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Owners defend their choice of AR-style firearms


    A Smith & Wesson M&P15 is held in Auburn, Georgia on Thursday. An estimated 8 million AR-style guns have been sold since they were first introduced to the public in the 1960s, and about half of them are owned by current or former members of the military or law enforcement, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers.

ATLANTA » Karen Butler still remembers the first time she picked up an AR-15-style rifle a decade ago.

“Quite honestly, I was scared of it,” she recalls.

But as soon as she fired it, she became a fan.

“You know some of these people that are fearful, it’s just because they don’t have knowledge,” she said. “We call it furniture — it’s got all the accessories on it that make it look a little intimidating. But once you shoot it you realize it’s so much fun.”

Butler, of Huntsville, Alabama, started Shoot Like a Girl, an outfit that seeks to introduce and inspire women to participate in shooting sports.

An estimated 8 million AR-style guns have been sold since they were first introduced to the public in the 1960s, and about half of them are owned by current or former members of the military or law enforcement, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun makers.

Even the name stirs up controversy. “AR” does not stand for “assault rifle,” as many believe, but for ArmaLite Rifle, a nod to the company that first designed it for military use. Assault weapons are fully automatic; the bullets keep flying for as long as the trigger is depressed. AR-style guns are semi-automatic, meaning the trigger has to be pulled separately for each shot.

More than 12,000 people were killed last year in the United States by guns, and most of those incidents involved handguns. A tiny fraction involved an AR-style gun. But of those, most have been high-profile shootings, including the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, where Omar Mateen used a Sig Sauer MCX model in an attack that killed 49 people.

That shooting has revived calls for banning ARs among critics who believe it is too powerful and too deadly, with standard magazines that hold 20 to 30 rounds, compared with handguns that generally hold nine to 15 rounds.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called for reinstating a ban that expired in 2004. “We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war,” she said the day after June 12 shooting.

For Dara Humphries, the AR-style firearm isn’t to be feared, scorned or banned. Rather, she says, it’s just a different type of weapon with a different feel.

“It’s like driving a truck versus driving a car, a sports car. Every firearm has a different feel to it,” said Humphries, an NRA instructor based in Georgia. “So a Ruger Mini 14 may feel like a Jaguar to you and may feel like a truck to me and vice versa. And to me an AR-15 feels like a smooth ride whereas a Ruger feels like a bumpy truck.”

Humphries, who also goes by the nickname Tactical Barbie, believes the debate over gun measures has focused too much on the firearm and not enough on the person behind the gun.

“Normal people who purchase guns don’t do this,” she said of mass shooters. “If I want to defend my home and my family then I have the right to do that. We’re legal gun owners who aren’t out there shooting people up.”

Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, says the AR-style firearm is easy to use, has little recoil and can be customized, such as with a collapsible stock, making it easier for women to handle.

While it’s too large to carry concealed, he and others describe it as a good weapon for home defense or in other crises.

“When you’re facing multiple attackers, you want something that will shoot more than six rounds,” Pratt said.

He and others in the gun lobby say the AR is targeted because of the way it looks, and any fears are misplaced because it’s only cosmetically different from other types of rifles and long guns.

Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of Concealed Carry magazine, first fired an AR-15 in the early 1990s while hunting coyotes in South Dakota. He found it easier to use and more accurate than his old bolt-action rifle.

He now owns three.

While you can “do all kinds of cool things” with the AR — adding a scope or optics, putting a flashlight on the barrel, changing the stock — “none of this stuff makes a firearm any more deadly,” Michalowski said.

For Butler of the group Shoot Like a Girl, shooting was inspiring. After a divorce in her 30s that undermined her confidence, she went to the shooting range with a group of friends. She started shooting at Gatorade bottles and by the end of the day was using bottle caps as targets.

“I went in there feeling like a failure in life and I walked out having this renewed confidence,” said Butler, 49.

Butler said she believes the anger directed at the AR is unfair and misdirected. “It’s a shame because we don’t have the same outcry over knives, over baseball bats, over texting and driving, over all of these other things that are killing Americans every single day,” she said.

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  • Some retired military and several police officials have asked that weapons like the AR 15 be banned. One general said that he knows the weapon well and with it, two or three men could quickly kill a hundred people with large magazines shooting on semiautomatic– it is too dangerous a gun to be available to the public — which will include terrorists and the mentally deranged. As General Petreus put it, once we defeat ISIS on the battlefield they will go to a gun show, buy a military grade assault weapon, extra large magazine and start killing Americans– another general mentions an ISIL Muslim cleric broadcasting just this suggestion. ISIS has been recruiting non-mideastern and non-muslim men to accomplish this– all it takes is two or three here and there to cause horrible terror attacks.

