I bought my first AR-15 in 1977. It was manufactured by Colt and along with a 2X scope ran me around 400 bucks. Filled out the form, showed the dealer my driver’s license, stopped off at the ol’ sand pit on my way home and ran a couple of hundred rounds through my new toy. I lived about a mile from a large military base, so getting my hands on some .223 military ammo wasn’t a big deal. In fact, I think I bought the gun because there was plenty of ammunition lying around.
Those were the days when nobody cared about guns, nobody cared about ammo, nobody cared about mass shootings, nobody cared about background checks, nobody cared about the 2nd Amendment, nobody cared about ‘reasonable’ gun laws, and most of all, nobody cared about whether anyone shared the 88 letters they posted on their Twitter account.
I was reminded of all this yesterday when Colt announced they were dropping the AR-15 from their product line, citing an overproduction of ‘black’ guns and an excess of military orders keeping their AR assembly line humming along. But even if Colt didn’t need to ship this gun to retailers, there’s no reason to make a public statement that the second-most iconic gun model the company ever produced (the first, of course, being the 1911 pistol) was being withdrawn. And by the way, for all the talk by Gun-nut Nation about how Dick’s Sporting Goods would ‘suffer’ because they were no longer selling guns, my bank account should suffer the way that Dick’s stock price has suffered over the past year.
The real problem for the gun industry is that it simply isn’t all that easy to make a convincing argument that civilians have any real reason to walk or drive around with a military-style gun. When Bill Ruger designed the Mini-14 rifle, he consciously gave it the look and feel of the 30-caliber carbine carried onto all those Pacific Islands by my Dad and the Marines. Ruger shipped the gun with a 5-shot mag because he wanted to get into the market with a ‘sporting’ gun.
The AR-15 that I bought in 1977 was called the Colt ‘Sporter.’ But trying to pass off an exact copy of the M-16 didn’t work. Nobody took an AR into the field to hunt Bambi, so the industry then decided to promote the weapon as a self-defense gun. This approach worked a little better, if only because the idea of being able to defend yourself with a gun that held 20 or 30 rounds; oh well, you never know, maybe the Taliban is right over the next hill.
What the gun industry has never been able to reconcile is the fact that guns are designed to do one thing and one thing only; which is to inflict serious damage on living things. Now if the ‘living thing’ happens to be a duck or a goose flying between Florida and Canada, that’s fine. If it’s an antelope in West Texas or an Elk in Wyoming, that’s also okay. But if the ‘living thing’ happens to be a human being, and that human being is sitting in a first-grade classroom in Newtown or a high-school classroom in Parkland, then all of a sudden the discussion about whether or not the AR-15 is a ‘sporting’ gun comes to an end.
When Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower in 1966 and shot 44 people with a bolt-action hunting rifle, the one thing he forgot to figure out was how to get back down. The AR-15 , on the other hand, not only delivers massive firepower but allows the shooter to shoot and run at the same time. Which is why it’s impossible for the gun industry to pitch the nonsense that the AR is some kind of ‘self-defense’ gun.
Colt probably anticipates that sooner or later the gun will be banned. After all, even the most imaginative ad agency can’t figure out why anyone needs to defend themselves from a bunch of school kids or some shoppers in a Walmart store.