Until January this year I lived in Elizabeth, Colorado for a year and a half which is 30 miles from where the shooting occurred 3 days ago. Many of my extended family still lives there. My brother called me in France from Cape Town to tell me it was going on in real-time, via Reddit, so I got hold of my nephew in Denver who was watching the opening of Batman, but thankfully at a different theater. It’s a connected world.
While living in Colorado I went to a gun range in Montana and played with just about every gun they had including of course a 50 caliber handgun an AR-15 and a fully automatic assault rifle that was similar but older for legal reasons. Then did a gun course later in Colorado. I don’t own any guns.
According to the news an AR-15 assault rifle was used in the Aurora Cinema Shooting on Thursday night along with a shotgun and two handguns. The AR-15 is an M-4 assault rifle used by the US military in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. The main difference is that it is semi-automatic. In other words it can only fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. There are a few hacks available to fix this like bump-firing where you attach a device to the stock that keeps pulling the trigger thanks to the recoil.
I never had much of a point of view on this, but I’m beginning to strongly question why on Earth we need to be able to own AR-15 assault rifles. They tried to ban them in California but there are “California Legal” AR-15’s available. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was another half hearted attempt – the law only banned weapons made after the law passed and it expired in 2004.
The AR-15 is a mean weapon. It fires a .223 round at an extremely high velocity and a single shot to a human can do terrible damage. A single shot to the body can cause brain damage due to hydrostatic shock. Contrary to what they tell you in movies, there is no such thing as a “Flesh wound” and every gunshot wound is serious.
The idea that making the AR-15 semi-automatic somehow makes it safer is absurd. On a course I attended our instructor trained us to fire in bursts of 3 to four which is the only way to stay accurate with an assault rifle. So you’re really just removing 2 to three rounds from each shot and ensuring the shooter maintains the discipline of not holding down the trigger too long.
The AR-15 has a short barrel which makes it useless for hunting, even though a few unsporting folks use it to hunt. It’s designed for close quarters assault style combat. When you hold and point it you are hunched over the weapon in a combat stance designed to minimize recoil, present a small profile and keep you moving aggressively forward. It’s designed to very efficiently kill multiple people in close quarters in a war setting.
Magazine sizes of 60 rounds or more are available from sites like gunbroker.com for the AR-15. Imagine a single AR-15 with three magazines of 20 to 60 rounds. I don’t think “home defense” captures the possible uses for that configuration. [Edit: After writing this article I discovered a 100 round AR-15 magazine was found at the scene in Aurora according to this article.]
The argument for the need to “defend ourselves from the government” is absurd because they already have the tanks and the nukes and they’re not going to let us have any.
The argument for home defense doesn’t hold water either because your AR-15 may be up against another AR-15 or an illegal M-4 or how about 5 guys with assault rifles.
There’s never going to be a scenario where you are “fully equipped” with legal weapons to “take all comers”. So lets stop fantasizing, lets keep weapons for sport legal and stop lying to ourselves that we are somehow empowered because we have an assault weapon stored in the place you will probably be furthest from when the boogie man comes to visit.