    • Please name the retired military and police officials so their statements can be confirmed and verified if not then your making this up…..

      • There are indeed those in the law enforcement community who support restrictions on the sale and/or magazine capacity of AR type long guns. Boolakanaka in his appeal to authority has cited such individuals however such an argument cuts both ways. An appeal to authority can also be made for the other side of the argument. A survey by PoliceOne Gun Policy & Law Enforcement was conducted between March 4 and March 13, 2013, receiving 15,595 responses from verified police professionals across all ranks and department sizes. 71% of the respondents answered that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of some semi-automatic firearms, termed by some as “assault weapons,” would have no effect on reducing violent crime. Another 20.5% responded stating that it would have a negative effect on reducing crime. They were also asked “What is your opinion of some law enforcement leaders’ public statements that they would not enforce more restrictive gun laws in their jurisdictions? 48.8% responded very favorable and 22.2% favorable versus 9.6% unfavorable and 7.2% very unfavorable. It should be noted that this poll was not based on random selection therefore is biased in its results, but what it does show is that there are those within the LE who are not loathe against such weapons.

        • I would be remiss to distinguish between rank and file, and those that actually lead police departments. Many in the police chief position are in support of restrictions.

          By way of specific example:Ret. Portland Police Chief Mike Reese: “As the Chief I was responsible for the safety of people in the City of Portland, and for the safety of the police officers protecting our community. One of the threats I worked about most was gun violence. Keeping people safe from gun violence was one of our top priorities. I believe one of the best ways to make sure that a person buying a gun, has a legal right to own a gun, is with a simple, straightforward background check. Background checks, combined with rigorous enforcement, are the surest way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But right now it is far too easy in Oregon for a prohibited person to avoid a background check by simply buying a gun from an unlicensed dealer.”

        • boo, Chief Reese’s position is one I totally support. Regarding the other issues, I believe as long as hate festers, it’s manifestations will continue. Choosing to excessively focus on capabilities rather than causations mimics a dog chasing it’s tail, whereas ignoring the Chief’s message can be compared to an ostrich with it’s head in the ground..

        • I would not disagree that most police chiefs and those in LE leadership positions support stricter gun controls, however one must also keep in mind that such high profile positions are not immune from political rhetoric and influence. Contrast that with those in the rank and file who presumable don’t have an axe to grind. I don’t have a problem with requiring background checks for everyone which would include those guns sold by unlicensed dealers/individuals as I think that is prudent and reasonable. I do have a problem though with broader gun restrictions on normal law-abiding citizens as they are the ones that don’t commit such crimes; in other words punish the innocent for crimes of the guilty. In my opinion the root cause is ultimately a moral one. Though we don’t always agree, I would venture to say that boo,hawaiikone, myself and others have a moral foundation to draw upon which guide our lives, instilled (often sternly) from childhood. We were taught right from wrong and when we did wrong, we learned the consequences. Those who commit crimes in their adult lives are absent of a moral compass to the detriment of the rest of society.

      • We don’t have NEEDs for many things…types of cars, alcohol, tobacco, etc. and these things kill way more people every year than guns. I don’t see a cry out to ban these things, oh wait we did ban alcohol and look how that turned out.

        • Those things you list are not manufactured for the sole purpose of killing tomething. Guns are manufactured to kill something. Big difference.

  • ““When you’re facing multiple attackers, you want something that will shoot more than six rounds,” Pratt said.”
    What do you do, or where do you go, that you face multiple attackers, and need more than six rounds to clear the scene?

    • The website for Gun Owners of America lists a Springfield, VA address in their contact info. Must be that kind of thing happens quite often down there.

  • ““I went in there feeling like a failure in life and I walked out having this renewed confidence,” said Butler, 49.”
    If a gun is what makes you feel confident in life, then good luck with that, Barney Fife. I hope you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

  • What we are trying to do is control mass killings. These killings are done by weapons like the AR. I really don’t see killings on a large scale if a perp used handguns. The message is limit the damage by doing away with weapons like the AR.

  • Well with our new law if you do happen to buy a gun, you really have to think twice about reporting it to the cops because if your accused of anything anywhere, they may want to take it away. At least that’s what I get from this new law.

    • noheawilli says:if your accused of anything anywhere, they may want to take it away…no not quite. Go read the law.

