Gun Control, Aurora, and the AR-15: Factoids and Foolishness

Full discussion of AR-15 rate of fire at bottom.

The Aurora shooting has sparked another round of outrage from gun control advocates, met with return fire from gun rights supporters.

While the gun control side consistently demonstrates its lack of knowledge about firearms, the gun rights side responds ineffectively with anger and unappealing arguments.

Only the police should have guns?

In an effort to bridge the gap, I’d like to address some common misstatements by the anti-gun side without the anger.

Military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 are too dangerous.

This is one of the most common misunderstandings. Here’s a recent bit from a “rant” by Jason Alexander (better known as the actor who played George Costanza – and I’m a huge fan of his acting):

What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes.

Let’s take these one at a time.

Purpose – The AR-15 is known for its long-distance accuracy and is preferred by many marksmen for target shooting competitions. “Military” rifles are necessary for certain events, such as Service Rifle.

Rate of fire – Yes, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. That means it fires one round for each pull of the trigger and reloads itself. It does have a fairly high rate of fire compared to bolt-action rifles. But there are semi-auto hunting rifles such as the Remington 7400 and their rate of fire is not much lower than the AR-15. There are also semi-auto shotguns and, of course, pistols. Revolvers are semi-automatic and have been around for nearly 200 years.

The AR-15′s rate of fire is not nearly as high as some exaggerated numbers I’ve seen. Sustained rate of fire is roughly 12-15 rounds per minute, and that link is for the true military M-16 version. They tend to overheat and/or jam if you shoot too fast. It has been widely reported that the AR-15 jammed in the Aurora incident.

Another common misconception is that the AR-15 is an automatic weapon or machine gun. Automatic weapons continue to fire as long as the trigger is kept pulled. They have been effectively illegal since the 1930s. None of these mass shootings involved automatic weapons. Few in the gun rights community advocate legalizing machine guns.

Payload – The AR-15 generally shoots a .223 caliber bullet, and that is what the Aurora shooter was using. Hunting rifles come in all sorts of calibers. Below is a picture of, from left to right, the 30.06, .308, and the .223:
Picture showing AR-15 ammo is smaller than hunting ammo

The .223 is smaller than the hunting ammo. The AR-15 also typically uses “ball ammo”, which tends to make a narrow hole straight through the target. Hunting ammo is often designed to expand as it goes through the target, causing more damage. So Mr. Alexander is very wrong on this. The AR-15 has a less lethal payload.

For more on this, see new post: Muzzle Energy, Stopping Power and the AR-15

For some reason the AR-15 captivates those who want to ban guns. But in mass shootings like Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, the AR-15 is not the most dangerous firearm.

But weapons experts said that in a closed, crowded setting like a movie theater, any of the weapons could have been extremely deadly, even in the hands of an inexperienced or inaccurate gunman.

If anything, the experts said, a shotgun in that situation might have been the most lethal, since every shell can spray a half-dozen or more pellets, each capable of killing or maiming a person. Twelve-gauge shotguns often fire five shells, and sometimes more, before needing to be reloaded.

“Shotguns are a very good antipersonnel weapon at close range,” said John C. Cerar, the former commander of the firearms and tactics section for the New York Police Department.

That’s not from the NRA, nor any other gun rights group. It’s from the New York Times.

There are other examples of factoids and foolishness. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that police should go on strike until legislatures pass better gun laws, with the attitude:
We’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe.

But no police were shot in Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech or Columbine. So why bring this up in the context of these mass shootings?

Another obsessive point for gun banners is that the Aurora shooter bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition, including 3000 rounds for the AR-15. This is misleading. Shooters buy large quantities of ammunition because we use them in target shooting practice. I once bought 900 rounds from an online vendor. I did this for the same reason people shop at Costco or other wholesale clubs. The cost per round is lower if you buy in quantity.

If you go to the range once a week and shoot 50 rounds each week, that’s 2600 rounds over the course of a year.

Mass shootings make for exciting television. There are far more people killed by less interesting guns in suicides and other circumstances that don’t qualify as national news stories. And of course, many more than that are killed by cars, medical errors, and tobacco.

Jason Alexander also overstated the number of gun deaths:
100,000 Americans … die every year due to domestic gun violence

Sorry Mr. Alexander. There were about 12,000 gun homicides in the US in 2007 per Wikipedia, dropping to 11,000 in 2011 (page 44 of linked pdf from the CDC).

The AR-15 is rarely used in crimes. Hunting rifles, pistols and shotguns are just as deadly, and in situations like these mass shootings often more so. Gun rights advocates may persuade the gullible (including themselves) with false and misleading facts and arguments. But that’s not a sound approach. Let’s get the facts right and have a sensible discussion.

The common thread in these mass shootings is that the perpetrators had severe mental health problems. Perhaps we can all agree to do more about that.

And to answer the comment from Jeremy, down below, the Civil War era Henry Rifle was lever action, and not semi-automatic: The brass framed rifles could fire at a rate of 28 rounds per minute when used correctly.

—–
AR-15 Rate of Fire: The Full Story

In the original post I mentioned that the AR-15′s sustained rate of fire is 12-15 rounds per minute. For some reason the search engine gods decided to bring many of you here for more information on this topic. So …

The official rate of fire specs for the Colt M16 (fully automatic military version of the AR-15) are:

Cyclic: 800 rounds per minute
Sustained: 12-15
Semiautomatic: 45

Since the AR-15 has no full auto or burst settings, it cannot fire as fast as an M16. In particular, the cyclic rate of fire simply doesn’t apply. That measures how fast the mechanism reloads and fires again when the trigger is held down. With an AR-15, the weapon does not fire another round until the trigger is released and pulled again.

The sustained rate, which I mention in the article, takes into account tasks the user must do to continue shooting, including changing magazines, aiming, and letting it cool off.

