Seth Connell reports that John Oliver sometimes has some legitimate criticisms of American politics, but when it comes to the right to bear arms he usually spouts off typical talking points about why “no one needs” certain kinds of weapons.
The talk show host has been in the United State since 2006, since coming over from the United Kingdom, and in that time he has simply not been able to wrap his mind around America’s gun culture. According to the New York Daily News, he especially cannot understand why citizens want to own AR-15s.
“The kind of firearms that are increasingly involved in these mass shootings remains inexplicable to me,” he said at Madison Square Garden’s Stand Up for Heroes veterans benefit. “I have not heard a good case for AR-15s in private hands. So that’s the part of it that remains baffling to me.”
Well, John Oliver has asked for a reason for civilians to own these firearms. I’ll up him and give three.
Before we get into reasons to own an AR-15, though, let’s talk definitions for the sake of clarity.
Let’s start out by recognizing the fact that AR-15s are NOT assault weapons. The term is part of a politically and emotionally charged strategy to make the guns appear scarier than they actually are. The origin of the term may date back to a 1980 New York Times article, according to the Daily Wire, where the author used the term “assault weapon” to describe these rifles.
However, the term was made up. The term “Assault rifle” exists, but as defined by the DoD, true assault rifles are not semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15. Hence, expanding the definition of that to other firearms is irresponsible reporting.
As the United States Defense Department’s Defense Intelligence Agency book Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide explains, “assault rifles” are “short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges.” In other words, assault rifles are battlefield rifles which can fire automatically.
Additionally, just because the features of a semiautomatic rifle appear to be like that of a fully automatic assault rifle, it does not make the rifle any more deadly, nor any more military-esque. A pistol grip, telescoping or folding stock, forward grip, muzzle brake, and/or bayonet lug do NOT make the rifle more deadly. They are cosmetic features that deal with possible attachments (bayonet lug), and proper handling of the firearm (grips and stocks).
With that in mind, let’s think about three reasons why civilians should be able to own AR-15s.
First, the Supreme Court has held multiple times that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the individual right to bear arms.
In District of Columbia vs Heller (2008), the Court stated that the Second Amendment’s phrase “‘Keep arms’ was simply a common way of referring to possessing arms, for militiamen and everyone else.”
Further, as Justice Scalia stated in the Court’s opinion, previous cases have stated that the Amendment does protect the right to keep and bear arms that are in common public use. As stated in United States vs Miller (1939):
[O]rdinarily when called for [militia] service [able-bodied] men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.
In Miller, a weapon like a sawed off shotgun was not considered protected, but with Miller’s and Heller’s rules, a firearm that is commonly held by civilians cannot be prohibited by the government because the Amendment, as written, intended for civilians, all able-bodied civilians, to own firearms for purposes of defense.
This was affirmed again in McDonald vs Chicago (2010), when the Second Amendment was incorporated to the states.
Second, the AR-15 is the perfect defensive firearm.
The AR (Armalite Rifle) is a reliable design that is easy to learn how to shoot, has many different options for the user to customize to his/her preference. It fires a cartridge that is best for personal protection in the home at close, medium, and long range.
A rifle is much easier to shoot than a handgun. A handgun has a short barrel, and a very small amount of material that can absorb the recoil from rounds fired. The smaller the gun gets, the more harsh the recoil will be.
Additionally, because the AR-15 is a long gun, a user can shoot it more accurately because there are more points of contact. With more points of contact, a user is able to hold the rifle more steadily than a pistol, and he/she can fire rounds more accurately, reducing the risk of unnecessary collateral damage and harm to innocent bystanders.
As a final point on this subject, one of the most common objections to AR-15s is the claim that they are “high-powered” rifles. Actually, the standard AR-15 cartridge is really not all that powerful. Sure, the bullet will leave the gun with a muzzle velocity of around 3000 fps, but the bullet that leaves the barrel is actually a very small caliber.
The .223 Remington round (or 5.56×45 NATO) round is in the .22 caliber category. That’s a very small cartridge, especially when compared to most hunting rounds like the .308, 30-30, .270 Winchester, and 7MM Remington Mag. But it’s small size combined with its high speed is why it is a perfect defensive firearm. The bullet, when it hits its target, will disintegrate much faster than a shotgun shell or slug, and even faster than a pistol round.
With people living in apartments or in places where houses are close together, a defender wants any fired bullet to fall apart on contact to stop over-penetration. The AR-15 cartridge will do the job when it hits its target, but will do less collateral damage if a user misses their target.
Third, banning civilian possession of semi-automatic is a severe perversion of justice, and only empowers those who do not care about the rule of law in the first place.
The foundational principle of justice is that those who harm others are subject to punishment and remuneration, and those who do good to others are to be rewarded. Those who break the laws of this country, any country, need to be subject to penalties for breaking the rule of law, and for harming their fellow citizens, whether directly or indirectly.
Those principles of justice apply to gun ownership as well, and those who are not harming others with their firearms are not to be subjected to punishments that should be applied to those who do harm other people. For example, let’s look at the attack that happened this past weekend in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The man who attacked the church used an AR-style rifle. He broke the law, he killed other people without any justifiable reason. Murder is intolerable in any society.
On the other hand, a man in the nearby vicinity had an AR-15 of his own, and was able to make a medium-range shot at the attacker when he came out of the church to get more ammunition to continue his slaughter. Thanks to the brave man who had one of those AR-style rifles, he was able to shoot the attacker accurately and hit him to stop the attack.
With the normal standards of justice, the attacker would be condemned and the man who stopped him applauded. Each of them used the same style object to take a particular action, but the respective hearts of those men determined the usage.
With the Left’s idea of how to react to the attack, they want to punish not only the man who stopped the attack with his own rifle, but also the tens of millions of other Americans who have neither committed a crime with their rifles, nor are apt to ever commit a crime in the first place.
FBI crime statistics show that a rifle is one of the least common weapons used in crimes, even accounting for the mass shootings that take place. In 2014, there were 248 murder victims from rifles. That’s down from 367 in 2010, and the rate declined each year until 2014.
Other weapons, like knives, accounted for 1,567 murders in 2014. Hands and feet, 660; Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.), 435.
Should we ban hammers, knives, hands and feet because of these numbers? Then why are we attacking inanimate objects that have no will of their own aside from that of their user, the overwhelming majority of which will never commit a violent crime with their firearm?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that in 2014 there were 100 million AR and AK-style sporting rifles in private hands. If we calculate an approximate rate with which those rifles are used in crimes, the percentage is .00000248% and Even if the numbers were slightly lower, say 50 million, the crime rate would still be .00000496%.
But just to make it interesting, let’s say there were 10 million AR 15s in the United States. The crime rate would then be .0000248%. It’s not even close to statistically significant by any means.
The mass spread of the media makes things appear different than reality. John Oliver and his colleagues on the Left would have everyone believe there is a violent crime epidemic with rifles, and that the only solution is to ban everyone from owning them. But where does that leave us? And where do the hundred million plus AR-15s go?
There are so many firearms here in the United States, possibly upwards of 600 million. Criminals know this, and crime rates have plummeted in recent decades. Is that a trend we should reverse with more restrictions on our right to bear arms?
I’ll say this to John Oliver. From an outsider’s perspective, I understand that it may be difficult to comprehend our gun culture here, and that’s okay. We want you to understand, though.
So if you ever have a mind to come down to Virginia, I would be glad to go to a local shooting range and talk about the subject with you (and I mean that sincerely). You may not ever see this, but there’s the invitation.