It’s been about 2 weeks since the heinous mass murder at the school in Parkland, Florida. It’s about an hour away from where I live and only a few minutes from where my son played hockey 2 years ago.
I’m staying out of it.
I have intentionally and uncharacteristically steered clear of any gun “debates” this time around. Over the many years I’ve advocated firearms education and basing decisions on facts, I’ve come to realize that it almost always falls on deaf ears. It’s a waste of time. Innocent ignorance is one thing. Intractable and willful ignorance is quite another. So, I thought I’d stay out of it this time. Until now.
I can no longer remain silent. The volume of DISinformation being bandied as “facts” by the media and agenda-driven activists and politicians is staggering. More so now than ever before. The hysteria is at a fevered pitch. My enthusiasm to educate and enlighten was difficult to repress. I held out as long as I could! 😀
I remained silent for the past couple of weeks, as I “lurked” on social media threads, observing the understandable anger and desire to “do SOMEthing.” But, the incredibly naive, ignorant, and flatly deceitful claims being made often caused my lip to bleed from biting it so hard! 😉
Not gonna do it. Not gonna go there. Wouldn’t be prudent.
(Sorry… channeling George Bush for a moment.) First, I am not going to tolerate nor answer to any implications of guilt, merely because I’m a gun owner. I didn’t do it. 100 million gun owners didn’t do it. The NRA’s five million members didn’t do it. One evil, disturbed person did it. I will also not get into the dozens of warnings or which agencies failed to act in ways that might have prevented the psychopath from perpetrating this heinous crime. Res ipsa loquitur – It speaks for itself.
We must do SOMEthing! We must ban someTHING!
While the reflexive compulsion to do “SOMEthing” is strong when emotions are running high, it is prudent to think things through. It’s easy to blame the tool used in the crime. But, arguably, the factors that lead to crimes of this magnitude are far more complex. Attempting to prevent access to a single tool as the primary preventive measure is a fool’s errand.
There has been (again) a call to “ban the AR-15.” The “facts” about the AR-15 rifle have been GROSSLY distorted by the public on social media, the press, and politicians. Much of it would be truly comical to those of us with actual knowledge about firearms, if it wasn’t proffered with such a serious tone and misguided belief in its veracity. It’s as if the AR-15 is a magical gun.
Woa-ho-ho, It’s magic. You know. Never believe it’s not so.
(Hat tip to the 70s band, Pilot)
What is being promulgated as “facts” about the AR-15 lately is abject nonsense. Literally, nonsense. It’s completely fabricated shit that is seemingly extracted from cartoons, movies, and video games.
Remember, USA Today recently, and rather “authoritatively,” reported that one of the available accessories for the AR-15 was a “chainsaw bayonet.” That’s right… a chainsaw mounted as a bayonet on an AR-15! Ummmm…. yeah… that’s from a VIDEO GAME, ya morons! It’s not real! Did they retract the claim or report? NOPE!
If we are going to have the “conversation” that is so often demanded by the firearms prohibitionists, then we MUST speak the same language. We MUST base our “conversation” in FACTS. If the gun-control crowd wants to have a genuine debate, then their points must be COHERENT. If we are going to discuss banning or regulating a technology, then NOMENCLATURE MATTERS.
If they rely on urban legend, mythology, and what really amounts to gun gibberish (such as “chainsaw bayonets” and “full semi-auto”), we simply cannot sit down and talk. If they rely on emotionally-based attacks, we can’t talk. We won’t talk. It’s a waste of time and energy.
Who are YOU? WTF do YOU know?
Who am I to pontificate about this subject? I have 40+ years of firearms experience (shooting on and off since I was 12 years old). I am a certified Pistol Instructor. I am a certified Range Safety Officer. I have competed with my specialized precision AR-15 at 600 yards and recreationally hit targets out to 1,000 yards with other (higher powered) rifles. I earned the Expert Pistol Shot Medal in the U.S. Navy. In early 2013, I was featured in a nationally televised CNBC special, “America’s Gun: The Rise of the AR-15.”
My day job may be “just-a-dentist,” but I have a very good foundation of firearms knowledge.
I don’t claim to know it all. There are many true experts out there with a deeper knowledge base than mine. Some of the nation’s leading experts are my friends (who do this for a living), and a part of me hopes I don’t embarrass myself in front of them.
But, I dare suggest I know WAY more than the reporters, politicians, and activists who have never so much as handled a firearm. Yet, they’re the ones with the “credibility” and who hold sway with the general public. It’s hard for me to compete with that. I’ll try anyway.
Here we go… again.
The AR-15 is NOT a special rifle. There is literally nothing unique about it, as it pertains to function. A shooter cannot do anything with an AR-15 that he can’t do with virtually any other centerfire semi-auto rifle, including the rifles made out of wood and blued steel. Some facts about the AR-15 (despite the persistent contrary claims in the media):
- It has NEVER been issued to any military service. It is NOT a military rifle. No matter how many times it’s called a “military weapon” by the press… it’s not. It never has been and never will be. IT’S. JUST. NOT.