The semi-automatic rate measures how quickly the rifle can be fired with a minimal level of precision in targeting, but does not account for issues such as cooling or magazine changes. In a sense it’s how quickly the user can pull the trigger and return to some kind of aim after recovering from the recoil (which is not that severe on an AR-15). But it doesn’t account for the problems that can occur if you shoot too fast for too long, such as jamming or overheating. What makes it semi-automatic is how it redirects some of the gases from a shot’s gunpowder to move certain parts of the gun so that another cartridge goes into the chamber. The gases are hot and contain impurities. This heats up the gun and can cause bad consequences like cooking off. The impurities can foul the gun and cause it to jam. We don’t know the full details yet (and may never know) but some reports indicate the Aurora shooter’s AR-15 jammed. Whether that was due to a mechanical problem with the drum, overheating, or fouling. There are different opinions about this but the AR-15 has been criticized as prone to jamming.

Critics go nuts about people shooting hundreds of rounds per minute or buying thousands of rounds of ammunition. This ignores practical limitations. 100 rounds of AR-15 ammo weighs just short of 3 pounds and takes up space. So carrying several hundreds round, along with the necessary magazines or drums, would weigh the user down. And he’d have to find somewhere on his person to put it all.

For a thoughtful discussion not specific to the AR-15, see William Frisbee on Rates of Fire.

59 Comments

  1. Great job Warren… A couple of points to add to the discussion might be that here is no correlation between number of guns circulating in a society and the number of gun homicides. Japan and Switzerland are pretty close in the rankings for this and one (Japan), has pretty much banned all guns and Switzerland issues fully automatic assault rifles with 100 rounds of ammo to every male between 18 and 30 to keep at home.

    Florida criminologist Gary Kleck’s research shows that some 2.5 million violent crimes are prevented each year by armed citizens without a shot being fired. Check him out on Wikipedia.

    Also interesting is that the states that have, in the last decade or so, enacted “shall issue” carry permit laws have not shown any increase in gun violence.

  2. I don’t care that the AR-15 is used for shooting contests. When a gun is used twice for two mass shootings something has to be done about this. So Mr. Redlich, how can you defend this “liberty” in the face of the rights of the victimes of Newtown, CT?

  3. Carl – Should we ban 9mm pistols? They have been used to kill WAY more Americans than any AR-15.

    People are simply ignorant about firearms. I can understand the irrational and emotional reactions to such horrific events… But people should at least educate themselves about guns before arguing over which ones to “control.”

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I find your article misleading.

    The .308 has a commercial velocity of anywhere between 2600 (approx) fps for a 180 gr bullet, to 2800 (approx) for a 150 gr bullet. (slight variables, with different mfg, I’m sure).

    The .30-06 between 2500 fps (220 gr) and 2900 fps (150 gr).

    The .223 (the “civilian” version of the NATO 5.56) has a velocity of between 2700 (approx) fps for a 77 gr bullet, and 3700 (approx) fps for a 36 gr bullet.

    Any forensic pathologist or medical examiner will tell you that VELOCITY KILLS, not necessarily the bullet weight/size/caliber. This higher velocity causes condition called cavitation, where the underlying tissue receives more significant damage. This, along with the fact that the 5.56/.223 actually was designed with a very slight tumbling motion, and the injuries can (and usually are) catastrophic. Compared to the (larger diameter, yet lower velocity) 7.62x39mm (also popular in the US, due to surplus SKS and AK derivatives being sold here), the 5.56/.223 will cause massive tissue damage, where the 7.62×39 has a better shot of causing a clean through and through shot.

    You say “realistically” a shooter will shoot “12-15 rpm”. Do you honestly believe that anyone intent on shooting up a school or theater will be firing THAT conservatively?!?

    As far as the Colorado shooter’s gun jamming… I’ve read, from more than one source, that it was due to the drum magazine he used. Off hand, I cannot remember the brand of it, but (if I recall correctly) it had received a lot of negative reviews in gun forums, for it’s poor feed qualities.

  5. My 2¢. Many AR-15s, depending on their features, were covered by the ’94 Assault Weapons Ban. The Rate of Fire that you cite can be greatly exceeded by many AR-15s sold today.

  6. “Any forensic pathologist or medical examiner will tell you that VELOCITY KILLS, not necessarily the bullet weight/size/caliber.”

    You mean, some random guy named Brian says so. Credibility for such a statement might come with a link to a credible source.

    See, that’s why I put a link to the AR-15′s sustained rate of fire. I didn’t say “realistically”. I said roughly. And I included a link to my source.

    The Colorado shooter’s AR jammed. So he went to his next gun. So what?

  7. Unlike many commenters, Joe is a real person I happen to know and like, even though we might disagree on this issue.

    “Many AR-15s, depending on their features, were covered by the ’94 Assault Weapons Ban.”

    Perhaps, but not the ones used in any of the mass shootings. And the features covered by the AWB (pistol grips, folding stocks, grenade launchers, bayonets, and flash suppressors) have nothing to do with the shootings.

    There may be some ARs that can sustain a higher rate of fire. They’re probably more expensive. Even the bottom end ARs are expensive. Most gun crimes are committed with relatively cheap firearms.

  8. Found this while googling “ar-15 firing rate”. Just one of those ‘gun control liberals’ trying to educate myself. =)

    12-15 rounds *sustained* fire.

    As per the the forum discussion linked below:

    “The owners manual for my Olympic Arms AR15 says that the AR 15 can sustain a rate of fire of only 12 to 15 rounds a minute. It also warns that as few as 140 rounds fired quickly can cause the rifle to “cook off” or fire a round from heat only”

    Sustained fire means shooting mags in quick succession indefinitely. Correct?

    A higher rate than 15RPM will cause the barrel to overheat which causes the potential for cook off rounds and, I suppose, other issues as well.

    The stock mag carries 30 rounds. So you’d have to go through about 5 mags before possibly overheating the barrel.

    So my question is, how quickly could you fire all the rounds in a single mag? There’s no potential to overheat the barrel after just 30 rounds, so how quickly can the gun functionally fire off 30 rounds?

