How did America’s most popular rifle come to be called an “assault weapon”

The AR-15 is America’s most popular rifle. There are an estimated 10 million of them owned by law-abiding Americans.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Heller case that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right to own firearms. Some types of firearms, such as sub-machine guns, may not be included in 2nd Amendment freedoms.  The court made it clear that all firearms in common use by law-abiding Americans are covered by the Second Amendment.

The AR-15 is certainly in common use by law-abiding Americans and is therefore protected by the Second Amendment. The AR-15 shoots a small bullet. Typically a .223 caliber bullet weighing between 55-75 grains (437 grains = 1 ounce). Most other semi-automatic rifles shoot a .30 – .45 caliber bullets which may weigh anywhere from 150 grains for a common deer rifle to 405 grains for a lever-action cowboy gun.

Deer rifles and lever-action cowboy guns are very popular and nobody thinks they should be banned. I’d hate to get shot with an AR-15. I’d really hate to be shot with a lever-action cowboy rifle shooting a 405 grain bullet. If struck on a joint it could sever an arm or a leg. It’s commonly used against large dangerous game such as grizzly bears.

Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols can be just as or even more lethal than an AR-15. A 6-shot Ruger Redhawk Alaskan revolver shoots a .454 caliber bullet weighing up 360 grains. It will stop a grizzly bear. Nobody wants to ban it.

A .45ACP 1911 pistol fires a .45 caliber bullet weighing from 185-230 grains. A .357 magnum revolver shoots a .38 caliber bullet weighing from 125-165 grains. The 1911 and the .357 are common self defense guns. Both are sometimes called “man stoppers.” They are both very effective in stopping a bad guy from attacking you. Nobody wants to ban them.

This is not to say that an AR-15 is not also a “man stopper.” While it shoots a small .223 caliber bullet, it carries a muzzle velocity up to 2200 feet per second. It is extremely accurate. That’s why most police officers have one in their patrol cars. No cop calls his AR-15 an “Assault Rifle.” That’s because to the police and military, an AR-15 is not an assault rifle. It is a “patrol rifle.” They know what an assault rife is.

An assault rifle is a fully automatic sub-machine gun that sprays bullets with one pull of the trigger and will continue to fire so long as the trigger is held back or its magazine runs empty. If you have a 30-round magazine with a spare attached to it you can put 60 rounds down range in seconds.

A Remington 870 shotgun loaded with deer slugs and in the hands of a practiced shooter can put even more lead down range in the same amount of time. Nobody wants to ban it.

The main use for  full auto sub gun is for suppressive fire to enable a platoon of soldiers to mount an offensive against an enemy or for police swat teams to deal with criminals attacking police with full-auto fire, as occurred several years ago in the Hollywood shoot out.

Full autos have been off limits to civilians since 1986. The illegal possession of one carries a fine up to $10,000 and up to a 10-years in a federal prison. It also stigmatizes one with a lifetime felony conviction making him or her a prohibited person to possess any type of firearm.

Being semi-automatic an AR-15 fires one bullet with each separate pull of the trigger. In this respect it’s no different than a common deer rifle except that it shoots a smaller, less powerful bullet. For this reason it is illegal in most states to hunt big game with an AR-15. It is simply not powerful enough to kill a deer or elk quickly enough to minimize animal suffering.

While an AR-15 requires a separate trigger pull for each bullet, the trigger can be operated in succession quite quickly. Not nearly fast enough to mimic a full auto rifle, though.

A semi-auto handgun such as a 1911 pistol or a six-shot revolver can also be shot quickly by successive pulls of the trigger. Limiting the capacity of magazines does not have near the impact proponents think it does. It takes a little practice, but a shooter can change out an empty magazine for a full one in under 3 seconds. Magazine capacity limitations have little effect in minimizing the carnage of a mass shooting. The chief impact of magazine capacity limitations is on law-abiding citizens defending themselves against multiple attackers.

OK, so why is it so common for an AR-15 to be called an assault rifle. One man is solely responsible for this little trick. His name is Josh Sugarmann. He is or was the boss of an outfit calling itself the Violence Policy Center. In the 1980s he said:

“The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic [guns] — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”

I don’t know what is “menacing” about an AR-15. It just a new and different design from traditional rifles, and it holds a larger magazine. This might make it more attractive to criminals but it also makes it more attractive to law-abiding citizens for target shooting (a great old man’s sport)  and for self defense.  I’ve been present when people who had never or seldom shot a gun before were given the chance to shoot an AR-15 at a gun range. In every case they loved it for its low recoil and extreme accuracy. It’s quite a wonderful firearm for target-shooting enthusiasts and legal hunting of small game. It’s also an excellent gun for self defense. Nothing would be gained by banning it, and much would be lost for law-abiding citizens. Being as popular as it is it is protected by the Second Amendment and the Heller case.

Every time a proposal to ban the AR-15 is made sales go up and manufacturers can hardly keep up with the demand.

Enjoy this video of an 11-year old girl [In 2008] destined to become an empowered woman [she’d be 20 now]. It’s a heart-warming display of father-daughter bonding.




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