The continuing debate over gun control is an interesting one for many reasons, among them the fact that only one side of the argument actually understands the subject matter. Most supporters of gun control know very little about the firearms they are constantly trying to ban; many prominent anti-gun public figures flaunt their ignorance as a perverse badge of honor. Especially in areas with low rates of firearm ownership, anti-gunners display a bizarre pearl-clutching attitude toward those of us who choose to arm ourselves in a way laypeople find “scary.” “Why do you need an AR-15?” they ask, fearful and disgusted at a community and way of life they fundamentally do not understand. Californians have it even worse; living in a state with a notoriously nonsensical “assault weapon” ban, they are forced to justify overturning longstanding laws to people who believe those laws are the only things keeping the state from looking even more like the set of an ‘80s action thriller. The purpose of this blog post is to rebut the contention that “nobody needs an AR-15” in a way that even someone who has never even smelled a gun can understand, in the hopes that readers can forward this post to their anti-gun friends and put the myth to rest once and for all.
Contrary to the popular myths promulgated by everyone from political cartoonists to the sitting President of the United States, AR-15-type rifles can be well-suited to hunting. While the .223/5.56 round is generally considered insufficient for many large North American game animals, it is well-suited for culling pest animals such as coyote and wild boar. The governments of California and many other states have declared a permanent open season on both species due to the danger they present to local ecosystems. They run fast, though, so the capability of a semi-automatic rifle to make rapid follow-up shots is essential.
Anyone who’s been shooting before knows that long guns typically offer much better practical accuracy than handguns. The presence of a shoulder stock and handguard allow the shooter better control of the firearm, greatly reducing the risk of missing an assailant and causing collateral damage. In addition, .223/5.56 bullets have much less of a propensity to over-penetrate through drywall and other barriers than common pistol bullets and buckshot pellets do. This further reduces the risk of inadvertently wounding an innocent bystander with a missed shot. Even if the shooter fails to stop the threat with the first shot, he or she does not need to do any manipulation to make a semi-automatic rifle, such as an AR-15, ready to fire again.
Shooting, just like playing an athletic sport or a musical instrument, is a highly technical activity that rewards regular practice and good habit patterns. The accuracy, light weight, and gentle recoil of an AR-15-type rifle makes it a much better choice than your grandfather’s old hunting rifle for teaching a new shooter. It requires little maintenance, and the ammunition is relatively inexpensive, allowing more practice for less money. Furthermore, the collapsible stocks California bans allow a rifle to be quickly and easily adjusted to fit the shooter, regardless of his or her size and shape.
The same positive qualities that make the AR-15 easy for beginners to use also make it tremendously effective in highly trained hands. Competition shooters the world over rely on this platform as their tool of choice when engaging in their favorite sport. Its modularity has given rise to a substantial aftermarket that allows marksmen to hot-rod and tune their rifles for better handling; unfortunately, many of the features sport shooters rely on are explicitly banned in California and other states with similar “assault weapon bans.”
“Need” is Irrelevant
The right to keep and bear arms is innate and essential. The Second Amendment does not grant that right, it was designed to protect it from government encroachment. People who claim that “nobody needs an AR-15” completely miss the point that a free citizen does not have to justify need in order to exercise a right. Is the First Amendment contingent on us justifying why we “need” high-capacity laser printers capable of producing thousands of leaflets per hour? Of course not!
No one has the right to decide how other law-abiding citizens may arm themselves, and it is frankly arrogant to suggest otherwise. AR-15-type rifles are immensely popular among civilian gun owners, who use them for a multitude of perfectly reasonable and legitimate purposes every day of the year. These firearms have been in common use for more than half a century and are seldom ever used in crimes; efforts to ban them are inspired more by irrational fear and hatred of the unknown than anything else. If you, the reader, have never fired an AR-15, I highly encourage you to do so (safely and with proper supervision, of course). The only thing you have to fear is your prejudices against the scary “black rifle” being stripped away.