Democrats and the media now believe they have the solution to mass shootings: banning the AR-15. The AR-15 (no, it’s not an AR because it’s an “assault rifle,” but because it’s based on the Armalite design) was used in the Parkland, Florida school massacre; it was also used in the Sutherland Springs, Texas mass church shooting, the Las Vegas mass shooting, the San Bernardino mass shooting, and the Sandy Hook school massacre. The media have labeled other rifles “AR-style”; those shootings would include the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre (.223 Bushmaster) and the Orlando nightclub massacre (Sig Sauer MCX).
Now, it’s utterly unrealistic to ban AR-15s. There are several reasons for this. First off, Americans own more than 8 million AR-15s. Second, the AR-15 is a quality semi-automatic rifle, but it’s not the only semi-automatic rifle — there are another seven million in circulation. Virtually all manufactured rifles carry the same key features as the AR-15, so long as they don’t involve a manual reloading mechanism (bolt action, lever action, pump action, e.g.).
Third, the 1994 assault weapons ban was directed at particular gun features that did not impact the actual firing mechanism of semi-automatic rifles — it largely involved cosmetic features that could easily be altered. And there’s no evidence whatsoever that the assault weapons ban did anything to prevent mass shootings. Fourth, long-guns are used in approximately one-fifth the number of murders as handguns.
So, what would an AR-15 ban look like? As Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in Florida, any law that truly attempted to ban the AR-15 would end by banning the vast majority of rifles in the United States, and thereby criminalizing tens of millions of Americans — unless the law were to grandfather in already-owned weapons, which would presumably defeat the purpose of the law.
The reason the AR-15 is popular is not merely because it’s a quality rifle. It’s popular because of the media and Democratic focus on banning it. That focus makes gun-owners believe they must rush out and buy AR-15s before the government stops them. Furthermore, state and local attempts to “ban” the AR-15 have been ineffective: Connecticut’s ban on “assault weapons” didn’t stop Sandy Hook, and though California passed a law in 2017 that essentially made AR-15s illegal unless they had non-replaceable magazines, gunowners have already come up with legal workarounds. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens are in danger of becoming criminals in California if they don’t register their already-owned AR-15s and dig up all the sales information for weapons bought years ago rather than simply supplying serial numbers.
Simply banning weapons sounds nice to gun control advocates. But absent a blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles — which would necessarily involve repeal of the Second Amendment — no such ban will ever become federal law.