The AR-15 Menace

Image by RMFA Photography, J. Sarkody

The anti-gun elements in the media constantly regale us with tale, after story, after anecdote, after theory, after “expert” on how dangerous the AR-15 and its ilk are to our modern and peaceable society. The power of each round of 5.56 would seem to be just shy of what the USS Iowa could produce.

Pretty much an AR-15

But, looking at well sourced data is how we should draw conclusions. We know gun control studies are largely bogus because their methodology is less than stellar, they either hunt the desired result or recognize their is no result to find since not enough data exists and factors cannot be controlled for.

But there are assuredly things we do know and things we can extrapolate to relatively accurate effect, one of those is how dangerous the AR-15 is. Not theoretically, in the real world and to our real society.

The FEE has done so…

In any given year, for every person murdered with a rifle, there are 15 murdered with handguns, 1.7 with hands or fists, and 1.2 with blunt instruments. In fact, homicides with any sort of rifle represent a mere 3.2 percent of all homicides on average over the past decade.

Given that the FBI statistics pertain to all rifles, the homicide frequency of “assault-style” rifles like the AR-15 is necessarily lesser still, as such firearms compose a fraction of all the rifles used in crime.

This study uses an adjusted number based on the FBI’s methodology. The FBI collects a fair number of undisclosed firearm homicides in their data. To account for how many of those are rifles they were divided up, the undisclosed number proportionately distributed to the disclosed numbers of handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

So if handguns accounted for 80% of firearm homicides of disclosed/identified firearms they got 80% of the undisclosed firearm pile added. The same with rifles and shotguns.

According to a New York Times analysis, since 2007, at least “173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s.”

That’s 173 over a span of a decade, with an average of 17 homicides per year. To put this in perspective, consider that at this rate it would take almost one-hundred years of mass shootings with AR-15s to produce the same number of homicide victims that knives and sharp objects produce in one year.

Which suggests it isn’t the number of dead we are upset it about, it is the unique circumstance of them all dying at one time to a firearm.

Oddly specific.

The fact is that we are, or at least some of the population is when examined critically, more okay with people being murdered by vehicle. This is likely due to the fact that far more vehicle deaths are accidents than deliberate rather than the comparative lethality of deliberate vehicular homicides, because mass killings involving vehicles can and have taken a staggering death toll.

The target for many activists remains the firearms however, not the motives.

With an average of 13,657 homicides per year during the 2007-2017 timeframe, about one-tenth of one percent of homicides were produced by mass shootings involving AR-15s.

To expand on that, all rifle types account for about 32 of every 1,000 homicide victims.

While mass shooting events produce a terrifying number of casualties, looking at the individual events show that any common firearm can, and has, produced a 10+ casualty event. Additionally multiple firearms can be used and the lethality of events is tied to the power disparity between the attacker(s) and the unarmed and unprepared victims. Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and Pulse in Florida were examples of this involving rifles. Virginia Tech is another example, only involving handgun this time. Timothy McVeigh’s attack involved a vehicle and HME (Homemade Explosives). Nice, France and Waukesha, Wisconsin are examples involving vehicle ramming attacks, which while less frequent a method than firearms are far from uncommon.

Saying an AR-15 is dangerous is a statement of the obvious. Saying an AR-15 is especially dangerous is not borne out in any data we can sample, save the rather obvious one that an especially popular category of firearm, magazine fed semi-auto rifle, can also be misused and deadly when it is. It is not unique in its ability to cause casualties, it isn’t even the highest casualty cause in mass casualty events by individuals or small groups. We won’t comment on large group or governmental massacres, they’re numbers are astronomically more terrifying than the lone wolf mass shooter totals.


The conclusion we end up with is the one we gun owners have been saying for a long time, The AR-15 and like products are disproportionately held aloft as talismans of fear by the uninformed towards the even less informed. Removing the AR-15 does effectively nothing to impact means or motive for mass casualty events. The disproportionate and misplaced fear generated by media attention towards the terror attacks with AR’s undoubtedly encourages the repeated behavior because it is assured attention. Their more frequent use in other crimes is a side effect of their astronomical increase in popularity in the past three decades, in no small part fueled by the attempt to ban them, and their affordability. As an example of that. I am staring at an ad for 2 firearms, a cheap Glock clone and a cheap AR for a combined price of $750.

Ultimately, because the rifle is both of some notable risk and has been made into the scary media demon, it is able to be leveraged as threatening much more effectively than a cheap small handgun, despite the numbers saying that 15:1, it is the handgun that will be used against you if a firearm is. This media fearmongering also encourages their use in attacks purposely planned for drawing attention.

The more we say the AR-15 is terrifying the more often it will be sought out by those who want to be terrifying.

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. 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.