Okay. let’s start with one of your last points: do many communities feel less safe with Armalites?

To be honest, I couldn’t point to any reliable information that communities feel less safe or more safe depending on the availability of a specific type of firearm. I doubt there is an accurate source.

For one thing, you have become a victim of the American media’s hype and hysteria over a particular style of rifle that has been demonized based on how it looks, not any real measure of its capabilities.

Contrary to popular belief, the AR-15 was actually the second rifle based on a Eugene Stoner design for Armalite. It was a smaller, lighter and less powerful version of an earlier rifle developed in the mid-1950s to replace the Army’s M1 Garand, which had been in service since 1937. The Army required what we today would call an assault rifle because Communist forces were already equipped with the Kalashnikov AK-47, a .30-caliber rifle capable of both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire that had been adopted in 1949.

The AK-47 and every modern combat rifle in the world trace their origins to the StG 43, a rifle developed by the Germans in World War II which had proven very effective in combat. Incidentally, the term “assault rifle” comes from the name bestowed, reportedly by Adolf Hitler himself, on the StG 43, “Sturmgewehr” which is German for “storm rifle.” Since Sturm also refers to storming in terms of attack or an assault, the term “assault rifle” came into use.

The earlier rifle, the AR-10 was much more powerful than the AR-15 as it was chambered for the 7.62x51mm cartridge known to American hunters as the .308 Winchester. The AR-10 lost the Army contract to the T44 developed in the military’s own Springfield Arsenal. The T44 was adopted as the M14.

When U.S. military increased is engagement in South Vietnam, the M14 proved to be unsuited. It was too heavy, too difficult to control in full-auto mode and soldiers could carry only a fairly small amount of reserve ammunition in their standard loadout.

The Army went back to the well and asked for a smaller, lighter rifle capable of selective fire and chambered for a round intermediate in power between the .30-caliber round used in the M1 carbine and the 7.62x51mm used in the M14 battle rifle.

The Army wasn’t looking for some nightmare rifle; it was looking for a lighter rifle that used lighter ammunition. It was also looking for a rifle/cartridge combination that was cheaper. The AR-15, which was mostly the work of Stoner’s assistant and an outside designer named James Stevens, won the contract. It was lighter and a soldier could carry twice as many cartridges — and everything was less expensive.

The AR-15's mythical destructive power has nothing to do with the rifle itself. I can go into great detail about this if you wish, but I will skip over it for now. The wounds produced are entirely due to the cartridge. In fact, a .223 round fired from a bolt-action rifle is more powerful than one fired from an AR-15 because none of the propulsive gases are leached off to function the action.

The 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington bullet combines its small size and high speed to cause the bullet to fragment upon hitting soft tissue and bone. Because the military is restricted to non-expanding bullets entirely cased in a metal jacket, the characteristics of the .223 bullet became an impact multiplier that skirted the requirements.

Since civilians are not constrained by the full-metal-jacket requirement, there are many common hunting bullets with greater lethality than the .223.

Yes, I have read the gory accounts of wounds created by the AR-15 cartridge. My response is that the doctor that shared his experience must not have any familiarity with close-range wounds from long guns. A close-range would from virtually any centerfire rifle produces a devastating wound. At close range, a 12-gauge shotgun can literally decapitate a person.

This may be horrifying to you, but this is what makes a good hunting round. Hunters want to put a game animal down as quickly as possible with the fewest shots fired. The goal is a quick death to avoid prolonged suffering.

The .223 Remington isn’t powerful enough to be acceptable for deer hunting in a number of states.

The AR-15 has been available for civilian sale since 1964. For the first 35 years it was on the market, it was used in mass shootings no more often than any other military-style rifle, including the AK-47 and M1 carbine, and such uses were fairly uncommon.

It has been only in the past eight years that is has become the weapon of choice for American mass shooters to the point that virtually all other types of military rifles have disappeared.

This is not a function of the gun or the bullet, both of which are essentially the same as when they were when introduced 54 years ago.

Up until public awareness was raised by the original Assault Weapons Ban, the AR-15 wasn’t even particularly popular among civilians. Prior to the beginning of the ban, Colt was basically the only company making the AR-15. After the Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire because there was no evidence it had had any impact on crime, interest in the Armalite-style rifle and the AK-47 mushroomed. Today, some 35 companies make AR-style rifles and it has become the most popular type of rifle available. The AR is the rifle of choice for those that hunt feral hogs and for farmers trying to keep feral hogs from destroying crops; for varmint hunters and has become increasing popular in competitive target shooting.

The AR-15 is also a viable home-defense rifle because of the properties of the .223 round. The light bullet fragments rather than penetrating hard surfaces, such as structure walls.

