The Escalation Fallacy

This is one that has been around for years,

“Well if they get AR-15’s, I want a bazooka!”


“If they can have semi-automatics, I want a tank!”

Or this absolute masterpiece,

“Where does the 2nd Amendment end, nukes?”


Escalation is a real concern within criminal and law enforcement circles, however it isn’t the only factor that influences things like firearm selection. Cost and availability continue to be overwhelmingly the factors that drive firearms used in crime.

Acquisition by a hostile element, whether criminal or militant, of a technology that allows them an edge in capability is never a desirable thing, but when it comes to firearms tech specifically we continue to sit in a fairly level playing field of threat potential. Pistols are the convenient item, rifles and shotguns are the long items with more power. Poor decisions continue to lead to poor outcomes regardless of selection.

While it matters if SWAT is raiding a group armed with AKs or 9mms, it matters in a detail sense of final protective concerns. But the actual tactics used against the group are not going to shift overly much as they attempt to catch the group unawares and control whether any shots are fired at all. AKs are more dangerous on a shot for shot basis than a 9mm, but the factor that is really controlling the risk is whether shots are fired, not what those shots consist of. Any weapon in the hand of any threat is a problem.

A proficient man with a bolt action rifle or pump action shotgun is the same relative threat as someone with an AR-15, we have the numbers to substantiate that. But when we factor in items like cost and convenience AR’s become the popular choice in the same relative threat bracket.

Proper scaling of the threat, properly appreciating all the factors that make it a threat, and knowing the presence of firearms or not is much more influential than what firearms they are.

Exaggeration and Ignorance of Function

The meme is a comment on somebody wanting access to a rocket launcher to defend against somebody with an AR-15. It’s a power scale commentary that makes many assumptions, nearly all of them are in error. It fundamentally misunderstands what a rifle is for and what a rocket is for.

It assumes that a rocket is some kind of super weapon capable of incredible destruction on a scale a rifle is not instead of a niche weapon used to break vehicles or deal with an entrenched opponent who killing is an appropriate response. It ignores all the situational aspects of any and all threat parameters to use an absurd statement to drive home a point that is itself an error. It wants the weapon to counter the super weapon they consider the AR.

In reality a person, or persons, armed with rockets could cause significant damage and several casualties. Especially if the rockets were used in the situations where the rockets are appropriate, on vehicles or enclosed targets. But each of those $2,000 dollar rocket shots killing or wounding a few people and causing damage could be, especially when it comes to death and injuries, accomplished by a rifle, a shotgun, or a handgun by an equally determined person or persons. An 8lb rocket launcher isn’t the packed explosive of Timothy McVeigh’s 2 and 1/4 ton bomb.

It boils down to a fundamental misunderstanding of everything involved in gauging the objective danger of a threat. It places all the ‘danger’ on the assumed subjective power factor of the weapon they consider scary, then overcompensates with an item they consider ridiculous and scary also but in a comparatively overpowered position they erroneously assume the rifle holds above a handgun.

By all means, man who is scared of an AR-15, buy a rocket launcher for self defense. The LAW costs about $2,000 and is a single round of ammunition (there is a $200 DD NFA Tax and wait period though so we have to revoke the NFA to make this practical). Also if you set it off wrong you could knock yourself stupid or die with overpressure and hurt others. Also it really isn’t a weapon easy to use on a person, or at ranges helpful toward justifying self defense since its minimum arming range is 10m, and it is designed for vehicles and structures not people. Also, if you miss, you are responsible for collateral and any deaths or injuries. Also, if you hit, you are responsible for collateral and any deaths or injuries.

You know, like people who would use an AR-15 for defense.

You could probably come up with scenarios where it would be justified to fire a rocket. Countering a vehicle drive-by assault perhaps, or the University of Texas at Austin clock tower massacre (assuming the area was clear enough) It would be an appropriate counter force, and designed for a vehicle or structure even. Missing, however, has very poor and costly consequences. Missing with a rifle is far safer. Hitting with a rifle is far safer.

Grounded Response

So when we take absurd assumptions out of the debate, a rocket would be an appropriate response in only a very rare scenario, where you could assure yourself you can make a shot. Missing would be dramatically destructive (even the military in a war zone takes care out for things that shouldn’t hit), and you are responsible for the shot.

Starting to realize that even if a rocket were a perfectly accessible thing to own it is absurdly impractical for the purported purpose of defense against someone with a rifle?

But you know what isn’t?

Your own rifle.

Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009, he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.