- It is not a “powerful” round (even though it’s often described as “high powered” in the media) in the context of the spectrum of centerfire rifle cartridges. In fact, it’s at the weaker end of the spectrum. It is outlawed in most states for hunting large game, such as deer, because it is too weak.
- It cannot be fired any faster than any other semi-automatic rifle.
The external cosmetic and ergonomic features of the AR-15 are apparently frightening to those unfamiliar with firearms. But, they do nothing to the functionality of the rifle, just as racing stripes and wings don’t turn a street car into a race car.
Here’s why the AR-15 is popular:
- It’s lightweight. The use of light alloys and plastic make it light and easy to use by many different shooters. Wood and steel are heavy.
- Because the caliber (.223) is relatively weak, the recoil (“kick”) is very mild. So, it is easier for marksmen and women of all shapes and sizes to fire it comfortably for extended range sessions.
- The .223 caliber is relatively inexpensive, compared to larger rifle calibers. Range sessions cost less. It’s a consistent / accurate ammunition. Great for target shooting.
- The modularity of the rifle makes for easy accessorization (if that’s a word). And, the adjustability of the stock makes it easy to fit a wide range of shooters. Anyone from an 8 year old girl to a 6’4″ 200-lb man can easily and comfortably enjoy using it at the range. A standard wood and steel rifle is not adjustable.
- It’s cool! It looks cool…. like racing stripes and wings on sports cars.
To be clear… there is nothing FUNCTIONALLY special about the AR-15. It does the EXACT same thing as all other semi-automatic rifles. Semi-automatic means that the firearm loads the next available round after firing the previous round. It requires a separate new pull of the trigger to fire each round. The only thing “automatic” about it is the loading of the next round. It is 110 year old technology. One hundred and ten years old. Semi-automatic firearms are as ubiquitous as automatic transmissions in cars. The vast majority of firearms in use today are semi-automatic. The AR-15, specifically, was introduced in 1959. It’s been around for 59 years! It’s older than me!
So, are semi-automatic rifles generally faster than bolt-action and lever-action rifles? Generally, yes. But, with a little practice, a marksman can nearly match the speed with the manually-loaded guns (bolt-action, lever-action, and revolvers).
There are expert marksmen that can fire a lever-action “cowboy-style” rifle as quickly as a semi-automatic rifle. There are experts that can fire and reload a revolver as quickly as a semi-auto pistol. <– Links are to videos of each example, if you’re interested.
The AR-15 is not a “full-auto” rifle.
It’s important to make a distinction from FULLY-automatic. Fully-automatic rifles, also known as machine guns (which ARE used in the military), will automatically load AND fire with a single trigger pull and will continue until the trigger is released or the ammunition is expended.
You don’t want to be shot by any of them.
ALL firearms are potentially lethal. A single shot to a vital organ can be fatal. A significant percentage of murders are committed with the tiny / weak .22-LR rimfire caliber (aka “22”). Incidentally the AR-15 round is technically a “22-caliber.” Though, it has more powder, so a much higher velocity than a “22.” There are MANY rifle cartridges that are a larger caliber, heavier, AND as fast, or faster than the AR-15’s .223 round.
Among centerfire rifle cartridges, the AR-15 round (.223) is a the low end of the spectrum. There are: .308-cal, 7-mm Remington Mag, .30-06, .300-Winchester Mag, .338-Lapua, and many others. There are MANY rifle calibers that are considerably more powerful than the .223 AR-15 round.
The VERY common .308-cal rifle round packs about 2.5 times as much ballistic energy as the .223.
Here’s a chart of the relative muzzle energies of common handgun and rifle cartridges. Note that the .223 (AR-15 ammo) ranks at the BOTTOM of centerfire rifle cartridges.
You’re either for all guns or against all guns.
Firearms are lethal weapons. All of them… potentially lethal. Lethality is not subject to gradation. It is binary. Whether a bad guy points a single-shot .22 Crickett, a 6-round Smith & Wesson .38-spl snub-nose revolver, a 20-gauge shotgun, a World War 2 era M1 Garand, or an AR-10 at my wife, my son, my daughter, or me, it is a lethal threat (and I will respond accordingly). It doesn’t matter whether you point a tiny two-shot palm-sized .22-cal Derringer or a .50-cal Barrett rifle at a cop. The response will be the same (they will shoot you!). It is a lethal threat, regardless of the firearm.
So, if you are opposed to ownership of an AR-15, and you are intellectually and logically consistent, you MUST oppose private ownership of ALL firearms. Go ahead. Admit it! It’s OK! At least you’ll be consistent and honest. I can respect that. I won’t agree, of course. But, I’ll at least see that you are logically consistent.
