Commentary: An AR-15 is not an 'assault rifle'

This mischaracterization is due to fear and no understanding of weapons or ballistics.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) "I believe the 2nd Amendment was made for civilians to have military style rifles in the home," said Austin Skousen, 28, an AR-15 owner and collector of firearms, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Rhetoric claiming that an AR-15 is an assault rifle is an ignorant mischaracterization of the weapon. The fact is, it isn’t a military weapon at all, and cannot be used during U.S. military operations.

Mostly this mischaracterization is due to fear and no understanding of weapons or ballistics, or it comes from a misguided definition of an assault rifle put out by the U.S. Army in the 1990s.

The M16, which the AR-15 resembles, and A4 are not used exclusively to conduct assaults. A soldier standing post with one of these weapons, at a forward operating base, does so as a defensive measure. Soldiers conducting security patrols also employ them for defensive purposes. The list of defensive uses for these weapons can go on and on.

So, too, could the list of offensive operations, to include assaults. Several other weapons are usually employed during both defensive and offensive operations and are valued more, like light and heavy machine guns. I would rather one of my Marines sling his rifle on his back to ensure a machine gun stays in the fight than for him to ignore an idle machine gun in favor of his rifle, because the machine gun is much more effective than a so-called “assault” rifle.

During the Revolutionary War, militia employed the far superior rifled long-rifle over the Continental Army’s smooth bore rifle. These long rifles where used in both offensive and defensive operations. Does this then make them assault rifles? Bolt-action rifles, what many would call hunting rifles, were used in many wars and continue to be used by militaries around the world. Does this make them assault rifles? No, in both cases. An assault is but one facet of the many military operations, therefore labeling a weapon exclusively as an “assault” rifle demonstrates ignorance.

If we truly want to stop mass shootings of innocent people we must look at the people, not the method or tool they use.

Gary Ridgeway killed at least 49 people, with an estimate of over 90, with his bare hands. Ted Bundy confessed to killing 35 and Johan Wayne Gacy confessed to 33, both again with their hands. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured another 680 without a rifle.

These individuals committed mass killings and we blamed them. So why is there such focus on the tool when a mass shooting occurs? Is it because of sensationalism by the media or Hollywood?

A loss of innocent life is a loss of innocent life and that starts with the actions of the person committing the atrocity. The most notorious mass murders in the world didn’t use guns. Labeling a firearm with a scary name and banning it will not stop future mass killings, but it will give rise to black market opportunities for organized crime and turn honest people into criminals.

There is a popular argument that people don’t need an AR-15 to hunt. I can argue that the vast majority of people don’t need a car. We have public transportation. After all “cars,” not the drivers, kill on average 37,000 people a year and disable or injure millions more.

The fact is, “... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” constitutes 10 percemt of the Bill of Rights, the foundation of the United States to ensure individual liberty. How many of us would remove 10 percent from the foundation of our home and expect that it won’t collapse at some point in the future?

Michael Schoenfeld

Michael Schoenfeld, Clearfield, recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel. He served 11 years in the enlisted ranks as an infantryman and another 20 years as an infantry officer.