I like the AR-15, but I don’t love it. The AR lacks the pure muscle car greatness of an AK-47, the pointless brutality of a barrel-clip SPAS 12 shotgun, the precision of a Dragunov and the finger-of-God invincibility of a Barrett .50 cal. An Ar-15 kind of brings to mind the Honda Civic, which, while great for what it was meant to be, pales a bit next to the AK-47’s Hemi Cuda.
So, the AR-15 isn’t a GREAT gun; but, then again, Honda sells a lot more Civics than Dodge ever sold Hemi Cudas. And that’s exactly the case with the AR; they sell tens of millions of these things, because they’re not too much of anything. They’re just enough, just perfect, just right for doing exactly what they were designed to do.
Kill lots of people, very quickly.
With the recent wave of mass shootings, the Armalite design is back in the news again, and once again people are wondering why it’s still being sold. Once again, gun nuts are screaming in reply “Don’t blame the gun…blame the shooter!” And once again we find ourselves asking: Why is this Honda Civic of killing machines so popular, and what role does the gun itself play in the random death now stalking our malls, schools and streets? And, most importantly of all…would banning it do ANY good?
It’s often said that the AR-15 is the “civilian” version of the military’s M-16, but that’s a slight softening of the truth. Back in 1958, a brilliant gun designer named Eugene Stoner came with the AR-15 design for the ArmaLite company, intending it for sale to the U.S. Army as a replacement for the aging M1. When ArmaLite. When it ran into financial problems, they sold the design to Colt, who tweaked the AR-15 design to make the Colt M-16. In 1982, the shorter, lighter M4 variant of the M16 debuted; it’s still in use today.
The take-away here is that the AR-15 is no sissyfied, harmless “hunting rifle“ as the gun lobby would have you believe. It’s not a toy loosely based on the military M-16. The AR-15 was the ORIGINAL DESIGN, and it was designed specifically for the U.S. Army. The fact that it’s not classified as a pure “weapon of war” is a technicality — it was always a machine designed to kill lots of people, very quickly, accurately, at long range and in tight quarters.
USE IN MASS KILLINGS
- As of this writing, the Ar-15’s most recent escapades made news when Paul Cianca used one to kill a TSA attendant at LAX airport. Cianca had planned on killing multiple targets, but specifically targeted TSA employees. MOTIVE: The note found in Cianca’s pocket indicated an Alex-Jones-spec hatred for the government, even going to far as to refer to the “New World Order” that Jones flogs so relentlessly on his show.
October 9th, 2013 — Wheeling, West Virginia
- Former police officer Tom Piccard opened fire on a Federal courthouse in Wheeling, West Virginia using an AR-15. Piccard himself was the only person killed, shot dead when police responded and put him down. A few people were injured by flying glass. MOTIVE: Piccard’s primary target was the building itself, which he shot up in protest of the Federal government. Like Cianca, Piccard carried a note in his pocket expressing his hatred for the government.
December 14th, 2012 — Sandy Hook
- Adam Lanza stalked from classroom to classroom with a knock-off AR-15 called the XM15-E2S, killing 22 children and six adults before killing himself. MOTIVE: Being a prick.
December 11th, 2012 — Clackmas Mall Shooting, Portland Oregon
- Jacob Tyler Roberts opens fire in the food court of the shopping mall with a knockoff AR-15, killing two. The cheap gun eventually jammed, prompting Roberts to kill himself. MOTIVE: Girlfriend broke up with him, couldn’t join the Marine Corps, generally being an sack of crap.
July 20th, 2012 — Aurora, Colorado
- At a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises, James Eagan Holmes walked into the theater dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with an AR-15 (with a drum magazine) and other guns. He killed 12 and injured 70 others in the crowded theater, He surrendered afterward. MOTIVE: Before the shooting, Holmes had died his hair bright red-orange calling himself “The Joker.” He had been fantasizing about such an attack for some time.
March 11th, 2012 — Kandahar Massacre
- In 2012, an Army Staff Sergeant named Robert Bales went on a killing spree in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. Bales, stationed in Afghanistan, left his base one night, stalked from house to house in the nearby village, and butchered a total of 16 people; 9 were children, and 11 were from the same family. His weapon of choice was his service issue M4, a derivative of the original AR-15. MOTIVE: Bales appears to have “just snapped.” He himself said he didn’t know why he did it, and he made no attempt to defend himself in court.
