Weapons of war

12Feb13

I have a message for my pro-2nd Amendment friends: guys, we don’t have to pretend our ARs aren’t military weapons.

One topic central to the gun control debate is whether or not AR-type rifles are “weapons of war” with no purpose in civilian hands. The anti-gun side points out the obvious similarities between an AR-15 and an M-16, and insists citizens have no right or reason to own either one. Gun rights advocates stress an AR’s inability to fire on full automatic and insist that makes them wholly unsuitable for military service.

In my experience, the anti-gun side typically engages in more snarky, insulting rhetoric than the pro-gun side does. Gun control advocates call gun owners stupid, say we’re all paranoid, and accuse us of being violent hicks (or even worse, say we own guns to compensate for our [gasp!] small penises). But that reverses when the question of whether or not “assault rifles” are military weapons arises. Then we gun owners become the snarky, insulting ones.

Last week I watched an interview with a gun rights advocate on Fox News. He insisted that an AR has almost nothing in common with a military rifle because it’s not fully automatic. He laughed at Megyn Kelly’s suggestion that they were almost the same, and claimed nobody he knew in the military would ever carry an AR in combat.

I call BS on that one. I carried a semiauto-only M14 in Afghanistan as my primary weapon. I’ve fired my personal AR in a military marksmanship and close quarters combat competition, against other shooters with issued M4 carbines. I’ve trained with my personal AR at close and medium range targets, against moving targets, and against multiple targets. The entire reason I bought an AR was because it’s a military weapon. I wanted to train with almost the same weapon I might carry in combat. If I was downrange and armed with my personal AR instead of an issued weapon, I wouldn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable with it.

When someone says, “But the AR isn’t fully automatic,” I respond, “So what?” In a rifle, full auto fire has limited tactical worth. It’s not often that we fire our weapons on burst (currently issued M16s and M4s fire 3 round burst, not full auto) because it’s inaccurate and burns a lot of ammo. We emphasize carefully aimed fire, not “spray and pray” like the Taliban. We often make fun of our enemies, and sometimes our allies, because of their tendency to dump rounds on full auto every time they pull a trigger. A fully automatic rifle certainly can be a useful tool, but isn’t a drop-dead necessity in combat. And among poorly supplied fighters, it quickly depletes meager stocks of ammo.

As far as I’m concerned, ARs are for all practical purposes military weapons. But before any of my gun-rights brothers accuse me of betraying the cause, let me follow up with this statement: there’s nothing wrong with the fact that they’re military weapons. It’s a good thing.

Despite what the Huffington Post or Mother Jones publishes, the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting or sport shooting. It’s about the citizens’ right to resist tyranny. About 5 seconds of Googling turns up this quote, among many others, on Wikipedia:

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.” -Noah Webster (writing under the nom de plume of “A Citizen of America”), An Examination Into the Leading Principles of the Constitution (October 17, 1787)

Noah Webster and his fellow founding fathers wanted us to be armed in order to resist government tyranny should the need arise. Therefore, it follows that we have the right to possess weapons capable of resisting tyrannical government forces. An AR gives the citizen that capability.

Anti-gun people typically say at this point, “You think you can fight the government? Well then you’d have to own tanks, airplanes, machine guns and nuclear bombs. If you just had rifles, you wouldn’t have a chance.”

No we don’t need to own tanks, fighter planes and nuclear weapons, and yes we would have a chance. Insurgents who are often armed only with AKs have been giving us a pretty good fight for more than ten years. Even with our overwhelming air and indirect fire assets, we haven’t rolled over the Taliban. They operate among the population, travel light, strike quickly and melt away, just like rebels in America would. Air strikes and artillery don’t do much good if you can’t figure out where to put them.

Those who insist Americans armed only with rifles would be helpless against a professional military consistently ignore the lengths our military goes to in order to avoid civilian casualties. Whenever someone in the anti-gun camp insists our military would respond to a single rifle shot with a brutal onslaught of weaponry, I remind them we don’t even do that overseas. I’ve been in a couple of firefights where the Taliban were shooting from houses, and we couldn’t use supporting arms to hit those houses. In Afghanistan, and here, killing civilians only strengthens resistance against us. We tried to avoid killing civilians from another culture in another country, so why does anyone think our military wouldn’t care about civilian casualties in America?

Besides that, rebels or insurgents in any conflict don’t always have to win. Sometimes they just have to delay or inhibit government forces. Sometimes they only have to make a point.