      Some appear to be unhappy because they have been identified as a person of trust with additional responsibility and added to an existing database with other law-abiding citizens in positions of trust who are NOT gun owners. [Gun registrants are NOT the only law abiding citizens monitored in RAP BACK].

      Some people appear to be unhappy because they are in a new database. [That would be in addition to their membership in other databases held and monitored by Social Security, Internal Revenue Service, Dept of Motor Vehicles, Voter Registration, their bank and every credit/debit card institution, and Mark Zuckerberg’s FaceBook database.]

      Or maybe some are unhappy because as a gun registrant law enforcement agencies want to know if a gun registrant is linked to criminal activity.

  • “Butler said she believes the anger directed at the AR is unfair and misdirected. “It’s a shame because we don’t have the same outcry over knives, over baseball bats,….”

    Question: How many at Orlando would have been killed if Mateen did not have the AR but a knive or baseball instead?

    • Knives and baseball bats do not have the sole purpose to kill. Knives and baseball bats are manufactured for other purposes, using them to kill is an aside to their design and intention. Guns are manufactured to kill, that’s all.

      • Guns are indeed manufactured to kill, but that’s NOT all. Guns are also used for sport such in target shooting competitions, skeet shooting etc. where nothing or no one is killed. Just because I or anyone else purchases a gun does not logically entail that I purchased it intending to kill someone any more than a purchaser of life insurance intends to die soon.

  • I own a couple of small arms for target sport shooting, but did NOT buy them for self defense. Of course I would use them if my family was in danger, but that would be an extremely unlikely scenario. I’m not going to go waving it around if someone knocks on my door selling sweetbread. Lots of people just looking for an excuse to use them, lots. I’ve fired AR, AK47, and MK22 Scar rifles and they are great pieces of machinery, I used them only in a controlled firing range environment. I would never buy them for home use, there’s absolutely no need for that kind of firepower on the street. The people insist on possessing them are scared, weak, stupid or all three. These rifles give them an inflated sense of confidence and an excuse not to behave with restraint. So please, stop trying to sell people on your home defense c rap.

    • I’ve fired AR-15 and AK47 as well and I must admit they are fun to shoot. I don’t own one, and don’t really need one. I have a .270 to hunt, and a .38 for the home. Don’t need anything else. I would never take a weapon like at AR-15 to hunt with, my .270 is real old and heavy but gets the job done well. I guess if I wanted to mow down a whole bunch of goats I could use an AR-15. They would have to be deaf goats cause they would run at the first shot, unless of course I had a silencer on my AR-15.

    • Just because you don’t use them for home defense doesn’t give you the justification to broadly generalize and dictate how others should use them. It’s fine to disagree but refrain from characterizing such as “scared, weak, stupid or all three” which is a baseless ad hominem argument.

  • Our very own Honolulu police chief believes the only people to own guns are the police and military. Do we really want to listen to these few police chiefs? By the way, there were 323 deaths caused by rifles and 496 deaths caused by hammers in 2011… So which one should be banned?

    • Hammers aren’t manufactured to kill. As with a lot of things we use daily, they could be used for nefarious deeds. You don’t build houses with rifles.

  • To make a comparison between a knife and an assult rifle is ludicrous, one kills one at a time where an assult rifle can kill many in seconds. I am staunchly infavor of the right to bear arms, but why do these people need such a weapon? I just don’t understand that.

    • Its a Dem polit-bureau process. Ban rifles, then ban the next and the next etc. That is really the issue. Each “yes” go ahead, leads to another reg. and another etc. until no one will have gun. That is the “plan”.
      In addition if you really want an honest discourse here, how about the following:
      1. Police respond when called,after the crime is committed or starts, that is why the person(s) are already injured or dead..The “chiefs’ will tell you that. The PC dems took away prevention by outlawing stop and frisk, search, after called for another crime etc.Also no info. for registraion concerning mental illness, violent history etc.
      2.Where is the push to get illegal guns, black market guns, stolen guns off the street. Click it or ticket” gets 100xs more effort than this plan.
      3.Terrorists will invent death and terror. How quick we forgot about the airport bombing. The TSA was screening everyone and the brothers simply wheeled the bombs to the Que…no TSA, no guns etc.
      4.Handguns with clips, multi-load shotguns with buckshot(kill several people with one round) can all kill many people quickly.
      5.Only another armed person can stop an armed person….but even so, police arrive “after”!

    • Gun owners, seemingly, live in fear. Of what they are so scared of, I haven’t a clue. Guns seem to give them some sense of security. You know, like Golem and his “precious.”

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