    I’m also attaching a link to a video demonstrating the Bump Fire Stock sold by Slide Fire Solutions ($395 & BATF approved, btw). Attaching this stock to a civilian semi-automatic AR-15 bumps its rate of fire to 900RPM. So, mechanically at least, the gun can be made to empty a 30 round mag in 2 seconds. (Nearly as fast as the Belgian P90, which I’ve seen fired on film sets: pretty awesome!)

    So I guess the question comes down to how quickly a human being can repeatedly pull a trigger on a gun 30 times in a row. I haven’t been able to find an answer to this question yet. Three or four rounds a second, perhaps? More? Will it take longer than 10 seconds to empty a 30 round clip?

    http://www.tngunowners.com/forums/topic/44856-ar-15-sustained-rate-of-fire/
    http://www.ammoland.com/2012/02/28/ridiculously-high-rate-of-fire-civilian-legal-ar-15-rifle/#axzz2FdXoBMKi

  9. Warren, please respond to Patrick’s last question. The question is, what can the weapon do? Can a madman empty 30 rounds into a classroom in 10 seconds? Are these the exaggerated numbers you have seen?

    There are videos on Youtube showing owners firing much more rapidly than 12-15 rounds per minute. Either my eyes deceive me, or you’re trying to.

  10. Brian,

    Go shoot some stuff with a .308(7.62 NATO), a .30-06 and a .223(5.56 NATO), put your own velocity theory to the test and you tell us which does the most damage. The two lower velocity bullets you list will do far more damage. They also have FAR greater range. The slower velocity bullets tend to transfer more energy to the target. If the AR-15 is such a devastating platform built around such a deadly round, wh have our service men complained about it’s performance and ask for higher calibre rifles? Why are they scrambling to get M1s back into service?

    Patrick,

    Sustained rate of fire would be the maximum rate of fire that the firearm can sustain without malfunctioning. Firing off mags indefinitely, one after the other would not be the sustained rate of fire but rather the maximum rate of fire.

  11. Here’s a ballistics chart that shows several .223 rounds, 6.8spc and .308. Look at the difference in muzzle energy. The bigger bullets both have more energy and transfer more of said energy to the target. They are far more devastating. The .30-06 is going to compare similarly to the .308. This chart doesn’t even show the rate that the energies and velocities decline over distance. These are the values at muzzle exit.

    http://www.topnotchtactical.com/content-product_info/product_id-2000/ssa_7_62x51_150_gr_nosler_bonded_ballistic_tip.html

  12. Pro-Gun or anti-gun, you all seem to have one thing in common. You don’t agree on the velocity or actual fire rates but you all agree on the value of human life. That is the fine line that separates us from criminals. I am not generally outspoken on the issue; I carry almost 100% of the time (never openly). I am responsible with my guns and for my guns. If one of my children were to do something stupid with them then they are responsible for their actions but so am I; not the weapons manufacturers.

    I will agree that if we were to do away with ALL weapons there would be much less violence, though, it would not be eradicated. Which of you would volunteer to live in a place where weapons were strictly forbidden (I mean all weapons). Welcome to prison where I can’t imagine I’d feel comfortable at all. Weapons are banned but violence is prevalent because of the criminal element that doesn’t mind taking what is not theirs.

    Criminals, simply put, take what is not their’s to take. They take real property, personal property, freedom, life, and choice. We are negligent in our duties as citizens if we fail to resist this imbalance of power. It is up to each and every one of us to stand up for what is morally right.

    In all fairness, there are radicals in every circle. This gun debate has radicals on both sides. It isn’t uncommon for me to walk into the local gun shop and hear someone ranting about some nonsense- BUT… They respect human life and because they respect it, they don’t want to take it from anyone else and refuse to let anyone take it from them. I also hear people tell me that guns are terrible and how much they don’t want to be around someone with guns; little do they know I am holstering two of them. Perhaps they would feel different if those guns were used to save their life; I certainly hope that doesn’t happen.

    Now hypothetically, if we were all armed (don’t go down the road of logistics) criminals would certainly think twice about committing a crime and taking what is not theirs (remember I am not speaking only in terms of personal property). Would it stop all of them? No! I argue it would stop a lot of them. I think it would also cause some people to act irrationally and do some stupid things, taking their own life or even the life of another that might not have taken the drive to obtain a gun otherwise. Those individuals need help; if they try to take from anyone, they become criminal and should be held accountable. The faster, the better. Society as a whole needs to re-learn the value of morality, human life and doing good.

    When the police arrive at a crime scene they bring with them the tools designed to stop criminal activity; in part, guns. Very few argue that police should relinquish their guns because in the hands of responsible citizens, they save lives.

    That being said, my AR-15 will clear 30 rounds in just under 1 minute with fairly accurate results. It will completely destroy a paper target or anyone that comes to take the lives of my family. My 9mm has a 33 round magazine but isn’t much contested. My backup only carries 11 rounds but if I haven’t stopped a criminal by that time then it may just be my day to go.

  13. None of these mass shootings involved automatic weapons.

    I beg to differ:
    The North Hollywood shootout was an armed confrontation between two heavily armed and armored bank robbers and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in the North Hollywood district of Los Angeles on February 28, 1997. Both robbers were killed, eleven police officers and seven civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and other property were damaged or destroyed by the nearly 2,000 ROUNDS of ammunition fired by the robbers and the police.

    At 9:17 am, Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu entered and robbed the North Hollywood Bank of America branch. Phillips and Mătăsăreanu carried illegally modified FULLY AUTOMATIC AKMs and an AR-15 rifle with high capacity drum magazines and ammunition capable of penetrating police body armor.

    EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE FORGOTTEN THE NORTH HOLLYWOOD SHOOTING!!!

    Okay, technically, this is a bank robbery, not a mass shooting. However, 2000
    rounds of ammo qualifies as a MASS SHOOTING in my book!!!

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE just the same. I was researching rates of fire in the AR-15, and
    your article answered my questions!!! Keep the faith!!!

