‘Letter to the editor: Why do we buy assault rifles?’ – I Answer

Or to put the title image quote in more modern parlance, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them and many of them stink.”

I do not know if the quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius, Stoic Emperor of Rome, was actually uttered by the man. I do however know the accuracy of the statement itself.

A news round up ends up on my inbox every morning and one of them looks for the term ‘assault rifle’. Karen Olson, who wrote the below, apparently has opinions on ‘assault rifles’ she expressed to the Portland Herald. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, no one is entitled to their own facts. Oregon is currently grappling with the consequences of constitutional republic v. ignorant mob vote democracy, so I believe these letters are in response to that change.

Letter in italics, my responses in plain text.

Why do we buy our assault rifles?]

Many reasons, Karen. But I assume this is a rhetorical question. We buy firearms today for the same reasons we have always purchased useful individual weapons.

[Who do we plan to assault?]

There it is. A betraying inquiry that lets me know that you, Karen, have never considered violence in a serious manner in your privileged, first world, super power inhabitant of a life. You’ve never had to. This doesn’t mean you haven’t considered violence or thought about violence as a topic, it means you have never had to consider it in an academic sense.

But you have seen a bad thing, the results of violence you do not understand, and it scares and upsets you. That last part is very reasonable, what isn’t reasonable is lack of understanding and the the expectation of your opinion being weighed expertly when you lack expertise. Your fear, anger, and pain do not translate to understanding the topic. Your privilege to live in a world, and a space in that world, that is as safe as it is does not imbue you with the opine authority to dictate back to reality when it rattles your perspective.

There is no ‘your truth’ here.

[Do we buy them “just in case?”]

Often, yes. It isn’t about assaulting, it is about potentially being assaulted. But no, they aren’t ‘just in case’ either. That implies these rifles would live in a vault or closet untouched until enemies are raining from the sky. That isn’t how the discipline of arms works. Know that shooting is a martial art too and firearms are used for many very lawful reasons.

The modern assault rifle, sure I’ll even use the term, is the best individual fighting implement currently in circulation. The problem is we are discussing it with people who are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the concepts of the profession(s) of violence, the legitimacy of violence, and the currency that violence represents. It frightens them and because it frightens them they dismiss it quickly and try to ‘solve’ it simplistically.

“Your understanding and consent are not required for someone to destroy your world and everything you love.” -Dr. William Aprill, paraphrased.

[Do we fear foreign paratroopers will drop from the sky?]

I’m sorry, did we miss what happened in Israel on October the 7th? Literal paraglider troopers armed with assault weapons murdered 1,200 of the first people they could find and kidnaped hundreds of Israeli and international citizens. Hamas raped, pillaged, and retreated behind the civilians of Gaza, whom they are the defacto government of, as human shields.

That happened. That happened here, in the real world full of real people with WiFi, 5G, and McDonalds restaurants.

If you want to play the ‘Well… it couldn’t happen here’ card, I want you to pick which prejudicial form that comment comes from. Is it the prejudice of low expectations for the Palestinians? They can’t be bothered to act better. Is it the fault of the Israelis? Did the Jews somehow earn this outcome reasonably through their own actions or inactions? That’s a dangerous thought and aligns you with some unsavory types past and present, doesn’t it? Is it that we do not believe these groups, or other similar ones, capable of carrying out this attack here? Really? Despite dramatic successes in the past? We had a two decade long multi-front war about the last major one. Is it underestimating the cartels and groups south of our own border? Surely groups that are defacto power structures in Central and South America couldn’t replicate what the defacto power structure of Gaza could, right? They’re only better trained, better funded, and with much easier access to the logistics necessary.

‘Do we fear foreign paratroopers…?’, is trying to leverage Red Dawn as a silly ‘right wing’ power fantasy and dismissing real world threats even in the contexts of low probability. Low probability or probability in scale is not the same as ‘cannot happen’ by any stretch.

If you are going to immediately disregard all reasonable examples of how your rhetorical inquiry is flawed, don’t make it rhetorical.

[Do we fear a local militia will descend?]

Probably not. Have you seen your ‘local militia’ drill? It’s… something. It exists. Organized groups declaring themselves ‘militia’ have been, are, and will remain a part of the world in various states of efficacy. But there is actually a legal definition for the United States.

I know you’re being rhetorical and clearly have the following image mentally in mind. The ‘militia training montage’ featuring really heavy or too skinny to be healthy white dudes who ‘almost would’ve served ‘cept… [reason]’ doing vaguely tactical but valueless gun drills. That seems to have been a weird offshoot time of the training boom in the 2010’s after Magpul Dynamics showed us the way to dynamic dynamically.

But remember, Karen, you are also part of the militia. Given the modern interpretation of colonial concepts, it is all able bodied adults. All of ‘The People’ constitute the militia.

Legally speaking, however…

The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

So Karen you are probably, legally, not part of the militia. If we update the definition for modern Equal Opportunity and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion standards then you probably would be. But as of now, legally, you are not.

[Do we fear our government will turn on us?]

Do we want to count the ways they have in the past? Literally the foundational principle of the 2nd Amendment is a preventive on the monopoly of force being centralized within the Federal government.

When the Federal government is acting in the best interests of and within the will of the people all is well (well… most is well) and continuing to grant them the legitimacy of the use of force has few negative consequences. However if we monopolize force in the state, then agree or disagree with it you no longer have the ability to say no and in a meaningful way. The US government has numerous past instances where they used ‘legal’ force and massacred people, they then promptly absolved themselves of responsibility.

