AR 15 semi automatic rifle

“AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle, the brand, not assault rifle. Its design was modified to become the M16 rifle used by the military. Because it is semi-automatic, not a fully-automatic, it is not a traditionally-defined “assault weapon.”

It shoots .223 caliber rounds which are lightweight and high velocity.

AR 15

AR 15

Most of the rifle can be customized. For example, in the 2012 Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, gunman James Holmes had a drum magazine, which could hold 100 rounds.

The AR-15’s ability to be customized makes it the favored rifle for all kinds of shooters. You can replace parts, attach accessories and paint it to make it your own. Gun advocates call it the Lego or Barbie of guns because of that versatility.

Everything that makes it the most popular rifle in the U.S. — easy to buy, easy to shoot, easy to customize — also makes it an extremely efficient killing machine, critics say. It wasn’t used in the recent nightclub massacre in Orlando, but the AR-15 was the weapon of choice for mass murderers who killed 12 moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., 14 partygoers in San Bernardino, Calif., and 27 children and teachers in Newtown, Conn.

After every mass shooting, politicians and Facebook pundits alike ask the same question: Why even own such a weapon?

Although The Dallas Morning News interviewed many local AR-15 owners recently, few wanted to be named despite moderate, measured views. They feel the voice of reasonable gun owners is being ignored, but they worried that they would get backlash from employers or be depicted as radicals.

“I think as a community, we’ve been burned so many times,” said Ben Allen, a U.S. Army veteran from Denton who owns four AR-15s. “Everyone else gets drowned out.”

Here’s what Allen and three other North Texans say about their AR-15s.

The Recreational Shooter

There has been a string of burglaries in Daley Laurel’s rural Blue Ridge neighborhood in Collin County, but the corporate executive doesn’t worry about break-ins.

Leaning against her nightstand is a pink and purple camouflage AR-15, ready to go just in case.

Having firearms ready and waiting is nothing new for Laurel. She was raised in West Texas by a single mom who kept two loaded shotguns by the front door. When she was a baby, mother and daughter went dove hunting, with her in a car seat. In later years, Laurel would shoot rattlers under the porch when the snakes bunched up in wintertime.

 

Female AR 15 shooters

Female Shooters

 

Daley Laurel describes having her own AR-15 and shooting it as “an adrenaline rush for sure… You don’t feel scared anymore.”

She bought her first modern sporting rifle — the term gun owners use for these firearms rather than assault weapon — when she was worried it would be banned in 2012, but soon traded it in for the model she really wanted: an Olympic Arms AR-15 dipped in the pink and purple “moonshine muddy girl camo” pattern. She shoots it while wearing a pair of pink goggles and pink ear protection.Laurel said she doesn’t like how pink firearms are marketed to women as a “girl’s gun,” but getting that pattern was a symbol that she is in charge. There’s no way someone could confuse that firearm for her husband’s or brother’s or father’s. There’s great responsibility in that.“I had shot AR-15s many times before, but shooting your own, cleaning your own, knowing you have that kind of awesome power in your hand — it’s an adrenaline rush for sure,” Laurel said in an email. “It’s like riding a roller coaster, but different. You don’t feel scared anymore.”Having a gun that doesn’t have a lot of recoil is important for Laurel, and her AR-15 shoots smoothly. Plus, she said, it is “satisfyingly loud.” It’s fun to her to take out and shoot on her 20 acres in Blue Ridge, or use it to hunt hogs at her uncle’s ranch near San Marcos.

“It’s scary looking to people who’ve never been in the military and only seen war shows, or didn’t grow up with guns. They won’t sit down, they won’t have the difficult discussions.” – Daley Laurel, recreational gun enthusiast

 

The .223 round her AR-15 fires isn’t big enough to take down a deer. In fact, many hunters say using such a small-caliber round would be inhumane and injure the animal, not kill it. Laurel uses her 7mm-08 deer rifle — also with the muddy girl camo pattern — when hunting large game.When it comes to political debates over guns, Laurel points to founding father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton may have never imagined a rifle with the capabilities of an AR-15, but Laurel says he would have argued for a citizen’s right to have the same firepower as the military.His “Federalist No. 29” discusses what became the Second Amendment, arguing that if the government has a military, “that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms.”But preserving that right doesn’t solve the problem of keeping guns away from those who plan to kill. Laurel doesn’t have all the answers, but she said banning the AR-15 and other guns isn’t the right way.“It’s scary looking to people who’ve never been in the military and only seen war shows, or didn’t grow up with guns,” Laurel said. “They won’t sit down, they won’t have the difficult discussions.”