  14. I found this article trying to find out how really more deadly an AR-15 is than a pistol in close quarters combat. In my searches, I have found two definitions of “sustained rate of fire.”(SEE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rate_of_fire) The first definition is how many rounds per minute a weapon can reliably fire (as Patrick pointed out, there are concerns such as overheating.) Sometimes the sustained rate is confused with the cyclic rate or absolute fastest rate the weapon can fire. Clearly, if you have two numbers, you know which is the fastest possible rate.

    I don’t really care about those rates, however. I want to know how many shots a trained gunman can take lethal aim at different people and fire per minute. It seems to me that this rate would be very similar in a pistol or AR-15, but I can’t seem to find any information on this. I am sure distance, whether the target is moving, and what kind of confined space the crowd is in are mitigating factors. Another strategy could be spray and pray into a crowd, what kind of lethality results? I’m thinking something like an analysis of kill shots per minute and maiming shots per minute by different firing modalities. The reason I am curious about this is that I’m not convinced regulating large clips is going to make much of a difference. Reloading takes what? 2 seconds? If you are aiming and shooting at a target every 5 seconds, the reload won’t be a mitigating factor, regardless of semi-automatic weapon chosen.

    Surely someone has done simulation work on this for the government, at least in a military context.

  15. Warren, how about you be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. if you want people to take you seriously then lower the vitriol, hyperbole and stop acting so smarmy. going to the shooting range doesn’t make you an expert on gun violence anymore than me getting a hole in one makes me an expert on golf. this is a serious problem that requires a serious debate. stop lumping every liberal into same pile, you sound as foolish as Alex Jones.

    in order to become a policeman, you have to go through an intense training process to see if you’re responsible enough to even carry a gun. it’s the same if you want to be in the military. if you want to drive a motorcycle or a truck you have to take written and driving tests. in order to purchase guns and as much ammo as you want in most states, you have to have the ability to say “I would like to purchase these.”.

    I could care less if people own guns, what I care about is the process that it takes to purchase guns and ammo. the Virginia Tech shooter had a long documented case of mental illness and had absolutely zero difficulty acquiring guns and ammo.

    the real tragedy in all of this, is that we can’t even have a simple debate without extremism taking a stranglehold on the outcome.

  16. @michael – Was this comment in response to another post? I don’t talk about liberals in this one.

    “if you want people to take you seriously then lower the vitriol, hyperbole and stop acting so smarmy”

    You want to talk about issues, facts and policy, or just call me names?

    “in order to become a policeman, you have to go through an intense training process to see if you’re responsible enough to even carry a gun.”

    The police training process is not that intense, nor does it ensure that police are responsible. There are far too many examples otherwise. Like the case I got dismissed because the cop had been fired for shooting out street lights and was no longer available to testify. Or the trial I won where the cop testified he got my client to the police station a half-hour before arresting him. The jury did get quite a laugh out of that one.

    “if you want to drive a motorcycle or a truck you have to take written and driving tests.”

    Not if you only drive on private property.

    “the Virginia Tech shooter had a long documented case of mental illness and had absolutely zero difficulty acquiring guns and ammo.”

    Criminals have little difficulty acquiring guns, regardless of the process. They don’t bother following the law. Restrictions on gun and ammo sales only affect law-abiding citizens.

    “we can’t even have a simple debate without extremism taking a stranglehold on the outcome.”

    Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Are you equally offended by all the extremists in the ACLU who vigorously defend the First Amendment right to free speech and a free press?

  17. they keep asking why should we have an ar15? what do you need an ar15 for? so when a drunk driver takes out a group of kids with his mustang should we ban all mustang’s? after all do you really need that type of car? no you go after its driver. the one who did it. not the bar he was drinking at. not the beer company he was drinking. but the sole person who caused it. people have to get all the facts just because the news only wants to broadcast bad news about guns. that doesnt mean that there hasnt been gun shootings that saved lives. they have national statistics that show percentages of gun violance. only they dont tell you that in most cases some of those shootings were in defence. in some cities it is illeagal for you to defend your life with a gun. yeah you like that one. you are not leagaly allowed to defend your families lives. so you call police and wait in closet while the intruders rape and kill your family. then the intruders go to jail and hang out with their friends and you sit at home alone shell shocked wishing you had done something. the ar15 sporting rifle is not an assault rifle. assault rifles are capable of select fire. for the uneducated anti gun activist select fire means (safe) semi-auto one shot at a time and full auto 3 or more shots at a time. price differance ar15 sporting rifle 750.00 real assault rifle m4 or m16 18,000.00. they may look alike but they are very different. to own a m4 or m16 you must submit an application to the atf wich takes weeks to process. then you pay a tax stamp and are registered with the atf. sounds strict enough to me.

  18. From nicolas eyle:

    “A couple of points to add to the discussion might be that here is no correlation between number of guns circulating in a society and the number of gun homicides. Japan and Switzerland are pretty close in the rankings for this and one (Japan), has pretty much banned all guns and Switzerland issues fully automatic assault rifles with 100 rounds of ammo to every male between 18 and 30 to keep at home.”

    I agree there is no inherent link between the number of guns circulating in a society and the corresponding number of gun homicides, because gun homicides simply require an individual’s choice to kill, and such a choice is independent of the number of guns in any individual’s society, and instead dependent upon extremely complex brains experiencing something new all the time. However, I don’t think that’s reason to not have concern for how many guns are in any given society.

    According to google.com/publicdata, in 2011 Switzerland had a population of 7,907,000, Japan had a population of 127,817,277. According to gunpolicy.org, in 2007, Swiss civilians had 3,400,000 guns while Japanese civilians had 710,000 guns. So in 2011, IF those gun numbers remained constant, Japan would have had 16 times the population that Switzerland did, but its civilian populous would have had little more than 1/5th the amount of guns the Swiss civilian populous did. Every individual added to a population increases the complexity required for maintaining awareness within a population, and creates another individual that can choose to kill, steal a gun, deceive others, etc. Similarly, every added gun within a population increases the complexity required for maintaining awareness of guns’ locations, use, sales, etc. That Japanese and Swiss gun homicide numbers are as close as they are while their populations and gun numbers are so disproportionately different might say something about the difference in culture between the two places, even though it can’t possibly portray a direct link between gun numbers and gun homicide numbers.

