As the 60’s rock group, Buffalo Springfield once sang, “There’s something happening here…There’s battle lines being drawn.” The devastation at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the most recent mass shooting involving an assault-type rifle. The debate over gun control has been fueled by a combination of enraged and engaged students, a town hall meeting gone bad for politicians, and a White House listening session that resulted in crude and dangerous recommendations by President Trump. Add to the mix a CPAC meeting, where the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, gave a defiant speech warning that a perceived socialist agenda would strip away 2nd Amendment rights.
Among the emotions and red herrings is the AR-15, the new symbol of America’s fears and 2nd Amendment rights.
The AR-15 is the answer to the military’s needs after the prolific success of the Russian AK-47. Licensed to Colt Manufacturing Company, the AR-15 became the M-16. Since 1964, many versions and modifications of the M-16 have served the U.S. military. Make no mistake, these assault rifles were designed to kill people in combat, and as we have seen, civilian life. The weapons are accurate and reliable, loaded with ammunition specially designed to inflict devastating damage far in excess of the average bullet. There are multiple versions of the AR-15 on the market, made worldwide by a host of manufacturers and readily available for purchase in the United States. Most versions are semi-automatic, firing as quickly as the trigger can be pulled, while others have been modified to be fully automatic, and variations in between. Either way, quick, efficient and deadly to adults and children alike.
The position of the NRA and conservative groups is clear—citizens should be able to possess assault rifles as part of their 2nd Amendment rights, regardless of when the constitution was written, and regardless of how societal needs and safeguards have changed over the years. While many weapons are currently banned, AR-15 type rifles have a complex history of being banned and then subsequently legalized. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban enacted in 1994 expired in 2004, and has not been renewed at the federal level. Various states and jurisdictions have forms of bans and requirements for registration and background checks, but for the most part, assault rifles are legal from one end of the country to the other.
The NRA and like-minded gun support groups offer up a plethora of supporting arguments for the proliferation of assault weapons. Some may appear outlandish, such as LaPierre’s assertion that possession of firearms is a right granted by God, to more subtle but refutable statements, such as “an armed society is a polite society”. Or the the “eye for an eye” position that President Trump espoused where an armed bad guy should be met with an equally or superiorly armed good guy.
Clearly, the NRA has gone far beyond the defense of the 2nd Amendment and crossed boldly and proudly into hard-line conservative politics. With the AR-15 as its poster child and millions of dollars in contributions to primarily conservative politicians, the NRA has become a powerful lobby as they equate a ban on assault rifles with a loss of freedom. Trump supporters are listening.
The line being drawn by organizations such as “Moms Demand Action” and the “Brady Campaign” is just as clear—the hour of the gun has expired. Recently these groups have experienced significant surges in membership and interest. For the most part, these advocacy groups support expanded control over what guns are legal, how they are purchased, and by whom. In regard to assault rifles, they want them banned. Period.
Gun control advocates are now arguing for the safety of America’s children, a powerful tool in calling for the ban. They point out the prevalent use of AR-15 type weapons in mass shootings and ask why any Americans needs this devastating weapon? There are now an estimated 89 guns per every 100 Americans. As there is no federal gun registry, the number of AR-15 type weapons remain unknown. But even the NRA estimates there are between 8.5 and 15 million assault rifles in the United States of America. At best a ban on assault rifles would be an alert, at worst an unenforceable nightmare for compliance. Gun control advocates, children, and Americans face nothing less than an uphill battle.
Ric Coles is a lifelong resident of Idaho, graduate of Boise State University, husband, farmer, Postmaster, adjunct college instructor, and golfer. With a BA in Communication, Communication theory, Complexity theory, and Philosophy have been constant pursuits. Lover of all things written.