Reader RW writes:
The Guardian made a case that the so-called assault weapon ban created a market for the AR-15 and other firearms of military-style appearance. “When Martin KA Morgan was a kid in the 1970s, military-style rifles were only a “small sliver” of the firearms market in the United States.” Then, “A series of high-profile shootings had put military-style rifles on the political agenda. In 1989, a man with an AK-47 opened fire on a schoolyard in Stockton, California. The state passed a ban on semi-automatic ‘assault weapons’ that same year. None of the banned guns . . .
“were actual military weapons, which are capable of fully-automatic fire. But they looked like battlefield guns, and many Americans did not know the difference. By 1994, the Clinton administration was close to passing a federal assault weapon ban. Gun owners saw the ban coming, (Martin KA) Morgan said, and their attitude towards military-style rifles changed dramatically.”
While I have a great respect for Martin KA Morgan as a military historian and I wish I could have attended his speeches at the recent NRA meeting, I think he’s off base in his assessment of modern culture and is dismissing many other factors impacting the decisions of rifle purchasers.
Many of us employ the, “it might be banned” rationale to justify spending money on ammunition or a new weapon instead of other uses for it such as savings. But to claim that’s the driving force behind the changes in firearms is to ignore 20 plus years of technological and cultural change.
Improved polymers in GLOCKs and other similar pistols changed the market by creating a huge number of reasonably priced choices. It’s easier for each person to find a weapon that’s a good fit. Starting with that good fit helps people either improve or learn shooting more quickly than some of the more old-school choices that might have required more adaption of their body, stance or grip.
The AR-15 did the same thing for the rifle market. It’s easier to use, easier to fit to a shooter, and incredibly modular and adaptable. The positives are too numerous to count. An AR is easier to hide in a case that doesn’t look tactical if you need to conceal your rifle ownership from the neighbors when you head to the range. The size also makes it easier to maneuver through doors and hallways if home-defense is your goal. Its modular nature and the build-your-own possibilities also appeal to a wide range of people who might not have been interested in rifles otherwise.
A resurgence of the do-it-yourself culture manifests itself all over the US from the mid 90’s to the present. We can see it in many growing movements like Maker Faire, urban homesteading, preparedness, Arduino, Linux, steampunk. To discuss the AR platform as though guns are separate from other DIY trends in our culture is, in my opinion, un-American and out of touch with the reality we live in.
Building an AR is on my to-do list, not because they might be banned sometime soon, but because it sounds like fun. I’ve already added more LED lights and speakers to the patio than any backyard needs, and there’s nothing else I want to mod on the family vehicles. We don’t hunt and we don’t need rifles in addition to out pistols, but I want to build one. Lots of Americans already have.
While the “Hillary might ban them” argument might help me put the purchase of an AR lower above other priorities when budgeting, it’s not the reason I want to make the purchase. Why did you buy or build yours?