Likewise, and perhaps not surprisingly, I am opposed to the ban of ANY firearm. That means I believe I have the Right to own ANY kind of firearm, including machine guns… long guns… short guns…. loud guns… quiet guns… big guns… little guns… ugly black plastic guns… pretty, shiny, engraved, wood guns. As long as I am using them safely and legally, I have a Right to have them. PERIOD. (Murder is against the law, by the way, regardless of whether a gun, knife, blunt object, or bare hands are used.)
Stop making sense.
A friend of mine recently moved here from Maryland. To illustrate the nonsensical approach to regulate and restrict something the legislators and activists obviously know NOTHING about… In Maryland, my friend cannot buy an AR-15. They’re effectively banned. BUT, he CAN buy an AR-10 without any problem. Never heard of it? Hmmmm… AR-10 is lower than AR-15 by five points. It must not be as “dangerous,” eh? OK, I admit I’m being facetious.
For those who don’t know…. The AR-10 is the exact same rifle design. EXACT. The only difference is that the AR-10 fires the .308-caliber cartridge. It is MUCH more powerful, in terms of “terminal ballistics” than the AR-15’s .223-caliber cartridge. It also has a much longer effective range. It’s not as popular, because it has a much heavier recoil and the ammunition costs twice as much.
You CAN make this stuff up!
Well… THEY can make this stuff up, apparently. This week, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell suggested that a defense against a person with an AR-15 could not be successfully mounted with a pistol, because “A bullet fired from an AR-15 travels 3x faster than one from a handgun.” This left any and all people knowledgeable about firearms shaking their heads. Does he think it’s a “bullet race” like in the cartoons? Holy crap.
Senator Diane Feinstein later borrowed from Rolling Stone magazine, tweeting: “A handgun [wound] is simply a stabbing with a bullet. It goes in like a nail.” With the high-velocity rounds of the AR-15, “it’s as if you shot somebody with a Coke can.” What is she smoking?
These were arguments against anyone (citizens, teachers, faculty, staff, parents, etc) attempting self-defense with a handgun against a bad guy with an AR-15. Because the “bullets are too slow.” Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?? This is utter nonsense.
By the way, ummmm… yeah… THIS: Texas shooting: Officer with pistol stops TWO AK-47 rifle-wielding terrorists.
Let’s be honest here.
So, if those who are calling for a ban of the AR-15 or the mythical “assault weapon” (no such device) are intellectually honest and factually consistent, they MUST call for the ban of ALL rifles. Why? Because they ARE ALL THE SAME! They simply are. They all do the same exact thing. This, of course, contradicts the perennial condescending consolation of the activists and politicians, “Nobody is taking all your guns.”
If your sincere concern is with the “lethality” of certain weapons, then logically, you MUST call for the banning of ALL of them. Let’s be honest with each other. Because, they are all the same. Functionally, virtually all rifles are the same. I’m telling you, as a “gun guy,” there is nothing I can do with the AR-15 that I can’t do with almost any other rifle.
If you think you can make the world “safer” by banning a specific gun or a specific style of firearm… YOU. ARE. KIDDING. YOURSELVES. Worse… I submit you’re actually making the world less safe, as you rest easy with a false sense of security and accomplishment. There is ALWAYS a way around “bans” of inanimate objects. How’s that ban on recreational opioids working for us?
While the notion of legislating away all danger… all the crazy people and events… all criminal behavior… is laughable on its face, we CAN intelligently consider the factors we may be able to observe and then mitigate the incidence of SOME of these disasters. Being distracted with the mythical “assault weapon” and the magical AR-15 is a waste of our time and resources.
Instead of addressing the real issues, we seem to be ignoring them. It’s easier to blame the AR-15. It’s easier to blame the NRA. It’s easier to blame the millions of law-abiding gun owners. Getting to the bottom of the real problem is hard work. I will not pretend to have all the answers on how to deal with sociopaths, and it’s not the scope of this article.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for now. I am not here to start or finish any “gun debates.” Everything I’ve said here about the AR-15 and guns is verifiably true. The media, activists, and politicians are misleading the public. Repeating an untruth doesn’t make it true. Not even when it comes from journalists, politicians, or celebrities.
I will entertain any sincere questions. But, again… I will not engage in trading barbs or volleys of emotionally-tinged hyperbole. Rhetorical questions will be ignored. Nor will I tolerate personal attacks. My sincerest desire here is to shed some factual light on the subject of firearms, and in this case, the AR-15.
Edit to add (3/3/18):
So, here we go. The gun-grabbers in Congress KNOW what I have stipulated here. They can’t just ban AR-15s. They have to ban ALL semi-auto guns (which is most guns). Accordingly, the proposed bill would effectively ban ALL semi-auto guns. Again… these are the guns that have been in common use for 110 years. This is the logical progression of the definition of the mythical “Assault weapons,” by expanding it to include ALL guns. Read the text of the bill yourself: H.R.5087 – Assault Weapons Ban of 2018
(This bill was introduced on February 26, 2018, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted. But, it goes to show the intent of the anti-liberty faction of government – which is to try to effectively ban all firearms.)