I’ve read a lot of comments and articles from the anti-gun side, and I’m fairly certain the next comment coming from many of their mouths is, “This guy is a paranoid psycho who thinks the government is coming for his guns.” No, I’m not. As a cop, I know better than most how impossible that would be. I don’t accuse the current administration of tyranny and have never referred to our President as a tyrant. A review of my blog posts will prove that. I think many on the pro-gun side are too quick to throw out words like “dictatorship”. Our government is far from becoming a dictatorship.

An unknown, very intelligent man said we can resist tyranny with the soap box, ballot box and ammo box. We’re nowhere near the ammo box, and I can’t see us reaching for it for in my lifetime. But I understand the Bill of Rights wasn’t written only for the 1700s, or only the 1800s, or 1900s, or 2013. It was written to address immutable human nature. Noah Webster and his friends knew that once humans have power, there is always a danger that they’ll abuse or illegally expand that power.

“Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” -Tench Coxe, Federal Gazette, June 18,1789, A friend of James Madison, writing in support of the Madison’s first draft of the Bill of Rights

We Americans have a right and duty to resist tyranny, should it arise. We keep military weapons in order prevent our government from becoming tyrannical, and to fight back if it does. Those who wish to remove military weapons from our hands, on the pretext that “you don’t need them for hunting or home defense”, are woefully ignorant of the basis for the 2nd Amendment. Or more likely, they think the 2nd Amendment is stupid and obsolete, and maybe even wish for total gun confiscations but know better than to admit it publicly. Either way, they’re no friend to our freedom.

If someone angrily tells one of my pro-2nd Amendment friends that an AR is a “weapon of war”, I’d ask them to proudly respond, “You’re damn right it is.” When law-abiding, sensible citizens buy and shoot ARs and AKs, they’re not presenting a threat to the public or to the government. They’re exercising their rights exactly as Noah Webster and Tenche Cox hoped they would.

That’s not something we should be ashamed of.



37 Responses to “Weapons of war”

  1. 1 PB

    Great perspective Chris. I had not thought of the debate in these terms before. Far too often, I think that gun owners filter or mute what we really want to say, as if our message will be better received.
    Your post illustrates that gun owners are at odds with gun grabbers, and as such, our dialogue should be unambiguous.
    For the record, I love my AR because it gives me the same ‘feel-good’, feeling, I had when the USMC handed me an M-16 many moons ago.

    • Whenever I hear gun owners laughingly dismiss the claim that an AR is a military weapon, it reminds me of an abortion debate I had years ago. A pro-choice advocate argued that abortion wasn’t immoral, because “a fetus isn’t human”. By throwing out a nonsensical argument, she actually harmed her cause. I think we’re doing the same thing, because anyone can see that an AR-15 is almost exactly the same as an M-16. And again, there’s nothing wrong with that.

      You never forget your first M-16, do you? The Marine Corps issued me my first one in June 1989. The M16A2 looks like a musket now, but damn she was pretty back then.

      Chris

  2. Great post, as always Chris. I agree with you that the correct response by a hoplophobe that an AR15 “is a weapon of war ” is : so what? The Founders wisely wanted the Citizenry to be able to defend against any aggressor, whether foreign or DOMESTIC, full stop. The hoplophobic say that “they meant only muskets”, but forget that muskets were the finest weapons availible at the time.They didn’t single out any type of weapon, as they KNEW that there would be improvements over time.

    I still fondly remember field stripping drills in Basic, we had to do it in under 60 seconds in pitch dark.It was a challenge most of us relished and grew pretty proficient at.I believe with a few minutes practice that I could still do it today, some 40 years later.

  3. In my opinion, military weapon or not, if the bad guys have them, and the law enforcement have them, private citizens should be allowed to legally own them for the reason you speak of – to resist tyranny. (As a general rule) explosives….ehh not so much.

    • Agreed. I think we should have “enough” to resist tyranny, not necessarily have the same as the government. And we don’t need everything the government has. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have been teaching us for over 10 years that a lightly armed force can effectively fight back against a large military force.

      Chris

  4. Sir, if you’re going to keep being a gun blogger you’re going to have to stop being reasonable and logical. We just won’t have it.

    I came here from Tam’s, well said.

    • Angus,

      I do my best to be reasonable and logical, although I know I have my own biases and emotional triggers. I just don’t think the 2A has to be the center of an emotional debate. It’s not designed to be divisive, it’s here for our freedom. Even people who disagree with that should be able to argue reasonably against it.

      I owe Tam, a lot of readers have been referred from her blog. I need to check out her writing as well.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and please feel free to comment as often as you wish.

      Chris

  5. 10 Crotalus

    I have a flintlock Kentucky Long Rifle. It is of recent manufacture, but the design actually saw service in our War for Independence. Therefore, it is a “weapon of war”, of which I am proud to own. All my other guns also at one time were, or still are, “weapons of war”. Even my revolvers could be pressed into service in war.