    Now according to the same sources, our own (US) civilian populous numbered 311,591,917 in 2011 and held an estimated 270,000,000 guns in 2007. I imagine everyone on this site is aware that the US civilian gun number has increased since then, but again, IF the 2007 number remained constant, America in 2011 would have had 39 times the population of Switzerland, 2.4 times the population of Japan, 79 times the number of Swiss civilian guns, and 380 times the number of Japanese civilian guns. For simplicity’s sake, if we pretend that Swiss and Japanese gun homicides numbered much higher than has been common in the last decade and reached 100 in 2011, the US would have still had 110 times as many gun homicides that year according to the 11,000 provided by the CDC as shared by warren.

    So again, gun numbers are inherently independent of gun homicides due to the fact that choices to commit homicide are independent of gun numbers. But…it appears to me that in our population there are simply many individuals who either already have preexisting intent to kill or who lack mental barriers that would prevent them from killing if altercations escalated to such a point, and thus appears to me that gun numbers in our population with its current circumstances DO have a correlation to our gun homicides.

    I once used to say that if guns were made illegal, criminals would simply acquire guns through illegal means. I was at least a decade younger then (which is much given my still young age), and didn’t realize I said such things out of my emotional bias prompting me to defend my gun rights, and thus I remained ignorant to the fact that those same criminals could maybe more easily acquire legal guns, especially given that legal guns are easier to manufacture and sell in high numbers. I still don’t believe in limiting one person’s freedom to use guns because some people use guns to kill others, but I have personally been glad to let go of guns that I might do my part to change the culture that’s killing so many, and hope some day others might choose to do the same, or at least something else that might reduce the number of gun homicides.

    From Jim Miniscus:

    “Should we ban 9mm pistols? They have been used to kill WAY more Americans than any AR-15.”

    Correct, you are. Pistols are the leading killer according to all sources I’ve come across. I don’t believe in government as a solution to anything, so wouldn’t act to propose any ban on 9mm pistols and semi-automatic firearms of any type, and instead would prefer that people out of their own will give them up, but I also would not oppose such a ban if anyone proposed it.

    Charles, I very much appreciate your post and the apparent effort you’ve made to think of things from as many angles as you could.

    From warren:

    “North Hollywood is a great example. The criminals used illegal guns. So California banned legal guns.”

    All the information I’ve come across so far says the guns involved were illegally modified to be automatic, but I haven’t been able to figure out their pre-modified legality, or even their current unmodified legality. Can anyone inform me of their past and current unmodified legality?

    “Not if you only drive on private property.”

    That’s because driving on public property is legal regardless of whether or not you hold a driver’s license, am I wrong? Firearms are obviously different, though. As far as I understand it, possessing firearms on your own private property is no more legal than possessing them on public property if you haven’t gone through the required legal channels to be approved for firearm ownership.

    “The police training process is not that intense, nor does it ensure that police are responsible.”

    That may be so in many or most places, but I don’t think that negates michael’s point that stricter requirements for gun ownership might help prevent firearm homicides or even unintentional killings resulting from escalating altercations. Furthermore, even if police training doesn’t ensure police be responsible, does that change the fact that we WANT to ensure they be responsible? I don’t think so, and for that reason I also wonder why many of us don’t have the same expectations for ourselves and other citizens who wish to own firearms as we do for police officers who use them.

    “Restrictions on gun and ammo sales only affect law-abiding citizens.”

    I once thought that, too, but no longer do. As I’ve come to understand things, Federal Firearms Licensees have in various years trafficked the largest portion of traced criminal guns in the US. Given that, I think it’s quite possible that weapon legality, which influences weapon demand and subsequently weapon production and distribution, does affect law-abiding citizens, especially those who get shot by the criminals that illegally purchase legal guns and ammo.

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

    What if extremism defends liberty by trampling on somebody else’s liberty? “Extremism” is a relative concept, as is that of a “vice”. Anyway, I can’t speak for michael, but I think the “extremism” he was referencing was that relating to opinions which can skew our understanding of facts. I’d rather nothing I value be defended with that sort of “extremism”.

    “Are you equally offended by all the extremists in the ACLU who vigorously defend the First Amendment right to free speech and a free press?”

    Again, I can’t speak for michael, but my perspective is that it’s easier for many people to identify with “extremists” who defend the First Amendment right to free speech and free press than it is for them to identify with “extremists” who defend the Second Amendment right to bare arms for at least a couple reasons. One is that the perception of speech and press can’t possibly kill somebody, unlike a bullet that’s been fired from a firearm, even if the bullet was fired by someone in response to their own perception of something that’s been published. Another reason is that arms can’t inform us of government scandals, weather forecasts, social events, disease outbreaks, etc. Free speech and press simply serve vastly different physical functions than do arms.

    “Patrick’s links speak for themselves. My source speaks for itself. I don’t claim to be an expert.”

    But it does seem you cited the AR-15′s fire rate as evidence that believing military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 are too dangerous constitutes misconception. If that was indeed your intent in citing the fire rate, and you had any notion that it could shoot faster, then I’d wonder if your intention behind citing the fire rate actually wasn’t solely to dispel the proposed misconception, regardless of the fact that you said “roughly”.

    Further, “too dangerous” is another relative concept, and subject to opinion. My opinion is that due to the potential threat that any fired bullet can pose to vital internal organs, any functioning and loaded firearm is “too dangerous” for targeted individuals when used for murderous intent (after all, even soldiers wear body armor and hide behind defenses when engaged in battle), and firearms with larger and/or higher velocity rounds can simply compound the threat given the right circumstances.