Are we confident they won’t do it again?

[Do we fear a burglar will enter our house?

Yes. To a reasonable degree, home invasion should be ‘feared’ and guarded against. Next question.

Let us not devolve into hyperbolic absurdity. (But of course we’re going to…)

Where should we keep and bring our AR-15s? Should we carry them to the grocery store, out to dinner or a show?

Image via Quora, answering how common it is for Israeli reservists to carry long guns publicly.

I will point to Israel again, but let me just say ‘no’ for here in the US. No, because that is what discreet concealed handguns serve for rather nicely under most circumstances.

I must emphasize ‘most circumstances’ though. It would be, and has been, perfectly reasonable for US citizens to carry long guns in times of elevated threat. Riots and weather events that knock out the normal chains of logistics and authority in a region are the most common we experience. We know for a fact we cannot rely on the magnanimity of our fellow man at all times, even in good times. That compounds during times of larger scale environmental strain.

And, if so, it better be every time, because you never know.

I can agree to a degree.

But since you, Karen, mean this to be read in an absurdist tone and not as the fairly practical advice for carry of a concealed pistol it otherwise is, we are going to address that.

Yes, you should carry your firearm consistently. An emergency tool is not useful if it isn’t around in the emergency. That is for all emergencies and all tools to help mitigate and respond to them. An AED doesn’t help anyones heart if it isn’t around. A first aid kit doesn’t stop bleeding, aspirin a heart attack, or splint a broken bone if it is out of reach. A fire extinguisher extinguishes nothing it it cannot be presented to the fire.

I will say again that a concealed handgun is a both practical and effective enough tool under normal circumstances. Under circumstances of elevated environmental strain the ‘assault rifle’, as you say, is better at both deterrence and response to predations of hostile people.

Can we pull it from under the bed or a full grocery cart in time to do any good?

Evidence says… yes. We have numerous instances of rifles being used successfully at home and in public for the defense of people. The handgun is far more common because it is far more convenient and far more often carried. This remains true for crime statistics too, handguns are misused far more often than rifles.

But you mean this question, like your previous ones, in a rhetorical manner that mocks the concept of pulling a carbine, which you no doubt consider cumbersome, for defending oneself. You will be unlikely to take circumstances in which handguns or carbines were used to protect people as evidence enough to sway your opposition. That is fine, your opinion is yours. But stop asking things that have answers you will ignore.

If not, should we hang them from our necks? It already feels like they’re strangling us.

I… I don’t know how to ground this statement. Slings are things, I suppose.

But this prose is so out of bounds its probably closer to touching Mars than grass. How is the existence of tens of millions of rifles, and billions of rounds of ammunition for them, strangling you personally. How is it strangling society? Deaths at the hands of rifles represent a faction of a percent of ostensibly preventable deaths in this nation, regardless of how scary these deaths are.

I say ostensibly in this case because we act like an attack would not have occurred had the attack been somehow more illegal.

How many foreign paratroopers or outer-space aliens have we needed to shoot? How many of our neighbors, friends and family has this weapon shot?

Are we talking actual numbers? Because there are a lot of dead foreign troops due to the AR-15. I’m certain Karen does not consider authorized federal, state, or municipal use, as well as legitimate use against criminals and more mundane domestic threats, as ‘foreign paratroopers’. That does not fit the tone of the conversation. Karen is implying that because Red Dawn hasn’t happened the AR-15 is unnecessary.

How many neighbors, friends and family has the weapon shot? I don’t know. But it is far fewer in totality than have died from numerous other methods, including the aforementioned handgun murders, suicides of all methods, car crashes, alcohol, heart disease, and home accidents. Ostensibly preventable deaths due to the ownership of rifles are far outpaced by numerous other sources of untimely demise that simply rate ‘less scary’ to you.

People pull the trigger, but it’s the bullets that kill.]

So we acknowledge that it is the deliberate action of a person who fires the gun, but are then absolving that person of guilt in the injury or death? The bullet becomes independent and is ascribed its own motivation? Are we shifting focus to the existence of ammunition instead of the firearm? What is happening? What are we upset at now in the narrative?

[How many bullets at a time do we want to give a neighbor, friend or family member who suddenly or slowly goes berserk?]

Now who is scared of aliens, ‘paratroopers’ and other boogeymen? Which of your potentially nightmarish neighbors are going to go slowly mad due to the proximity of 5.56 ammunition? Should I also remove everything that could possibly be used to harm anyone from everyone on the off chance that any of all of our collective neighbors, friends, or family members suddenly or slowly go berserk? Is this reasonable?

No. Of course it isn’t. Yet we allow this emotive diatribe to stand in equal weight to reasoned argument. Why? Because guns, I guess. Gun bad, don’t think deeply about it. The threat of the AR-15 is outsized due largely to its popularity and has no place in a reasoned risk analysis.

[How many neighbors, friends and family members have to be butchered and die before we, the people, call out to our politicians to put an end to this evil-spewing weapon?

What happened to people pull the trigger? That opened this paragraph, Karen. If I must acknowledge it ‘spews evil’ in the hands of an evil person then you must acknowledge it does good in the hands of the good people, and no harm at all in the hands of the majority, because those are all true.

Karen Olson

The potential to cause harm is inherent in every single person, it is not bestowed by a weapon. I hope these answers are helpful to you readers. I do not believe Karen will think they are, but I could be mistaken.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.