In the last week, a lot of people have been asking “Why do you need an assault rifle?” or “Why does anyone need an AR15?” or more plainly saying “No one needs a semi auto rifle that is just designed to kill people.”
The firearm industry responds with “they’re not assault rifles, they’re modern sporting rifles!” I have previously stated that I don’t really care what they’re called but also that the whole “modern sporting rifle” thing is stupid.
Perhaps I’m biased on the whole sporting thing. I don’t hunt. I used to hunt when I was little. I would shoot birds and varmints with a .22, although I later killed bigger things. I prided myself on hitting what I shot at the first time and not causing unnecessary suffering.
On a hunting trip not too long after I left the military, though, I had an easy shot lined up at a distance (30 yards) that would have been a guaranteed hit with a rifle that would have guaranteed an instant and humane kill (.270 WSM). But sometime in between bringing the rifle up to my shoulder and putting almost enough pressure on the trigger to fire, I realized I couldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t need to kill that animal and thus I didn’t want to kill it and thus I couldn’t kill it. So ended my hunting days – nearly ten years ago now. Since then I’ve gone out of my way to save as many animals as I can.
Maybe this is why I’m against the “modern sporting rifle” line, but even the NSSF’s own data shows that hunting is a very small part of why people buy ARs – in fact it’s the last reason they listed.
No, I own ARs because they’re the most effective weapon I can carry into a fight by myself. I don’t want to get into a fight, but I do want to get out of a fight. That means bringing a weapon that keeps bad guys away from me and lets me shoot back at as many bad guys as are choosing to shoot at me. As was constantly drilled into my head in Field Medical Service School, fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield.
The idea of “not needing anything more than” X, Y, or Z firearm is stupid. A gunfight is not a jousting match – there is no chivalry involved, no obligation to carry a lance of equal size and weight as my opponent. While I can certainly defend myself with a pistol or a shotgun, I cannot really project power with either of those. With a semi auto rifle, I have the ability to put bullets in very specific places at any distance – from the end of the muzzle to almost any yardage at which I could conceivably justify the use of lethal force.
Moreover, these bullets have less chance of doing damage to things I don’t want to shoot (such as innocent people) for a variety of reasons, most notably from the inherent precision afforded to the shooter by a rifle.
In a fight between a guy with a pistol and a guy with a rifle, the guy with the rifle has massive advantages. Just ask the off-duty police officer who engaged the Orlando terrorist with, I am told by a law enforcement officer in the Orlando area, over fifty rounds from his service pistol before retreating because he was out of ammo (The “only good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” mantra only works for some of the garden variety mass shooters, mostly the ones who aren’t motivated by religious ideology, and is another cutesy saying we need to do away with quickly).
Put simply, the same things that make semi auto rifles desirable to terrorists make them desirable for use as defensive weapons. Take semi auto rifles away and bad guys will search for different and even more effective ways to kill. We can never assume that the doctrine of individual irrational actors will remain constant, nor should we believe that this all started after the (toothless) 1994 AWB went away in 2004. Take away the bad guys’ dynamite and they will use hunting rifles. When they meet in groups and we take away their rental trucks and fertilizer, they’ll use airliners.
I would rather people ask how the terrorist who murdered nine people in a church managed to pass a background check he clearly shouldn’t have than ask why we need semi auto rifles – a category of weapon that is involved in less than three percent of firearm homicides each year and isn’t the weapon of choice for even a plurality of mass shooters since 1982, despite the fact that the AR15 has been available to civilians for about fifty years.
I would rather people ask how we can prevent bad guys from isolating a group of innocent people from protection long enough to cause them great harm. That’s the real problem here – terrorists are like radiation in that the duration and proximity of your exposure to each determines your chances of survival.
Of course I don’t think that owning a scary semi auto rifle is the only reason why I wasn’t murdered today. I’m under no illusion of having to use an AR (or any other firearm) to defend myself at any point in the future. Were I to think that I was actually going to need an AR at any specific time or place, I would most likely make immediate lifestyle changes, such as moving to a remote island or maybe buying a Hind.
Then again, I don’t think I’ll need two first aid kits with everything from motrin to tweezers to a dozen tourniquets tomorrow, but they’re still going to be in the trunk of my car.