No gun is arguably more misunderstood than the AR-15, a type of rifle now synonymous with the term “assault rifle.” In this article, we will set the record about common myths that have developed and persisted surrounding the AR-15 rifle.
AR-15 Myth #1: AR-15s Are ‘Assault Rifles’
That is an incorrect assessment, likely based on the frequent categorization of AR-15s as “assault rifles” by non-gun experts.
Media outlets often use the term “assault rifle” to describe the AR-15, despite the term having no established, universally accepted definition.
In any case, the AR-15 should not rightly be categorized as an “assault rifle” according to generally agreed-upon definitions of “assault rifle.” As CNBC says, “an ‘assault rifle’ is a weapon the military generally uses and has “select fire capabilities,” or the capability to switch between semi-automatic or a fully automatic mode. However, the civilian AR-15s that everyday Americans own do not have the select fire capabilities.”
AR-15 Myth #2: AR-15s Can’t Be Used for Hunting
Many people unfamiliar with how AR-15s perform in the field wrongly believe that these guns cannot be utilized for hunting purposes. Again, this is part of the broader misconception that AR-15s are “assault rifles” only suited for military purposes.
In fact, AR-15s are exceptional guns for hunting, especially if they are outfitted with a high-quality scope, suppressors (not noise is a concern), and other modifications that provide a tactical advantage to hunters.
AR-15 Myth #3: AR-15s Are Disproportionately Used in Mass Shootings
The tragic reality of mass shootings in America has fueled misperceptions about the nature of AR-15 rifles for years. In fact, handguns are by far the most common guns used in mass shootings.
While the destructive power of long-barrel semi-automatic rifles is greater than a handgun, the data shows that AR-15s are not actually the preferred tools of mass shooters.
AR-15 Myth #4: AR-15s Are Automatic Rifles or ‘Machine Guns’
The term “machine gun” is another term popularly applied to the AR-15, AK-47, and other popular guns. Descriptors like these conjure up images of dead bodies killed by the ruthless rhythmic gunfire from a heartless machine.
In reality, automatic weapons in the United States have been illegal for nearly a century. Civilians are not allowed to own “machine guns,” full-stop.
Which brings us back to AR-15 Myth #1: next to having a detachable magazine, another criterion for the actual definition of “assault rifle” is that it can easily switch between automatic to semi-automatic firing modes. AR-15s cannot, and therefore do not belong to the “machine gun” category.
AR-15 Myth #5: AR-15s Have no Practical Purpose
As we mentioned previously, a central argument for banning AR-15s and similar rifles is that they have no practical use (despite the fact that they do, as explained in previous sections).
The reason for this argument is because, legally, if these guns are truly not suited to the needs of the average person, then that could begrounds for banning ownership of them: “In 2008… [Supreme Court] Justice Antonin Scalia used his majority opinion to lay out a threshold for the regulation of firearms, arguing that the government cannot prohibit guns ‘in common use.'”
The self-defense and hunting purposes discussed previously constitute “common uses” of AR-15 weapons and, in turn, justify their ownership by American citizens per the 2nd Amendment.
The debate over AR-15s and similar rifles that Americans use for self-defense, hunting, and recreational shooting will likely not stop anytime soon. Neither, unfortunately, will the misconceptions about these guns that originate from pop culture. The only effective remedy for this issue seems to be vigilance on the part of gunowners to correct the record whenever possible.