    “Combat!” was a very favorite TV show of mine, back in the day. So, yeah, I’m proud to have “weapons of war”. And Feinswine, etal, can go screw themselves. Or, ban everything, and bring on the next Civil War.

    • I don’t think anyone is going to try confiscation, and I don’t think there will be an American rebellion in my lifetime. The pro gun control side is learning a hard lesson right now. They thought every “reasonable” person would agree with them, but they’re learning most of America doesn’t. While this does convince them they’re far superior to the average American, it also (I think) convinces them they shouldn’t try to disarm us.

      I hate the thought of American citizens fighting American cops and soldiers. I just don’t think it’ll happen in the next 50 years or so.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Chris

  6. 12 Leslie Sapp

    Chris, You nailed the whole issue, exactly. I wish I could be this articulate when trying to explain this to non-gunowners and anti- gunners. I may just send them here, instead.

    • Please refer them here, and ask them to comment. I welcome dissenting views and opinions, and don’t insult anyone who reasonably debates me. I have close friends and family members who hold very different views than I do. It’s America, we don’t all have to agree. We talk it out instead of fighting each other in the streets.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and please come back anytime.

      Chris

  7. There are many reasons why the militia was thought to
    be “necessary to the security of a free state.” See 3 Story
    §1890. First, of course, it is useful in repelling invasions
    and suppressing insurrections. Second, it renders large
    standing armies unnecessary—an argument that Alexander
    Hamilton made in favor of federal control over the
    militia. The Federalist No. 29, pp. 226, 227 (B. Wright ed.
    1961) (A. Hamilton). Third, when the able-bodied men of
    a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better
    able to resist tyranny.
    Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ ( 2008 )

    ~~~

    The most significant of these commentators was Joseph
    Story. Contrary to the Court’s assertions, however, Story
    actually supports the view that the Amendment was
    designed to protect the right of each of the States to maintain
    a well-regulated militia. When Story used the term
    “palladium” in discussions of the Second Amendment, he
    merely echoed the concerns that animated the Framers of
    the Amendment and led to its adoption. An excerpt from
    his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United
    States—the same passage cited by the Court in Miller34—
    merits reproducing at some length:

    “The importance of [the Second Amendment] will
    scarcely be doubted by any persons who have duly reflected
    upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence
    of a free country against sudden foreign invasions,
    domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of
    power by rulers.

    ….”The right of the citizens
    to keep and bear arms has justly been considered
    as the palladium of the liberties of a republic, since it
    offers a strong moral check against the usurpation
    and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even
    if these are successful in the first instance, enable the
    people to resist and triumph over them.”

    ~~~

    3. Relationship between Prefatory Clause and
    Operative Clause
    We reach the question, then: Does the preface fit with
    an operative clause that creates an individual right to
    keep and bear arms? It fits perfectly, once one knows the
    history that the founding generation knew and that we
    have described above. That history showed that the way
    tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the able bodied
    men was not by banning the militia but simply by
    taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or
    standing army to suppress political opponents. This is
    what had occurred in England that prompted codification
    of the right to have arms in the English Bill of Rights.

    ~~~

    Story’s Commentaries
    also cite as support Tucker and Rawle, both of
    whom clearly viewed the right as unconnected to militia
    service. See 3 Story §1890, n. 2; §1891, n. 3. In addition,
    in a shorter 1840 work Story wrote: “One of the ordinary
    modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without
    resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it
    an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular
    army in the stead of a resort to the militia.” A Familiar
    Exposition of the Constitution of the United States §450
    (reprinted in 1986).

    All from District of Columbia vs Heller, 2008.

    • Thanks for the additional information, I appreciate it. Regardless of arguments over the definition of a militia, I don’t see any reason to doubt the framers’ belief in the right of armed citizens to resist tyranny.

      Chris

  8. 16 John

    Very well written article. I’ll also add my $0.02:
    1) Military technology has been commonly adapted for use in civilian use: Internet, firearms, microwaves, GPS, jets, nuclear technology, etc. It would seem that most of the rapid technological advances occurred during total war, where society focuses solely on war effort/development of technology over all other needs(entertainment/day to day life).
    2) The term “weapons of war” kind of feels wrong for me. A gun is merely a tool that expels a projectile at high velocities (and yes, it was probably designed to kill/perforate matter/etc). Instead, perhaps a man who is specifically trained for war is the “weapon of war”. The gun itself is just part of the complete system. Give a soldier a bolt-action, a semi-auto, full-auto, pistol, sword, bow or spear and he would still be able to fight.