So the popular perception of the AR-15 is almost entirely based on myths spread by people trying to make it something it’s not. They have created a boogeyman. Even the term “Assault Weapon” isn’t real. There is no such thing. The term was coined to make a rifle more scary.

In fact, the whole assault weapons crusade is based on appearance (with a hefty dose of ignorance). Most of the features describing an assault weapon have nothing to do with the function or lethality of the rifle itself.

I have read the proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2018. As someone fairly knowledgeable about firearms, I was amazed at the stupidity of the people that drafted it. They did things like ban one rifle while exempting a functionally identical rifle with a different stock. Both rifles were capable of accepting the same 30-round magazines; both rifles could be equipped with with a muzzle-flash hider (which only reduces flash for the shooter as an aid in low-light conditions; the flash is easily visible to anyone else) and both rifles had the same rate of fire. In fact, the actions of the two were interchangeable between the two styles of stock.

The authors omitted an entire type of rifle that is more powerful than the AR-15 and is capable of accepting a 20-round magazine.

So community reactions to the AR-15 depend largely on whether the people in that community believe in this boogeyman. Based on sales, interest and what I see at shooting ranges, I would have to say a fair number of American communities are perfectly fine with the AR-15.

Don’t comment on varmints unless you have personal experience of them or the reason they are called varmints. Talk to a cattle rancher about prairie dogs and gophers; talk to a farmer about feral hogs, which are a growing problem in parts of the U.S.; talk to those who have to deal with coyotes. I have some experience in this. A rancher actually herded his cattle to different parts of his land so we could do him a favor by hunting prairie dogs whose burrows endangered his cows.

For a number of years, I was an automotive journalist. Part of my job was taking photographs of vehicles. Since many of them were pickup trucks and SUVs, the best photographic settings were in rural areas. I would carry a small revolver with me. Why? We have snakes. We have rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads. Although I do know how to identify poisonous snakes and am always careful to look before I take a step, there was still a risk. So, instead of bullets, my revolver was loaded with snake shot. Fortunately, I was able to give wide berth to the snakes I did encounter but as the old saying goes, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.

The graph I presented was simply to show that there doesn’t seem to be a cause-and-effect relationship between gun regulation and criminal use of firearms. I used laws that imposed new regulations and laws that allowed more gun rights.

My comments on the efficacy of various currently proposed gun control measures is based on real-world results drawn from observing their impacts on crime. I can go into great detail, but all of the evidence I have found shows that they are the legislative equivalent of snake oil remedies.

Case in point: When Elliot Rodger went on his shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, every measure now on the table was already law in the state. Enhanced background checks for all firearm transfers; restrictions on types and models of firearm that could be legally sold; restrictions on magazine capacities; waiting periods; limits on the number of handguns that could be purchased in a 30-day period and a requirement to show completion of a handgun safety course before purchasing a handgun were all on the books. Rodger had three California Department of Justice-approved pistols with 10-round magazines that had been legally purchased at retail. He also had a couple dozen spare 10-round magazines in his car.

Based on mass shootings where the source of the guns used was reported, 76% of the shooters passed background checks, sometimes they passed more than one. Studies conducted in Colorado and Washington state following the passage of universal background check laws concluded that the laws were ineffective.

Based on data from the CDC, Arizona, which eliminated the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed firearm, saw a greater drop in its homicide rate than California, which kept adding new restrictions.

Some states with high percentages of gun ownership have homicide rates lower than states with low percentages of households with guns. The same is true of states with few restrictions and states with heavy restrictions. In both cases, the converse is also true.

Use of suicides to inflate the numbers is a double-edged sword. First, suicide is a different problem and, being a bit cold-hearted, is not a threat to public safety. Second, the rate of gun use in suicides is almost entirely due to the fact that most suicides are committed by white males and white males are the most likely to use a gun. Women, who have a suicide rate that is rising more quickly than the rate for men, use a gun in only about a third of suicides and Hispanic women use them about 21% of the time. Poisoning, usually by an overdose of prescription medication or a mixture of alcohol and drugs, is the exit method of choice. Suffocation, usually by hanging, is also a popular option. In fact, in the two years following Robin Williams’ suicide, there was a spike in hanging suicides, especially by younger women. Perhaps belts, electrical cords and such exert a similar magical influence to that which you attribute to guns?

The first Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire because backers could not provide any evidence that it worked. There was not a significant change in the rate of violent crimes that involved the banned guns. As has been the case for years, rifles of all types combined are used in fewer homicides than knives, blunt instrument and even bare hands.

