Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is an AR-15 an assault rifle?

Most people seem to be unaware that the "AR" in AR-15 does not stand for Assault Rifle. Instead, the "AR" is an abbreviation of Armalite, one manufacturer of the AR-15. The name "AR-15" was never intended to represent "Assault Rifle"! Since "AR-15" is a trademark of Armalite, it is not even properly applied to similar or identical rifles made by scores of other manufacturers including Colt, Bushmaster, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Rock River.

Although so-called "assault rifles" look like military weapons and frighten cry-babies and fraidy-cats with a control fetish such as Senator Diane Feinstein, they function exactly the same as millions of other civilian firearms that don't look like military arms. They fire only one shot per pull of the trigger -- they are not automatic weapons (ie machine guns) and therefore are not used by military forces anywhere.

The "news" media likes to illustrate its commentary on these guns with video in the background of a machine gun shooting and spraying, but that is not how civilian AR-15 rifles operate. Contrary to many claims, civilian firearms, by design, cannot be easily -- or legally -- converted to fully automatic.

Civilian ownership and use of fully automatic weapons (an essential characteristic of a light military "assault" weapon) are severely regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1934 -- an early edition of many unconstitutional gun control laws in the US. That act requires fingerprinting, background checks, and federal approval of anyone who seeks to own any of the scarce fully automatic arms in civilian hands (prices $15k and up for a firearm that costs a few hundred dollars to make). The sale of new fully automatic arms to civilians was completely banned in 1986.

So-called "assault rifles" are used in less than two percent of gun crimes (except for the legally owned ones, which are used in approximately zero percent of gun crimes) including assault.

So, let's get this definition straight: Assault is a crime. Assault is a verb. It is not an adjective to be applied to anything owned by responsible people.

A related issue: Many have grown accustomed to the term, "high-capacity" magazines. "High-capacity" is not an appropriate term for the capacity of a magazine that the manufacturer intended to be used with a particular firearm. What is commonly called a "high-capacity" magazine is more properly called a normal-capacity magazine. On the other hand, a magazine that holds less (ie 10 rounds) than the manufacturer's design is properly called a "limited-capacity" magazine. Restricting the capacity of magazines does not somehow make a person with criminal intent less lethal, but it does impair the ability of the rest of us to respond to an attack on our lives.

I'd like to know what is it about "shall not be infringed" that politicians and other hoplophobes can't or won't understand? Those four simple words make it very clear that there is no room in the Constitution for compromise on the issue of the right to keep and bear arms. Yet, politicians have already compromised far to much on this issue. It is past time to push back on those compromises -- hard!

The anti-gun politicians and members of the so-called "news" media exploit the public ignorance of the meaning of "AR" to the disadvantage of responsible Americans. People need to get better educated so that they can't be pushed around and indoctrinated by those who are eager to obliterate your rights and the rights of your neighbors and family. Don't count on the "news" media or politicians to do that educating.

Unfortunately, even many gun owners, including owners of so-called "assault rifles" allow the anti-gun crowd to misname their guns and even wrongly use the term themselves.

All that said, I really see nothing wrong with civilian ownership of fully-automatic firearms. If somebody can afford to feed a machine gun, what's the harm? People need to understand that causing harm to another is the crime. Not possession of an inanimate object that cannot possibly harm anyone when used responsibly -- unless someone needs harming (eg an attacker).

A New Hampshire police captain and trainer, Massad Ayoob, has some more thoughts on so-called "assault weapons": Part One

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