If we’re going to talk guns, we should at least get our facts right.
“AR” doesn’t stand for “assault rifle.” It actually stands for “ArmaLite Rifle” and here’s why. A guy named Eugene Stoner invented the AR-15 when he worked at ArmaLite in the 1950s. He named the design ArmaLite Rifle Model Number, or ArmaLite Rifle – 15, i.e., AR-15. Colt bought the right to the design, made some adjustments, and mass produced it for the military as the M-16. It’s a long story, but the AR-15 began to be produced for the commercial market in the mid 1960s. Today the AR-15 is sold under a variety of names and variations on the platform. It is the most popular general purpose rifle platform ever.
The AR-15 is not an assault rifle. An assault rifle is a specific kind of rifle that can switch between fully automatic (fires multiple times each time the trigger is pulled) and semi-automatic (fires only one time when the trigger is pulled). This is referred to as “select fire” or “selective fire.” The AR-15 is a semi-automatic weapon, which means it fires once for every trigger pull. Just because it has a high-capacity magazine does not make it an assault rifle. (A bump stock can be added to the AR-15 to make it operate at a similar fire rate as fully automatic rifles but was not used in the Florida shooting and we’re only talking about the AR itself here.)
The AR-15 is not the deadliest weapon available to active shooters. Compare the AR-15 with the Ruger 10/22. Both are semi-automatic and shoot .22 caliber projectiles. Both have essentially large capacity magazines and can be accessorized with bump stocks. So why do active shooters consistently choose AR-15s? Could it be that Hollywood and video games have glamorized the rifle? Could it be that military wannabes know the AR-15’s connection to the Army’s M-16? We don’t know the answer, but to focus on the AR-15 as “the problem” is short-sighted.
We’ve had the AR-15 available on the commercial market for decades, but we’ve only had mass shootings in the last 20 years. And while many of them involved the AR-15, many did not. The first school shooting in the nation happened at Columbine in 1999, and the shooters did use semi-automatic weapons but with smaller magazines than the AR-15 uses. Is it really the AR-15 (or any gun) that’s the problem? (It’s telling that the FBI’s report on 160 active shootings between 2000 and 2013 does not even list the kind of weapons used.)
Or is it the steady implosion of homes without fathers; rampant and passive-aggressive cyber bullying; and the alienation that technology-only interactions cause? The truth is that as gun sales have risen, gun crimes have dropped. It’s not the guns, people.