Well, it's election season once again, which today means it's one of the two times we argue about "assault weapons" and proposed policies to ban or wholly remove them from private ownership. Seeing how one of the major candidates for President is running on the most aggressive gun restriction proposal in history (including banning the sale or importation of modern sporting rifles and "high" capacity magazines, and either confiscating or forcing national registration of such property), we think it's high-time we respond to the question posed by politicians and journalists when advocating for such measures: "why does anyone need an assault weapon?"
The inherent problem within the question
You see it in debates and interviews - people (who don't understand guns or fighting) will ask a Constitution advocate "why does anyone need an assault weapon?". Of course, the implication of the question being if the question cannot be answered to the questioner's satisfaction, then we should ban and confiscate, err, buy-back such firearms.
That logic seems odd being that a law abiding citizen of proper age can go to the local gun store and buy an AR-15 today. Why doesn't the change advocate bear the burden of proof?
It would seem more reasonable for the "gun-grabbers" to sell The People on why they should relinquish their rights and property. Sneak peak: if the selling point is less gun violence and fewer mass killings, The People should take a hard pass, as they already tried that in the 90s with no such results.
Why anyone needs any gun in America
"The right of self-defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals." - President James Monroe, second annual message to Congress, November 16, 1818
"The ultimate authority...resides in the people alone...The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition." - President James Madison
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - United States Constitution, Amendment II
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms." - Richard Henry Lee
To understand why anyone needs an AR-15 style firearm, it's helpful to grasp why citizens need firearms at all. As noted by the framers of the U.S.A., self-defense is a God-given right which is articulated in The Declaration of Independence and enshrined in The U.S. Constitution. The founders saw three threats to individual life, liberty, and property: tyrannical threats, foreign threats, and criminal threats.
It's pretty evident from the historical record that the founders were most concerned with a tyrannical government rather than a bump in the night at your house. Those who assume the U.S. is exempt from history are willfully ignorant, and it is the duty of The People to remain 'well-regulated' in order to maintain the security of a free State. The main reason the U.S. is a free state is not because of "democratic elections" or a bill of rights - it's because of separation of powers and The Militia (the people).
That said, to help the historically ignorant, the unique benefits of citizen bearing of modern sporting rifles can be established for defense solely against criminal threats. Let's explore.
The AR platform offers unique benefits
When it comes to home defense with a gun, we have a lot of options. Millions of Americans protect themselves with handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles, and AR-15s. This point is often hammered when opponents of AR15s mention the plethora of other options still available in the event of a ban (and confiscation). Is there anything missing from our home defense armory sans AR15? Yes.
Handguns - Handguns are convenient and great for maneuvering tight spots, but (as we've stated many times at GTAC) they are lacking in wound ballistics. A trauma surgeon in Police Mag puts it bluntly:
"Handguns are lousy stoppers; it doesn't matter the caliber, they are just not great at stopping threats. Because of the ballistics profile and the amount of energy that a rifle round carries with it and dumps into the body, a rifle is a much better instrument to stop a threat."
Shotguns - My favorite type of home defense, shotguns are very powerful and are accurate at longer distances than many assume. Double-00 buckshot or rifled slugs will certainly get someone's attention.
However, most tactical shotguns have 8 rounds capacity at best! Moreover, operating a pump shotgun in a life-and-death situation can be a challenge for those who don't train.
*Also, don't walk outside of your home and blow two round in the air from your double-barreled shotgun if you hear something outside your home.*
Hunting rifles - Three issues: rate of fire, capacity, and maneuvering in tight spaces. While a hunting rifle can kill someone just as good as a kitchen knife or construction hammer, hunting rifles are often heavier (wooden stocks) and have lower capacity with a slower rate of fire, e.g., lever-action, bolt-action, break-action.
Modern sporting rifles - As we covered in a previous post, AR15-style carbines have unique value in weight, terminal ballistics, ease-of-use, availability and variety of ammunition, and rifle options. Frankly, it's the best firearms technology on the market, and really shines in all the categories where the other options are lack-luster (save maybe price compared to a shotgun).
One of the platform's greatest benefits (which has received the greatest attack from gun grabbers) is its high capacity. Is this "weapon of war" really "needed" in a home defense scenario?
