The attorney General of Massachusetts has just gone on yet another witch hunt for “Assault Weapons,” by which she means any AR-15 or similar rifle. This is ridiculous, or at least, stupidly ideological. Her argument, and the one typically used to justify banning civilian ownership of AR platform rifles and “high capacity magazines,” revolves around the idea that this type of rifle was specifically “designed for war,” and to “kill as many people as possible.” This is patently untrue and absurd on its face, but gets wide acceptance by the less gun-savvy public, probably because a civilian AR-15 LOOKS similar to the military M-16 rifle and M-4 carbine. In fact, the AR (which stands for “Armalite Rifle”- all the Armalite company’s rifle models were designated “AR-something”) was designed specifically for the civilian market, and especially for the varmint and general sport shooting arena. That’s why, contrary to what the civilian disarmament people say, it is most often seen in a small (.223 caliber) cartridge, which is illegal in many states for hunting deer-sized game, because it is considered too under-powered for clean kills. The gun/cartridge was designed primarily for shooting groundhogs, woodchucks, prairie dogs, and similar small varmints, or plinking at things like tin cans. At the time it was developed, the AR was a very unique and forward thinking design, so modern that it had difficulty being accepted by the “traditionalist” civilian market.
Then the Viet Nam war came along. As usual, with all our wars, the military was looking for a more modern rifle to replace the old WWII vintage M-1 and derivative M-14 rifles, and they discovered the AR, which was by far the most modern technology then available. It was quite revolutionary in its design, materials, and production techniques, and so it was eventually adopted over the dissent of many in the military who thought it too underpowered for combat use – an argument, by the way, that is still being made by many in the military who find that it takes multiple shots to incapacitate an enemy, unlike the .30 caliber rifles of earlier wars. The AR’s modern design, light weight, and smaller cartridge were found to be inherently more accurate, easier to shoot (particularly by troops with less training and experience (well trained snipers, for example, still use .30 caliber or larger rifles), more reliable, more durable, and easier to maintain in the field. While these characteristics made the design desirable to the military, they were originally made for the civilian market, who want exactly the same traits in their sporting rifles. That’s why the AR platform is today, arguably the most popular sporting/hunting rifle in our nation’s history.
Now, what about their “high capacity” magazines? Just like newer cars tend to increase horsepower or MPG each year, virtually every new design in firearms increases the capacity of the magazine, and this has been true for more than a century. That’s why the standard magazine capacity for modern handguns and rifles, both those designed for the military, and those designed for civilian use, keeps going up instead of down. Higher capacity magazines are generally more convenient, and more desirable, thus, each new modern design typically tries to incorporate as large a magazine capacity as is compatible with the rest of the gun’s design. The 20 round magazines used in the AR platform were part of the original design back in the late 1950s, when it was intended for the civilian market. They were never designed specifically for the military market, although the military found them convenient too, and kept them in their M-16 an M-4 military rifles (which also used a modified version of the AR design that allowed “selective” or full-automatic firing, which the civilian AR never has). Not only was the AR never designed “to kill as many as possible,” it is not even unusually useful for doing so. If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that a 10 round magazine can be changed in 2 seconds or less, which has no appreciable impact on how many people you can kill in a public shooting. The predominant determining factor in how many people you can kill, is far more likely to be the shooter’s ability to acquire, and maintain, a good sight picture while shooting at multiple, often moving, targets.
Thus, the whole idea that ARs were designed as “Assault Weapons,” or “Weapons of War” or that they are uniquely designed or suited to that purpose, is, and always has been, pure anti-gun propaganda, with no basis at all in fact. They are simply the most modern rifle design currently available, and that is why they are so popular with civilian shooters. That is also why the military chose a modified, “selective” fire version, for their use.
Tags: Gun control