    If from this point on nobody ever had murderous or even injury-inflicting intent, no firearms ever malfunctioned, everybody always made sure their line of fire was clear of people before shooting, and no rounds were ever left in unattended guns’ chambers, then no firearm would ever be “too dangerous” for anybody. But these conditions have obviously just not been the historical case, and I currently have no reason to believe they ever will be, so I think it’s rather pointless for us to argue about the difference between firearms’ rounds, fire rates, ranges, and (manufacturers’ intended) purposes in the context of determining the threat they pose to public safety when in the hands of criminals, because any one can potentially be a tool for murder. I don’t think anybody here would disagree that any firearm in the hand of an assailant in a primary school full of unarmed children is a firearm that’s “too dangerous”. Likewise, I don’t think any of us would disagree that even a .50 caliber sniper rifle isn’t “too dangerous” when functioning as intended by the manufacturers and being shot only in the direction of inanimate targets.

    I think that if we accept any number of innocent victims’ deaths by a particular weapon as evidence that the weapon isn’t “too dangerous”, then our minds are already in the wrong direction for protecting potential innocent victims.

    From nick:

    “so when a drunk driver takes out a group of kids with his mustang should we ban all mustang’s? after all do you really need that type of car? no you go after its driver. the one who did it. not the bar he was drinking at. not the beer company he was drinking. but the sole person who caused it.”

    Okay, let’s apply that thinking to something a little more lethal. Let’s pretend for a moment that nuclear bombs are legal, and that somebody drops a nuclear bomb on a group of kids. Would you say go after the person who dropped the bomb, but don’t even think about banning civilian use of the bomb? Hell, go ahead and tone things down by imagining the scenario with a rocket launcher rather than a nuclear bomb, and ask yourself the same question.

    People are talking about treating guns differently than Mustangs, because there’s a difference between the threats guns and automobiles can pose. An individual would struggle to drive a Mustang through school hallways in pursuit of children, or to hole himself up somewhere to avoid capture by police and run over people with his Mustang while hiding, or to confiscate the murder weapon (his Mustang) after running over multiple people so that he could escape forensic efforts. Similarly, many objects that would divert an automobile’s trajectory around an individual might not divert that of a bullet. And while some people can sidestep (siderun might be more accurate to say) a pursuing automobile, I don’t think anybody can sidestep an incoming bullet. Also, while an automobile severely injures a body, upon impact a body might roll around it or get shoved away from its course, or something like that, but there’s no such chance with a bullet, as a bullet upon impact will, of course, enter the body. I imagine anybody could think of other reasons to treat automobiles and guns differently.

    “people have to get all the facts just because the news only wants to broadcast bad news about guns.”

    Do you really believe that news broadcasts ONLY want to broadcast bad news about guns? I think broadcasts involving positive things about guns prove otherwise.

    “only they dont tell you that in most cases some of those shootings were in defence.”

    Is it in most cases or some cases? My understanding is that most gun deaths are that of suicides.

    “the ar15 sporting rifle is not an assault rifle. assault rifles are capable of select fire.”

    You’re correct, but I hope you won’t be too hard on the unaware. I think that for many people, their strongest association with assault anything comes from the 1994 US Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which, of course, declared some rifles that don’t have select fire capability to be “assault weapons”, so being far from immersed in gun culture, the unaware might not even notice a difference when somebody says “assault rifle” instead. Sure, we could scoff at that, but because we can’t possibly be aware of everything, we’re all ignorant to something, so I propose we just continue to kindly share our knowledge with them instead.

  19. The numbers vary but it seems we have over 300 million guns in the United States…

    So if guns are the problem, shouldn’t there be a lot more bodies lying in the streets?

  20. Steve, if that response is directed to me, I wasn’t implying guns are “the problem”, so I’d ask that you please think a bit more about how gun numbers might exacerbate “the problem”, anyway. If you weren’t directing that to me, then I apologize for presuming you were.

  21. @Caleb
    ““Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

    What if extremism defends liberty by trampling on somebody else’s liberty?”

    It doesn’t.

    “But it does seem you cited the AR-15′s fire rate as evidence that believing military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 are too dangerous constitutes misconception. If that was indeed your intent in citing the fire rate, and you had any notion that it could shoot faster, then I’d wonder if your intention behind citing the fire rate actually wasn’t solely to dispel the proposed misconception, regardless of the fact that you said “roughly”.”

    Misconception? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    “any notion that it could shoot faster”

    I was clear in citing the “sustained” rate of fire. Of course it can shoot faster for a short time. But as I said, if you shoot too fast for too long, it’ll jam. As it did in Aurora after 30 shots.

    “My opinion is that due to the potential threat that any fired bullet can pose to vital internal organs, any functioning and loaded firearm is “too dangerous””

    Aha! So now we’re clear. Cloaked in endless paragraphs of drivel in this comment and on your comment on another post, we see your real view. Caleb wants to ban all guns.

    Nice try on all the BS in your comments, but you managed to out yourself despite trying to be cute.

    “Let’s pretend for a moment that nuclear bombs are legal, and that somebody drops a nuclear bomb on a group of kids.”

    I’ve got a better analogy. Let’s pretend that black holes are legal, and somebody drops a black hole on a group of kids.

    Oh, but wait, that’s ridiculous.

    “An individual would struggle to drive a Mustang through school hallways in pursuit of children”

    My brain is starting to hurt in the effort to comprehend how moronic your analysis is getting.

    “Do you really believe that news broadcasts ONLY want to broadcast bad news about guns? I think broadcasts involving positive things about guns prove otherwise.”

    Apparently Caleb watches Al-Jazeera report gleefully on Arabs killing Jews with guns and sees that as good news.

  22. Warren, I exert much effort to state things as explicitly and literally as I possibly can, so I ask that you please don’t, from my stated words, extrapolate and assume to be true things that I haven’t explicitly and literally stated. I understand how one could come to the conclusions about me that you have, but I would appreciate you asking me if those conclusions are true, or at least incorporating into your language acknowledgement that those things are uninformed assumptions on your part.

