When Matt Valentine of Politico wrote an article entitled The Most Political Gun in America back in March 2016, few gun enthusiasts had to guess which gun he was referring to. As Valentine asserted, the AR-15 has become the “symbol of the intractability of the gun debate” in the United States.
The reasons the often maligned and misrepresented AR-15 has become the poster child of the current gun control debate are many. The left wants it banned while gun owners rally to defend it. So what makes this lightweight, relatively underpowered weapon so divisive in this country?
AR-15 style rifles were on the scene in American life more than 40 years before one actually played a part in a mass shooting. That occurred at an apartment in Crandon, Wis., in 2007 when the shooter first killed six people before taking his own life. Before that, a Bushmaster clone of the AR-15 was used by the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002.
Back up to 1994 when then-President Bill Clinton signed legislation which dubbed the AR-15 an “assault weapon” and restricted its sale. Since then, even after it was again made legal the media and politicians have mistakenly called the AR an automatic weapon that has no place in the hands of the civilian population.
Never mind that automatic weapons have been tightly restricted in the U.S. since 1934. The National Firearms Act made machine guns illegal and very few gun enthusiast have questioned that law since.
The truth is that compared to other common rifles in the United States, the .223 caliber ammunition most often used in the AR-15 is not especially powerful. Many common hunting rifles and earlier military rifles and use larger and more deadly 30-caliber ammunition.
Again, the question is what makes the AR-15 such a target of the gun-control lobby? Though many on that side deny it, the AR-15 is the perfect starting point for a blanket ban on all semi-automatic weapons. According to Valentine:
“If the goal for gun-control advocates is a blanket ban on all black rifles, the regulation would need to be so broad to address the technical variety in this class of guns that it might sweep up all semi-automatic firearms — rifles and handguns, imported and domestic — into its provisions.”
AR-15’s can be customized, making it the favored rifle for a variety of shooters. Basic AR-15 can be refitted with a variety of accessories and even painted to make it your own. Because of this, it has been called the Lego or Barbie of guns.
But its diversity may also be the AR-15’s Achilles heel in the gun-control debate. Because it can be modified in so many ways, a ban on the AR opens the door to any weapon remotely similar to it.
The basic question is why did Madison and others give us the 2nd Amendment in the first place. The AR-15 can indeed be used for defense like few other weapons. It is light, can hold up to 100 rounds, and can be handled by almost any gun user.
Politicians like Joe Biden mock the N.R.A. saying that no one needs an AR-15 to hunt deer. But that begs the point. Biden should know that a .30 caliber is a much better choice for a hunting rifle. The problem is, the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting deer.
The .223 round an AR-15 fires isn’t big enough to take down a deer. In fact, many hunters say using such a small-caliber round is inhumane because it would generally injure an animal, not kill it.
Alexander Hamilton never imagined a rifle with the AR-15’s capabilities, but he did argue for a citizen’s right to have the same firepower as the military. Hamilton’s “Federalist No. 29” argues that if the government has a military, “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.”
Ben Allen who teaches basic pistol and license-to-carry classes using NRA safety materials says, “One of the key values of Americanism is the use of and protection of private property.”
That is at the root of why the AR-15 has become the focus of the gun control debate. The founding fathers weren’t worried about the deer population taking away their rights. What they didn’t trust was a government better armed than they were.
~ American Gun News