When Someone Asks Why I Need “An Assault Rifle,” Here’s What I Say

“Why does the average person need an ‘assault rifle?'”

That’s a question I get a lot, and I’m always to happy to answer it. My response comes in three parts.

First, we should address the word “need.” According to the Bill of Rights, it’s not a matter of need; it’s a matter of want.

We have the inalienable right to own and posses any firearm we want. The Second Amendment was written not to grant this right, but to acknowledge that it exists. While it’s true that federal law prohibits felons from owning a gun, the constitutionality of this prohibition is questionable. After all, if a right wasn’t created by the government, then how can the government infringe on it?

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Second, we need to look at what “assault rifles” really are. In military parlance, the term covers “selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges.” If a weapon is “selective fire,” that means it can discharge either single or multiple rounds with each pull of the trigger. Weapons capable of fully automatic fire are highly regulated, very expensive, and the sale of new models has been banned since 1986.

In contrast, the media uses "assault rifle" to describe any semi-automatic rifle platform that is black and plastic, although it's most commonly applied to those modeled after the AR-15 design.

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The "AR" in AR-15 does not (as is commonly believed) stand for "assault rife," but rather Armalite--the company that originally produced it. Despite its appearance, the weapon is functionally no different from a more innocuous looking Mini-14. That is to say, it expels a single projectile with each time the trigger is pulled.

And while anti-gun activists say that AR-15s pose a special risk to society, the facts say otherwise. Of the over 15 thousand murders committed in 2017, the FBI reports that only 403 involved rifles of any kind. By comparison, CDC figures show that in the same year, 624 children 9 years of age and under drowned. Despite this, there’s no push to ban hot tubs, pools, or plastic buckets.

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So why would someone want an AR-style rife? The answer varies. For some, it's the aluminum receiver, ergonomic layout, and gas impingement operating system. Those features reduce weight and allow for fast follow up shots, which partly explains the rifle's popularity among female shooters as well as people with disabilities. They also make it useful for self-defense, and having one can even the odds for a victim faced with multiple attackers.

Others love the fact that the design is highly customizable; parts can be easily swapped out and configured to match the owner's size and preferences. It's the reason why building an AR-15 can be a hobby, just as one might build model cars or airplanes.

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Then there are veterans who want a rifle that is similar to the one they carried while in uniform. Finally, there are those who just like the way it looks.

So as you can see, there are almost as many reasons to buy an AR-15 as there are people who own them. But while your motive for wanting the rifle might change, your right to have one doesn't.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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