Like the original ban, the current proposal exempts all guns currently possessed before the effective date. Due to the huge growth in sales, that means there is a much larger pool of these guns than there was in 1994. Estimates of the number of military-style rifles in circulation range from 18 million to more than 20 million. All of these rifles can be freely transferred.

So we have a “ban” that doesn’t actually ban anything other than sales of new rifles, based on cosmetics. Manufacturers are still free to manufacture rifles that not only are functionally equal to the banned guns but will accept the tens of millions of high-capacity magazines already out there.

The one thing that impresses me about background checks is that Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy was able to keep a straight face while presenting a bill calling for more background checks just days after a man who passed more than a dozen of them shot more than 600 people in Las Vegas. Murphy, possibly unintentionally, added another joke, saying that his bill would prevent mass shootings.

Wow! That much self-control is impressive, I don’t care what anybody says.

People claim the background check system is flawed because it depends on information that isn’t always supplied. The cases of Seung Hui-Cho, Dylann Roof and Devin Kelley are cited as failures.

So how do they explain all of the mass shooters that passed background checks? Answer: They don’t even try.

If they did try, it would reveal the Achilles’ Heel of the whole concept: Background checks can’t predict the future; they can only reveal the past and even that only imperfectly. Many people have purchases delayed or denied due to false positives. I have personal experience with this. Apparently some person with a name similar to mine was in the system and I almost invariably got back a “delay.” The first time, the shop called me the next day with the approval. This went on until, at the end, approvals came in before I even got home. I finally started adding extra identifying information to the firearm transaction record and it’s been smooth sailing for a number of years.

Background checks are also a problem because they can’t really work without virtually complete gun registration.

Law enforcement can’t do anything about transfers when there’s no way for them to know if they occur. This was one of the phenomena observed in Colorado and Washington state. Residents simply ignored the law and some county sheriff’s offices declined to enforce it. Sort of a variation on “Don’t ask; don’t tell.”

Currently, the federal government is forbidden to establish a registry of firearms of firearm owners. A provision was added to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.

Sure, that law can be repealed (gun owners would be happy because that would also remove the Hughes Amendment restricting the sale of new machine guns to private individuals).

But let’s look at what happened in New York State. In 2013, the SAFE Act became law. Under the terms of the act, owners of certain firearms specified in the act were required to register them with the state police by a date in 2014. There was criminal penalties for failure to register.

In 2016, following a court loss over a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York State Police released data showing that 44,000 of the estimated one million guns covered by the SAFE Act had been registered. That’s a compliance rate of 4.4% in a state with a long history of gun regulation.

What will the compliance rate be in Idaho? Montana? Arizona? Texas?

Arizona already has a state law that prohibits gun registration.

How about the popular idea of treating guns like cars? That also fails. I have outlined what things would be like if guns were treated exactly like cars and I haven’t heard anyone (other than gun owners) say it’s a great idea.

To answer the questions contained in your last paragraph: 1. I have no data on which to base anything like a general answer; 2. No, because I live on this planet and in this reality and have no reason to the results would be anything like those you describe;3. If it wasn’t for all the hysteria and hype, Americans would probably feel a lot safer. The available data does not support the media narrative; 4. An awful lot of Americans seem to believe the problem lies with the shooters themselves and others point to other causes than guns, so gun control isn’t going to address their concerns.

This is where your original premise falls flat on its face: there isn’t any support for the theory that the mere presence of guns inspire killings. Guns do not have any mystical psychic powers. People that use a gun to commit a crime have decided to commit the crime and don’t seem to care about the possible consequences.

Access to a firearm can facilitate the commission of a crime of violence, but so can access to a variety of things. Guns are used in less than 27% of total aggravated assaults and homicides. Yes, guns are involved in about 74% of homicides but homicides, as tragic as they are, are no less a problem than the crippling and disfiguring injuries often encountered in assaults.

If we’re going to embark on a nationwide obsession with regarding our navels, we might as well focus on the real problem.

Based on the estimated number of American gun owners and the total reported aggravated assaults and homicides, somewhere between 99.75% and 99.80% of gun owners weren’t responsible for them. Despite demands that we take “ownership” of mass shootings, we generally don’t.

Sure, there are always a handful of people that dispose of their firearms to much fanfare, but most gun owner seem to regard them as outliers and don’t feel compelled to join them. In fact, the general response is a regret that the repentant owner didn’t just give the gun to them.

This is the community you don’t see. That’s okay, a lot of people in the U.S. don’t see it, either.

You are more than welcome to embark on a journey of self-doubt and soul-searching. Invite whomever you like. But forgive me if I decline.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

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