  9. 19 Bob

    Fantastic essay. Thank you for writing it.

  10. 21 John

    This is fantastic. Unfortunately, I’m not this articulate when I get into discussions with pro-control folks.

    • John,

      It’s taken me years of working at it to become articulate, and I’m better at writing it than saying it. I still get twisted up during conversations sometimes.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and come back anytime.

      Chris

      • I’m sure glad to hear I’m not the only one with that problem! I can write a whole lot better than I can speak!

  11. 24 Chuck S

    Very well written, and fully congruent with my own feelings on the subject. I love the comments on the use and utility of full-auto fire.

    I also believe that the pro-gun side tends to throw out the ‘tyranny’ and ‘dictatorship’ cards too early and too often. In fact, I think that the spittle-spewing end-of-the-world preppers who predict disaster and decay because of the fecklessness of our current leaders really sell the character of the American people short. Most Americans believe that guns are a right, so how is it that we can assume that they will suddenly join the ranks of the lawless and wicked as soon as a bit of economic trouble begins? That didn’t happen during the Great Depression, and it’s not likely to happen now.

    As for the DHS and various thug armies that the administration is building, two things would happen if they were used. One, a significant number would vote with their consciences and just walk away, or suddenly get too sick to work, or suddenly develop blind spots and memory lapses while on the job. Two, and this is assuming the administration would actually try it, the casualty rate for seizure teams, etc. would be high enough that it would quickly get really tough to find volunteers to be on the door-kicking teams. Net result either way would be very sketchy enforcement and enormous public push-back.

    I don’t doubt that the administration feels the need for an enforcement arm that isn’t answerable to anyone else, but not because they plan tyranny. Our President has shown that he doesn’t want anyone else to have the power of the Presidency, so it naturally follows that he would want a force answerable only to him. The problem is that making anything in the government go away once it exists is extraordinarily difficult. And if something like that exists, the temptation to use it for good or ill will also exist.

    We are not fighting just for our own 2A rights. We are fighting for the future, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. The 2A is a bulwark against the tyranny and base desires that lurk in the hearts of some men. If the right to keep and bear arms were to go away tomorrow, we probably wouldn’t see much change in the US (aside from increases in violent crime like is happened in Chicago and D.C.). It might be years, or even generations before someone venal and calculating recognizes the opportunity they have to manipulate their way into absolute power over the American people. The certainty is that it will happen. What is not certain is when. And our legacy must be to maintain that 2A bulwark, and teach our children and grandchildren just how important it is for THEM to pass it on to their own offspring.

    As an aside, has anyone listening to the wild proposals from the left considered how those are impacted by other amendments? For example, I can’t imagine that some of these confiscation requirements don’t run afoul of the 5th Amendment in very obvious ways. An illegal taking is still illegal, even if the 2A doesn’t mention it. Privacy rights and protections against self-incrimination seem like they would be huge problems. As precious and untouchable as these rights are to the left, their proposals are wildly inconsistent with their own core values. Not that it is unexpected, but we certainly should point that inconsistency out in the debates.

    • 25 Chuck S

      Whoopsie. Should read “4th or 5th Amendment is that last paragraph. Proofread, Chuck. Proofread!

    • Those are a lot of great points, Chuck (and I forgive you for saying 5th instead of 4th Amendment). I strongly agree that the character of the American people is stronger than we give them credit for, and let’s face it; nobody really wants political violence on our streets.

      Your point about the inconsistencies of the left is pretty accurate. I have a hard time when the same group of people who calls lack of government funding for birth control an “assault on women’s rights” but then advocates a partial repeal of the Bill of Rights. That’s a generalization which isn’t accurate across the board, but it’s present in more than a few gun control advocates. And it doesn’t make sense to me.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Have you thought about writing your own blog?

      Chris

      • 28 Chuck S

        My own blog? If I had a cogent thought that I suspected someone else might care about, more than once a fortnight…I might. Not there yet, though!

        Really enjoying catching up on your archive, though. Good stuff, and I’ll be checking back often.

  12. 29 Daniel Morseth

    Good article, though must disagree about the tyranny issue; if one does not believe that tyranny is in place in DC, then one has not read the various executive orders or the screeds issued by Obama, Biden, Holder, Nappy, et al ad nauseum. Or noted that our Congress swine totally ignore the will of the voters who placed them in office. But that aside, I totally agree that full auto is only useful in suppressive fire, three round bursts are slightly more useful in firing at targets partially behind cover, and well aimed single shots are primo. As the late and terribly missed Colonel Cooper was fond of saying, “May your enemies be on full auto.”
    Hooah.

    • Daniel,

      I hear you, but I still think tyranny is too strong a word. Food for thought though.

