make choices for ourselves–regardless of whether we think anybody’s personal preferences are especially useful. You want to use a gun for any reason other than violating someone’s rights, and I have no problem with that. I have a big problem with other people violating your right to make choices for yourself–and I thank goodness that the Second Amendment is there to protect that right in this way.

          1. I agree from a policy standpoint. My argument is more that I don’t think the 2nd Amendment protects guns that AREN’T useful for defense of the self or the state, but are ONLY useful for hunting. There probably aren’t many (if any) guns that fit into that category, of course, but that doesn’t change my point.

    3. Indeed, because you and whomever can’t take the time to educate yourself about the topic at hand, you scream at everyone to stop gunsplaining to you. Should we take the tact with any other attempt to violate civil rights? Somehow I suspect you would have the opposite complaint if someone argued against abortion but had no clue what uterus is. Your own comment is a prime example of why you should educate yourself before declaring everyone else is uselessly arguing technicalities “firing high velocity rounds”, do you even know what hat means? I highly doubt it. Let’s do argue about the main debate “these type weapons don’t belong to the civil sphere..”, according to you, not me. Fortunately the Constitution doesn’t read “…Rights according to RubenSF”. What doesn’t belong in the civil sphere are the violent felons released again and again and again at, most often, the behest of civil liberals. These felons, whom you don’t want behind bars, are, by factors, significantly more dangerous that any given person walking down main street with an AR in hand. Yet, you want to ban the AR.

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