Most American gun owners know that the AR 15 is one of the most popular rifles on the market. Because of that, it inevitably makes its way into the conversation whenever people talk about self-defense, gun control laws, and more.
These guns are so popular that people have sued cities and towns that ban them, claiming such bans violate their Second Amendment rights. As part of the U.S. Constitution, the Second Amendment is something politicians swear to uphold when they take office.
But why the AR 15? There are so many guns out there that a person has to wonder what the big deal is. The truth has several ideas behind it, explaining why politicians like using it in the gun control debate.
Guns are a hallmark of American culture, going back to its founding. Enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers intended Americans to have the ability to hunt their food and protect their homes, thus putting a protective layer around America's core values: Self-reliance, strength, and above all, freedom.
Despite the sheer number of guns on the market, the AR 15 is one of the most significant embodiments of America's culture and values. Many people see it not as a deadly weapon, but instead, as a tool that can bring home meat and defend against intruders and attackers.
It's tough for Americans to feel as though they can live their own culture without the ability to protect it in any way possible. At America's founding, that meant muskets. Nowadays, it means choosing the best gun for a person's needs and desires.
Why Is the AR 15 so Popular in America?
Ask various AR 15 owners why they love these rifles, and they'll give a massive variety of answers. Aside from viewing it as a tool that works in many situations, it's versatile and easy to use, and of course, serves as an American symbol.
People can build an AR 15 pretty much from scratch, although it's easier to buy one and customize it. Since it's so easy to take apart, it's also easy to clean and replace or swap pieces out. For instance, those who want to use this gun for precision shooting can change out its trigger, barrel, and scope.
Those who like to use it for hunting can easily change out its barrel, handguard, and upper and lower receivers to match their preferred quarry. That makes hunting anything considerably easier.
People also feel safer with the AR 15 than they might with other rifles because the military and law enforcement agencies use equivalent rifles. It shows that it's a good gun for defense.
What About the AR 15's Reputation?
A lot of mass shooters do indeed use AR 15s. The list of reasons behind mass shootings is long and convoluted, though, and yes, the rifle's popularity probably plays a role. That's one reason why some lawmakers want to ban AR 15s entirely.
However, AR 15s don't make mass shooters, and gun violence, in general, is a matter of public and societal health rather than merely a problem with guns. Politicians are using fear when they call it an assault weapon and assault rifle, and when they point to mass shootings as a reason to ban AR 15s. There is no single, easy solution here.
Why Politicians Like the AR 15
So why do politicians like the AR 15? It's not just about self-defense, although when discussing gun legislation, that's one of the primary topics. Many politicians also see a slippery slope into a far stricter interpretation of the Second Amendment that would deprive Americans of many kinds of guns, including the AR 15.
Gun legislation is, in and of itself, a very hot-button issue. Politicians on all sides use the AR 15 as an example of the reasons for and against stricter gun laws. Many politicians point to its popularity, versatility, ease of use, and American symbolism when arguing against a ban.
The Will of the People
The United States is a federal constitutional republic, and the government is supposed to represent the people's will. Unfortunately, sometimes, politicians do have to make unpopular choices because they also must do what's in the people's best interests.
That's not true in the case of the AR 15, though. They see little reason to buck their constituents because there's no single, definitive reason to do so, and they see reasons not to. For instance, there's some evidence that certain gun control plans that include banning the AR 15 would disproportionately harm poor and working-class people, creating a new angle on what it means to be able to defend oneself.
Politicians who see that believe they'll harm their constituents if they support any such proposal.
The Coronavirus Pandemic and the AR 15
When states began issuing lockdown orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people asked why anyone would need an AR 15. Politicians do exaggerate much of the violence that has happened during the pandemic, but those exaggerations don't make the violence that is happening any less real.
The U.S., and indeed, the entire world, entered a new time with the appearance of SARS-cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This pandemic level isn't unprecedented, but the world also hasn't seen it in 100 years. People are uncertain. They're scared. Tensions are high. Politicians see a ripe breeding ground for violence here.
That goes back to self-defense. The "looting hordes" that some have spoken of may not exist, but that doesn't mean everything's fine. Again, people want to feel safe and secure, and having survival food as well as an AR 15 helps provide that feeling.
Very little is more American than the AR 15, so politicians like to use it as a tool in the gun control debate. Who wants to appear un-American, and who wants to go against their constituents without a really good reason?
AR 15s are among the most popular guns in America for many reasons, not just because they're a symbol of America's values. Politicians who like using it in their arguments know they’ll get attention, whether the feedback is good or bad. Politicians like to use language in their speeches that engage emotions to connect deeper with their audiences.