      That’s a cool Cooper quote. When I think back to being shot at and missed badly by Taliban firing full auto in Afghanistan, I know exactly what he meant.

      The sniper who barely missed, however, was another story…

      • 31 Jeremy

        Chris, if an orchestrated campaign to systematically disarm the law abiding through intimidation, demonization, coercion and outright unconstitutional legal means does not fit the definition of government tyranny, what does?

        Examples:

        Intimidation: http://www.softgreenglow.com/wp/?p=15854
        The money quote: “The letter campaign has been regarded as successful for two reasons. First…the number of individuals who “cancelled” the gun purchase, or did not take possession of the gun after receiving the letter, substantially increased….”

        Demonization: Google “gun owner maps” Segues neatly into a comparison of law abiding gun owners to sex offenders/convicted felons. Listen to the language of the gun banners: “gun fucks”, “gun fetishists”, “tea party psychotards”, Etc. How about certain people calling for the NRA to be declared a “terrorist organization”?

        Coercion: Gun buybacks, bans and confiscations. But there haven’t been any confiscations, you say. (cough cough HURRICANE KATRINA cough cough) How about Democrats in California, Missouri and Minnesota proposing gun confiscation bills? Won’t pass, you say? THEY STILL PROPOSED THEM AND ARE STILL SERVING IN THE LEGISLATURE.

        Outright unconstitutional legal means: (insert text of NY SAFE ACT here)
        Essentially bans whole classes of firearms by declaring their magazines illegal and mandating usage of magazines THAT DO NOT EXIST.
        Oh, and mandatory registration is a prominent feature. (among other things)
        The current laws are no better. Own a thirty rounder? Seven Years in jail.

        http://www.wgrz.com/news/article/202218/37/Army-Vet-Charged-For-Possession-of-Illegal-Clip

        A right that you are afraid to exercise under the threat of government oppression isn’t much of a right, is it? I don’t mean this to sound confrontational or obnoxious, but what term would you use to describe the current political climate regarding gun rights?

        • Jeremy,

          Some of what you posted is about private citizens acting within the law to say what they want. Plenty of anti-gun people insult us on a daily basis. Should they not be allowed to insult people they don’t like? Citing insulting comments by private citizens as evidence of tyranny is like the Dixie Chicks claiming censorship because pissed-off customers quit buying their music.

          Likewise, newspapers doing stupid crap like publishing a map of gun owners isn’t tyranny. It’s moronic and an attempt to demonize, but it’s not the government doing it. I don’t think the newspaper should have access to records of where gun owners live, and I think they need a legal asskicking for publishing the map, but a newspaper being stupid does not equal tyranny.

          The letter campaign is stupid, ill-advised, and a blatant attempt to influence. But how does that equal tyranny? Did anyone lose any rights because they received the letter?

          You mention coercion and include “gun buybacks, bans and confiscations”. A gun buyback is not coercion. Nobody has to participate in gun buybacks. Bans can definitely be part of tyranny and confiscations undoubtedly are. So far we’re resisting the bans (in general) and there have been no confiscations, other than during Katrina, which I’m not defending.

          I don’t disagree that we have a worry of tyranny. I just don’t see that it exists right now. The current political climate is highly charged and our side is generally presented negatively by the media. Plenty of anti-gun people openly detest us. That’s bad, and cause for alarm (which is why I’m speaking out about the 2A). But in my mind, it’s not tyranny. Despite the insults of anti-gun people, despite a gun-owner map, despite failed bills by people with no respect for the bill of rights, I can still own ARs, speak my mind, and travel freely. To me, that’s not tyranny.

          Hopefully my response didn’t come across as confrontational either, because I’m not disagreeing with your concern. I just think you’ve lumped many disparate, unconnected factors into one and labeled it as something it isn’t. I appreciate your comments though, and hope to hear more of your point of view.

          Chris

      • 33 Scot M

        Chris, i would like to hear your take on what Jeremy mentioned regarding what is happening here in NYS. The SAFE Act is quite literally the epitome of the work ‘Unconstitutional’. The way it is phrased, the people it is going to target, and the way the law was passed. I tends to strike one as “mildly tyrannical”. We the People of NY were NOT included in any debate regarding certain (aka all) portions of the bill that was passed, yet it was. Nay, it was shoved down the voting members throats a mere hour after it was first presented to them.

  13. 34 Frank Salazar

    No truer sentiments.

  14. 36 Wayne Cunningham

    There is no reason to have to justify any weapon. We should not even be talking about which weapon is permissible. The right to bear arms is not limited to ownership. Good article.


  1. 1 Weapon of war

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