    I have tried only to extend that courtesy to you. A little respect in return is all I ask for. Thank you.

    “It doesn’t.”

    If I’m to judge you by this answer, I’m to believe you misunderstood my question. I was proposing a hypothetical situation in my question rather than questioning a situation that has occurred or is occurring. I meant the question only to encourage contemplation for everyone about the term “extremism”. I apologize if you found the question to be offensive.

    “Misconception? I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    When you profess to have some understanding of what I think, could you please expound by explaining what you believe I think and how you came to believe what I think?

    When I wrote that, I only thought “misconception” meant believing something false to be true.

    “I was clear in citing the “sustained” rate of fire. Of course it can shoot faster for a short time. But as I said, if you shoot too fast for too long, it’ll jam. As it did in Aurora after 30 shots.”

    Yes, I was aware you were clear in stating that, otherwise I would have objected to your saying that your links speak for themselves.

    Yeah, the gun can jam if it shoots too fast for too long, but just how fast is “too fast”, and how long is “too long”? Information on Patrick’s linked pages suggest “too fast” and “too long” are actually higher than the “sustained” fire rate you cited.

    So like I said before, if you were citing that “sustained” fire rate as reason that the AR-15 is not “too dangerous”, then anyone who questions your motives for citing that rate is not being unreasonable given that a quick Google search could have provided you with suggestions that the AR-15 is “more dangerous” than you indirectly professed by citing the “sustained” rate.

    “Aha! So now we’re clear. Cloaked in endless paragraphs of drivel in this comment and on your comment on another post, we see your real view. Caleb wants to ban all guns.”

    You are mistaken. Like I said, I try to state my thoughts as explicitly and literally as I possibly can. I don’t believe in keeping secrets. I made no effort to cloak anything.

    If I wanted to ban all guns, I would have just said that, but like I said before, I would not propose a ban on any gun, even though I wouldn’t oppose one, either. There’s a differenc there, just as acknowledging the potential danger all guns carry is different from saying I want to ban all guns. If you look down upon anyone for their ignorance to gun minutiae, why do you not look down upon yourself for your ignorance to what I say? I was only speaking to your claim about the AR-15 not being “too dangerous”, which is a matter of opinion, and I spoke to it by sharing my opinion.

    “Nice try on all the BS in your comments, but you managed to out yourself despite trying to be cute.”

    I don’t believe anyone’s opinion can be “BS”, but I do believe claims can be “BS” – as in, untrue. If you believe something I claim is untrue, then say that and explain why it’s untrue rather than just call it “BS”. We can educate ourselves more by expounding on thoughts than we can by negatively characterizing thoughts.

    “I’ve got a better analogy. Let’s pretend that black holes are legal, and somebody drops a black hole on a group of kids.”

    I don’t think that’s a “better” analogy, and actually think it’s an irrelevant analogy, because a black hole is something that currently cannot be controlled by any human being. Anybody who intends to murder with a black hole will find he cannot.

    “My brain is starting to hurt in the effort to comprehend how moronic your analysis is getting.”

    When somebody tries to draw parallels between a Mustang and a gun, such as nick did, my obvious point about the limitations of a Mustang in a school hallway is quite relevant to pointing out how his analogy was inaccurate. If you think that’s moronic, then I’d ask that you please provide your definition of what constitutes a moron.

    “Apparently Caleb watches Al-Jazeera report gleefully on Arabs killing Jews with guns and sees that as good news.”

    What made that “apparent” do you? I actually don’t make any proactive effort to watch any news, and the last time I saw any Al-Jazeera news was in print on the internet about four years ago. Furthermore, I’ve made it quite clear that anybody being murdered by gun is not something I would be happy about, so please don’t ever again try to say I would consider any murder by gun to be “good” news.

  23. ““Misconception? I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    When you profess to have some understanding of what I think, could you please expound by explaining what you believe I think and how you came to believe what I think?”

    You need to see the movie The Princess Bride.

    “If I wanted to ban all guns, I would have just said that”

    No, you wouldn’t. That’s one of the gun banners’ little tricks. We’re on to you Caleb.

    Be careful. I hear South Dakota’s considering banning BMX bikes.

  24. It’s been a while, but I’m seen The Princess Bride many times. What exactly is it you want me to take from it? If you won’t even provide that information, then how do you dare question my integrity with a clear conscience? Telling me to watch a movie to understand your point at first thought seems rather underhanded.

    Okay, you got me, I am Caleb from South Dakota, and I once used to love riding my bmx bicycle. However, that’s hardly relevant. I haven’t ridden my bmx bike since last May, and before that I hadn’t ridden it since the previous November. The bmx bike is hardly a part of my life, anymore.

    Honestly, I tell you that if I wanted to ban guns, I would say so. I even said, before you started accusing me of anything, that I don’t perceive government as the answer to anything. If you don’t believe I am honest about my perspective on any gun ban, then just what about me are you onto that says otherwise? I’m not involved politically in anything aside from the occasional online commenting like this, and I have no interest in forcing people to make any particular decision.

    I asked once for respect and courtesy as I have shown you. That you haven’t changed your approach in response, says something about your mentality, I think.

  25. My perspective on funny is that we’re all funny, just to certain people and at certain times. Your humor was lost upon me, but I have long chosen not to be humorous when discussing matters of potential deaths, so I instinctively didn’t consider humor on your part, and for that I’m sorry.

    As for the reference, my take was that you were talking about the poison part – one I’m quite fond of, and one which I have no reason to believe the contained concepts are lost upon me.

  26. Ha! I finally remembered that what you wrote about misconception is a direct quote from the movie. If I hadn’t spent so many of my years contemplating language, maybe I would have recognized it as a quote right away.