The Advocate

Before he was a YouTube star and gun rights celebrity, Colion Noir was a law student who had never shot a firearm.

He still remembers his first shot, from a small .40-caliber Taurus handgun. He remembers being anxious walking into the gun range, how hearing the other shooters fire made him nervous.

“I wasn’t anti-gun,” Noir said. “I had the general apprehension that a lot of people have about them.”

Then he pulled the trigger.

“By the second shot, I was hooked,” Noir said. “From there, I left knowing I wanted to know everything I could about guns.”

I’m not trying to convert you; I’m trying to educate you. If you’re going to be anti-gun after the fact, so be it, but do it with the requisite facts.” – Colion Noir, gun rights advocate

He became obsessed with guns, reading everything he could online, watching videos wherever he could, talking to gun store owners. In 2011, Noir started posting his own gun reviews on YouTube. Then, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Noir became frustrated listening to pundits criticize gun owners. He turned on his camera and started talking.The resulting video went viral and turned him from reviewer to commentator. Noir started answering viewer questions — many of them were the same questions he had as a new shooter.Today, his web series, Noir, is sponsored by the NRA, though he doesn’t get any direct income from the organization. His background — a newer, civilian shooter who brings a metropolitan and minority perspective — makes Noir’s a distinctive voice in the gun debate.“I’m not trying to convert you; I’m trying to educate you,” he said. “If you’re going to be anti-gun after the fact, so be it, but do it with the requisite facts.”Noir has many guns locked away at his Dallas home, but his pride and joy is displayed front and center: an AR-15 style HK MR762. The scope alone cost thousands of dollars, he said.“It looks dramatic. There’s a lot of theatrics with an AR-15,” Noir said. “If you have an ignorant perspective of the AR-15, what you end up with is a terrified public.”

Noir said he’d much rather use the AR-15 for home defense than a handgun. A handgun is less accurate than his rifle; the AR-15 fires more easily. Plus, he said, the point of self-defense is not to balance the playing field, but to tip it in his favor.

“The very reasons they want to condemn it are the same reasons I want it,” he said.

Noir doesn’t have a lot of free time between video shoots, time at the range and his day job as an attorney. He keeps two cellphones and has set up alerts so he can get a constant feed of articles just to stay up to date with gun-related news. Even then, he said, he sometimes feels under-informed.

“People look at me to be a voice, and it can be daunting,” Noir said. “Like my mom says, I made my bed, now I can sleep in it.”

But he wants to do more. He wants to use his law degree to do more with gun rights, but isn’t sure what that would look like. Before he became a gun advocate, Noir said he wanted to be a personal injury lawyer.

“I always knew I wanted to be an advocate. Always. Period,” Noir said. “I’m blessed because I’m doing something I love. Not a lot of people can say that. That, to me, is my saving grace.”

The Veteran

Ben Allen pulled a green, military-style ammo box out of his large Winchester gun safe and set it on the ground. He reached for two guns — a customized AR-15 and an old M1 Garand rifle — and placed them in individual cases.

He tries to get to the range about once a month these days, but timing is tough with work, school and his year-and-a-half-old son, Ty.

Allen says he’ll buy Ty a BB gun in the next few years, but his son won’t be allowed to fire the air rifle until he’s strong enough to pump the action himself. Allen lived with the same rules as a boy in Kaufman County. He’d beg his brother to pump up his BB gun before he was big enough.