November 23rd, 2009 — Maguindanao Massacre
- On a small island in the Philippines, a full 58 people were killed during an ambushing and kidnapping of governor’s candidate Ismael Mangudadatu, his family, and a group of journalists that were with them. A great number of illegal small arms were used, among them a large number of AR-15s and U.S. Army surplus M16s.
January 17th, 2002 — Bat Mitzvah Massacre
- In Hadera, Israel, a Palestinian terrorist by the name of Abdul Salaam Sadek murdered six people and injured 33 more at a 12-year-old girl’s bat mitzvah. His weapon of choice: A U.S. Army surplus M16.
April, 1996 — Port Arthur Massacre, Australia
- Back in 1996, Marting Bryant used an AR-15 to go on a killing spree in Australia that left 35 dead and 23 wounded, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in history. MOTIVE: Bryant was shown to have been mentally impaired, and his motives are still kept largely secret, but it was revealed that he’d been obsessed with the Dunblane School massacre that had happened a few months before. He asked the police afterward how many he’d killed, and was seemingly impressed by the number.
WHY THE AR-15?
Eugene Stoner knew what he was doing when it came to building great killing machines, and the AR-15 was designed to counter perhaps the second-greatest army of all time, toting the greatest gun of all time: the AK-47.
Three things make the AR-15/M16 such an efficient killing tool:
- Light weight, compact dimensions and excellent balance make it ideal for swinging quickly from target to target, and for maneuvering through tight hallways and close quarters.
- Bullet size: Initially, the AR-15 was criticized for its tiny round, which lacked the knockdown power of the AK-47’s. But using a small, high-velocity bullet allows the clip to hold many more rounds. A 30-round AR-15 clip is about half the size and weight of a 30-round clip for an AK-47.
- Cheap, easy to accessorize and modify, and readily available. An Ar-15 is subject to little more regulation than a single-shot .22 squirrel rifle, and doesn’t cost much more. Gun enthusiasts love the AR because it looks evil and black, and makes them feel like playing real soldiers. Minus the background checks or training. For that reason, there are dozens of AR knockoffs that are every bit as deadly as the original.
IS THE AR-15 CAUSING MASS SHOOTINGS, OR JUST FACILITATING THEM?
This is the critical question of our time, and one that generally draws a line down the middle of our society. Do guns CAUSE crime? And do specific types of guns cause specific types of crimes? At least one theory of crime says, “Yes, at least some of the time.”
Here in the South, we have a little saying about locking up our tool sheds to “keep the neighbors honest.” This is the basic premise behind “Crime Opportunity Theory,” or the operational theory that opportunity to commit crime will result in crimes committed. In short, people only have so much willpower, and just by attrition it will fail periodically in moments of weakness. ESPECIALLY in moments of weakness.
In the 1950s and early 60s, the suicide rate in England and Wales was incredibly high. One of the highest in the world. The primary means of suicide was turning up the gas in one’s oven, blowing out the pilot light and sticking one’s head in. The coal-derived gas caused unconsciousness and death fallowing a wave of euphoria; so, suicide wasn’t just painless. It was fun, easy and readily accessible as an option.
In the 1960, England switched to oil-derived natural gas, which was far less poisonous, and (owing to the eye-watering stench of sulfur) far more unpleasant. Suicide-by-oven rates began to drop precipitously. By the 1970s, natural gas had replaced coal gas, and not only were suicide-by-oven incidences reduced to about 1% of total suicides — the total number of suicides in the country dropped by nearly 60 percent. And this was during a recession, when you’d expect suicide rates to go UP.
An easy, fun death just wasn’t as easy to come by anymore. People really had to go out of their way to die, and it was probably going to hurt.
The parallels to mass shooting and gun crime as a whole are hard to miss. It’s no coincidence that more than half of mass shootings in America ended in suicide. If these people had had access to coal ovens, we’d have never heard a word of them. But they didn’t.
They had access to the ArmaLite AR-15.
Reason dictates that if these people hadn’t had access to guns, the shootings would never have occurred. But what if they’d had access to DIFFERENT guns…five-shot, snub-nosed revolvers, for instance. They’d have killed four nearby people (the ones they could hit), then themselves. If they’d had six rounds and a longer barrel, it would have been five victims up to about 50 feet, then themselves. Give these same people 10, 20, 30 50 rounds and the accuracy to kill from 150 yards, and you’ve got America, 21st Century.
You’ve got suicide crimes of opportunity, assault-rifle style.