  27. Carl= Let’s ban alcohol, as it is responsible for far more deaths than guns. Better yet, lets just ban people.

  28. All this talk about “criminals” is absurd. It’s like being a small child afraid of the dark or the monster under the bed. In adults it’s called paranoia. I once owned a pistol and imagined that I was “protecting my family,” but came to realize that it was just a feel good “make believe” superhero fantasy. Don’t get me wrong – bad things do happen, sharks bite people, cars and planes crash into houses, people get shot, but the odds are that those events will never happen to you and your family. More than half of all suicides are gun related and many spouses, children and other relatives are killed by “responsible, law abiding” gun owners who suddenly went berserk. So why increase the odds by having guns easily available? I’m not against owning guns for hunting and sport shooting, but who needs large capacity magazines, cop killer bullets, concealed carry and “stand your ground” laws and unregulated gun sales?

    If the NRA was truly responsible, it would be in favor of strict regulations, but instead it feeds our irrational fears with outrageous propaganda. The government is not taking away our guns, you are not defending our country against the Commies, violent criminals are not an ever present danger and you certainly are not defending the Constitution by trampling on our free speech rights (FL passed an NRA supported law making it illegal ($5000 fine) for a doctor concerned about a child’s safety to even ask a parent if there were guns in the home.) The courts killed that absurdity, but not laws in several states that prohibit communities from passing gun control laws. We all need to address our problems rationally and the time to start is now.

  29. “who needs large capacity magazines, cop killer bullets, concealed carry and “stand your ground” laws and unregulated gun sales?”

    Your language reflects your bias. So-called cop killer bullets are a fiction of gun banners.

    As for the other features, let us know when the military, police and Secret Service stop using large capacity magazines and concealed carry. Unregulated gun sales? That seems to be ATF’s specialty.

    No one is trampling on free speech rights. If regulating medicine is a First Amendment issue, then you should be talking to your buddy Obama about his health care package.

  30. Warren,

    I think your article was well written. Frankly, if i supported gun control, I would be more Pissed at Dianne Feinstein, Barack Obama, and everyone else who supports “military style” “assault” weapons than I am as a gun rights supporter. The Feinstein ban does nothing except ban adjustable/removable stocks, suppressors, pistol grips and flash hiders, larger capacity magazines, and barrel shrouds. If the ban passes, all gun makers have to do is remove those features and change the name and they will have a legal gun. Criminals will most likely 3d print high capacity mags if they feel the need to use them. Nothing in the bill makes the gun less dangerous than they already are. And, with more mag changes, the rate of fire may decrease slightly, but they might also be snow to sustain for longer because of the extra time for the gun to cool during changes.they The bill is totally disingenuous. If they really believed gun control worked, they would be trying to ban pretty much everything. I welcome that fight.

  31. Yes, some guns are banned by name, but is it really that hard for the manufacturers to remove the features and change the name?

  32. Warren, nice article. I wish, however, you would show more respect in your comments for people debating your points. It does you no favors to an independent reader when you are disrespectful to those trying to have a rational discussion.

  33. Warren, in your opinion, what are the most lethal legal guns made today and what add-on equipment can make them even more lethal?

  34. It’s not that simple. Shotguns are generally the most lethal at close range. Rifles tend to be the most lethal at distances over 100 yards. For longer distances velocity becomes more important than bullet mass.

    A 30-06 is particularly damaging to larger targets but overkill if you’re shooting varmints.

    Enhancements vary depending on the situation. For nighttime, an ACOG scope is very important, but absurdly expensive.

    There are so many situations that its impossible to give a simple answer.

  35. If you wanted to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time as Gayle Trotter was referring to in the hearings today when she talked about the woman protecting her kids, what would be the best buy, gun and add-on?

  36. Ok, let’s say I have 5 large men break into my house and I want to defend myself. What gun is going to be most efficient– spray the most bullets in the shortest amount of time and there be no possibility of them surviving?

  37. Most people I talk to favor a shotgun for home defense. But ask 5 different people and you might get 5 different answers. Maybe 10.

    However, a shotgun might not be right for you. They are very powerful, with roughly 3 times the muzzle energy of an AR-15. And that means they also have roughly 3 times the recoil. I was at the range today and a friend who is very experienced with guns was clearly uncomfortable with the recoil of the shotgun he was trying out.

    For more on this specific issue, please see my more recent blog post on muzzle energy.

    You should also keep in mind the issue of where you will store your firearm. All guns should be stored securely, especially if you have kids living in your house.

    Handguns are less powerful, but can be kept in fairly small and less expensive safes, and they might be easier to get to when an incident occurs. This goes on the theory that the best gun is the one you have handy. For similar reasons, most pictures are now taken on cell phone cameras even though there are much better cameras out there. I have a really nice camera with 12 megapixels and 18x optical zoom, but I never use it because I have my iPhone with me all the time, and it’s good enough.

    If someone breaks into your house while your $2000 shotgun is in the gun safe, it won’t be that much help if you can’t get to it in time. The $300 handgun you have in your pocket/pocketbook is now much more useful than the shotgun even though it’s far less powerful.

  38. Warren you are correct on alot of the things you mention. As a hunter the last thing to go in the woods would be a .223. I have a legal short barreled shotgun for protection in my house so that my wife would not miss if ( God forbid she had to use it). People can also find any info they want if that is what they are looking for. OH I hunt with a 300 ultra mag. For the other people they should look up the distance and speed and damage that gun can do. There is a reason that cops have different guns also (pistols, shotguns, and .223) There is a difference on when you would want to use them.

  39. yes it is a quick way to take a a step back. To the point though there is guns like the 30-06 , 308, and 300 ultra mags that are used for hunting big game animals. ( I got a moose in New Foundland with mine and my dad used a 308) however a .223 would not stand a chance with big game. The AR’s are becoming popular for some smaller game only in certain states. I do have a AR myself and I can tell you first hand that they are not that accurate when trying to fire fast. I have grown up in a area were guns are part of peoples lives and are taught to respect them as a weapon, that does not mean that there are not crazy people out there who would do evil things with them. That is the main reason I have some for protection as well. And in the end how many crime are reported with this type of gun, NOT many

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