There’s a story I’ve often told about a bar discussion a group of us, all of us in the Army, had back in the early 80’s. On our way to the bar, we passed a gun shop, and in the window was an AR-15, which led to a discussion. What I haven’t said before was why we spent the time discussing it. The reason? Quite simply, none of us could believe that it was for sale to civilians. If you had told us back then that it, and rifles like it, would become the most popular guns on the market, we’d have thought you were nuts.
As I said, all of us were in the Army. We were intimately familiar with the M16, the military version of the AR-15. We’d fired it, we’d stripped it down and put it back together, and carried it around for days numerous times. Absolutely nothing about that rifle, or what it could do, was a mystery to us. We were also all “country boys,” who grew up hunting and fishing. The end result of the discussion was that the only reason to buy it was as a conversation piece. For every other potential use, there was another weapon which was better, cheaper, safer, and often legally required.
In the 30 plus years since then, I’ve heard “Second Amendment defenders” trot out every one of the points we went over, as justifications for owning one. The only new ones relate to “defending themselves against a tyrannical government,” some imagined terrorist threat, or stopping a criminal shooting by being the “good guy with a gun.” Every one of their justifications amounts to complete bullshit.
Want to talk about hunting? For most game you can’t use an AR-15 type, since hunting is heavily regulated when it comes to appropriate weapons. The few things it is currently used for, like feral pigs, amount to “shoot a lot at a group of them, and hit some.” Yes, I’ve seen videos of “hunts.” Even then, other rifles would be better – and by the way, thinking you’re controlling or eradicating the feral population that way is garbage as well. Target shooting? I can buy a box of one hundred .22 caliber bullets and spend a long time at the range for the price of 20 5.56 mm bullets and 10 minutes. You can even use it for small game hunting. “Home protection?” A shotgun, which can also be used for skeet shooting and hunting. There is the additional benefit of not firing a round which will not only go through someone (if you hit them), it’ll go through the walls of your house and quite possibly someone you didn’t mean to hit.
As to the arguments about keeping the government honest, or defending against it, we have a thing called “voting” that works wonders. Irate armed citizens and “militias”? History shows that they fold quickly when faced with actual trained soldiers or police. That was true in the Revolutionary War, and it’s been true ever since. “Stopping terrorists?” It turns out to be an excuse for bigotry and denying fear, and the ones who seem most anxious to do something turn out to meet the definition of … terrorists. Being the “good guy with a gun?” Give me a break. No one knows what they will really do in an active shooter situation, but the odds are that it’ll be the wrong thing. What you see in movies, television shows, read in magazines, and on the internet? It’s fantasy. It’s not realistic. Neither is a great deal of the “expert” advice I’ve seen some “combat veterans” hand out. It’s easy to say what you’d do, or what you should do. It’s another thing entirely to do it when there are bullets flying, and even if you’ve been through military training, not everyone does it when it’s real.
The past years have been a litany of mass shootings with one common factor – the weapons used. Weapons which were designed specifically for military use on the battlefield, not for the civilian market. There is no need for them there, and it’s long past time we got them off the streets. You can still hunt, you can still target shoot, and you can still protect your home, all without them. In fact, you probably do. The conclusion a group of young soldiers came to over thirty years ago remains true – it’s a conversation piece, but other than that, it’s the equivalent of using a screwdriver for a chisel. It’s not the right tool for the job, and it’s time to stop fooling yourself about it.