“You can’t touch, OK?” Allen tells his son while he packs up the AR-15.He supports some restrictions, and points to Virginia’s mandatory-minimum sentencing laws for gun-related offenses as positive gun control. He thinks that current regulations for background checks for firearm purchases are worthwhile, but opposes universal background checks and says they would be hard to enforce.“How do you regulate it if two people are doing a private sale?” he said. “One of the key values of Americanism is the use of and protection of private property. A lot of times across the country, we’re losing some of that.”He has four of the semi-automatic rifles in the safe. His favorite is a customized rifle with red, white and blue detailing and a Texas flag etched into the lower receiver. His wife has one that’s more accurate than any of his, though. He also built one himself, which is not as DIY as it sounds.Building your own AR-15 doesn’t involve much manufacturing. You purchase the ATF-certified lower receiver, which is what makes it an AR-15. Then, you just mail-order other parts: trigger, barrel, buttstock, sights and other accessories to customize it. It’s no easy task to use a lathe to transform a semi-automatic into something more dangerous.

If we want meaningful change, we need to fix what we already have. Finding the right way forward takes that respectful discussion.” – Ben Allen, Army veteran

“A lot of it is perception,” he said. “People don’t know the difference between this and an M-4.”

The M-4 is the big, bad cousin of the AR-15, but the two have very different applications. Although they are often confused by those who have little experience with either firearm, the M-4 is a more powerful, military-grade rifle that is used by most American infantry units.

Allen carried an M-249 machine gun when he was stationed on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the U.S. Army. He started teaching firearm safety there with the Afghani police, starting with the basics of muzzle control. Today, he teaches basic pistol and license-to-carry classes using NRA safety materials.

He’s also a student, using the GI Bill to get a history degree at the University of North Texas. He likes reading old newspaper reports through the university’s website, then reading history books to see how perspectives have changed.

“I love to see the difference in viewpoints,” he said.

He feels the same way about the national gun debate. Open, respectful, rational dialogue is key for solving problems, he said.

“If we want meaningful change, we need to fix what we already have,” he said. “Finding the right way forward takes that respectful discussion.”

The Salesman

After a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School armed with an AR-15, Ro Carter’s phone rang constantly.

Carter was selling guns out of his Frisco home at the time, and his customers all wanted AR-15s, quick. Gun enthusiasts worried that the horror of Newtown would spur legislation blocking their right to purchase firearms. Nationwide, gun sellers ran out of the rifle and prices skyrocketed. (Normally, the gun sells for anywhere from $500 to $6,000.)

“It was bad for the dealer supply-wise, it was bad for the consumer price-wise,” Carter said.

Today, Carter owns Mister Guns in Plano, where he sells about 4,000 guns each year — and a couple of AR-15s each week. After the recent massacre in an Orlando nightclub, he had a few more people than normal come in for an AR-15 but didn’t see a noticeable jump in sales.“It depends on the … gruesomeness of the event,” he said. “These shocking events play with our emotions.”The goal, when he first opened shop at his home, was to make $500 each month for extra cash. Within a few years, however, he was storing as many as 100 guns in the house, with customers coming and going until midnight.In 2013, he moved the shop to a strip mall at 15th Street and Independence Parkway in Plano. Mister Guns specializes in handguns and tactical firearms, like the AR-15, because that’s where the local gun market likes to spend money, he said.
Growing up in northern Louisiana, guns were just a part of life for Carter. When he was 4 or 5, his older brother would take him to the gun shop or the range. By the time he was 12, he could name every gun he saw on TV.He continued to buy and shoot guns as he grew older, but didn’t buy an AR rifle until 2000, “during the scary assault weapons ban,” Carter said.When politicians target the AR-15 for being too big or violent, Carter points to the mechanics. The AR-15 has a heavy spring in the stock of the rifle, which absorbs inertia released when the bullet leaves the chamber. That means there’s less recoil than there is with other high-powered rifles.That makes it a great introductory rifle, he said, and far less powerful than its competitors. He thinks banning the gun would not solve the problem of mass shootings.“It’s versatile, it’s manageable, it’s excellent for defense, it’s excellent for sport shooting,” Carter said.Carter said, for him, gun ownership boils down to the right to defend yourself. The versatility of the AR-15 in particular, he said, makes it an excellent tool for defense.

“Why do you buy health insurance? Why do you buy life insurance? It’s all the same thing,” he said.

repost from the Dallas Morning News