In self defense, capacity matters
Do you really need more than the Washington, D.C.-recommended 10 bullets (in a clip) to protect yourself? Here are four reasons to consider AR15s and other higher-capacity semi-automatics for home protection.
1. You will be at war
If someone breaks into your home, you are likely going to enter a battle for your life. You don't have to wear camouflage or be in some jungle on the other side of the planet to be in a life-or-death situation.
If you value your life (and your loved ones), why wouldn't you want overwhelming firepower in such a scenario? You don't get to choose if, when, or how your safety gets violated in a home break in - superior firepower is the only way to even the odds. Sounds like a job for an "assault weapon" or "weapon of war".
2. Your sucky shooting
GTAC founder Gary Glemboski once told me "In a life-or-death situation, you will shoot worse than your worst day on the range". Most of us are not getting the range time needed to keep our skills sharp - some of us are getting zero practice. So on a good day it helps us normal folks to have some extra ammo.
Now think about the conditions under which you have to perform in a night-time home invasion! Rather than great lighting, it may be pitch black. Instead of relaxed and aware, you are groggy and scared crapless. Instead of being dressed "tacti-cool", you have to fight in your undies (or birthday suit). Oh, and if you fail, you and your family may die.
Experienced gun fighters will tell you the key stopping a threat with a firearm is SHOT PLACEMENT. All the factors in a home invasion make that more difficult - pass the ammo, please.
3. Well-regulated home invaders
Violent criminals have a say in the fight, and many times they account for the homeowner by working in teams and/or bringing their own guns to the party. According to a U.S. Department of Justice report which surveyed household burglary victimization from 2003-2007, out of 266k annual burglaries where violence occurred, offenders (home invaders) were unarmed 61% of the time and confirmed armed 30% of the time (12% with guns).
Here are some examples of the bad guys working in teams and invading while armed:
- Indianapolis, IN 2015: three armed men invade pastor's home and murder his pregnant wife while their infant is upstairs.
- Summerfield, FL 2019: Four men armed with multiple guns invade 61 year old man's home. Homeowner gets shot while killing two intruders with an AR15.
- Hillsborough County, FL 2019: Two armed men invade home, attack man while threatening his 11 year old daughter. Pregnant wife shoots intruder with AR rifle.
My guess is none of these victims reflected on these home invasions by armed criminals and thought to themselves, "I wish I had fewer bullets and guns in that situation".
4. The resiliency of the human body
As familiar with guns as Americans are, we unfortunately get most of our information about them from Hollywood. In the movies, John McLane just won't die as he single-handedly takes out a terrorist group and bad guys practically evaporate following a single hit from James Bond's Walther PPK (a .380 pistol with 7 rounds).
While there are many recorded instances of people being stopped and killed from a single hit, there are also numerous medically-confirmed reports of people surviving (and continuing as a threat) following getting shot many times. One trauma doctor, a leading authority on tactical medicine, states caring for a survivor of 22 bullet wounds. He also states seeing patients survive 8-12 bullet wounds as "not uncommon".
One of the most infamous incidents of physiological resiliency involves the man responsible for killing more FBI agents than anyone in history. In the Battle of Barrington, a car chase between Baby Face Nelson and two FBI agents morphed into a gun fight in a park outside of Chicago. The trained G-men hit the small-stature Nelson 8 times with 12 gauge shot gun and nailed a fatal machine gun slug to the abdomen. This was not enough to stop Baby Face Nelson from charging the agents and killing them both at close range.
The People must secure their life and liberty
If two federal agents with machine guns and shotguns can make 9 hits and still lose their lives, this tells us that shot placement and ammunition are paramount in surviving a gun fight. The AR15 helps us do both in ways other platforms cannot.
The much-maligned AR15 modern sporting rifle is a modern symbol of liberty - it's ease-of-use, high-performance, and top capacity make it a free person's best friend in a life-or-death battle. In present-day, the AR15 is essential to maintaining a republic for, by, and of The People in deterring against government ambitions.
When Washington, D.C. proposes putting the militia over 100 years behind in firearms technology, we have to decide if we are willing to give up our freedom for promised temporary security. With over 17 million modern sporting rifles in private ownership, it seems The People have spoken on what they need.