Saturday, June 18, 2016
Can You Tell the Difference?
Eugene Stoner invented both the AR-15 and the M-16, which he sold to Colt. He died of cancer in 1997, wealthy from his inventions. The M-16 has been a standard military issue assault rifle in our armed forces since 1963. “Colleagues of Mr. Stoner said he began his work in the early 1950's because military studies showed that soldiers in World War II and Korea, under the pressure of combat, were not pulling the trigger on the weapons. So Mr. Stoner tried to develop a rifle that would fire repeatedly with a single pull of the trigger.” New York Times, April 27, 1997.
That was when he began his designs of the AR set of automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles, guns that were relatively lightweight (using plastic for the stock instead of wood, and a lighter, smaller caliber bullet that made the magazines easier to carry and change out) and intended for closer-contact combat. The AR became the M, when the military adopted it.
Did Stoner envision the popularity of his weapon among civilians? Did he even think the gun was something civilians should even have? “‘Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47,’ the Stoner family told NBC News on June 15th. ‘He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events… And though he made millions from the design, his family said it was all from military sales.
“‘After many conversations with him, we feel his intent was that he designed it as a military rifle,’ his family said, explaining that Stoner was focused on making the most efficient and superior rifle possible for the military.
”He designed the original AR-15 in the late 1950s, working on it in his own garage and later as the chief designer for ArmaLite, a then small company in southern California. He made it light and powerful and he fashioned a new bullet for it — a .223 caliber round capable of piercing a metal helmet at 500 yards… The Army loved it and famously renamed it the M16.” AOL.com, June 16th.
It took a filibuster to get a Senate vote – with no clear expectation of success in the entire GOP-controlled Congress – on limiting the ability of suspected terrorists to buy guns. “[In mid-June], Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) staged a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor to secure a vote on legislation that would make it harder for people on the terrorist watch list to legally purchase guns in the United States. The effort underscores a strange fact about U.S. firearm laws: Being placed on a federal terrorist watch list is no barrier to passing a gun background check.
“‘Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law,’ as the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2010. And indeed, plenty of people on these watch lists do purchase firearms: Between 2004 and 2015, people on the terrorist watch list passed federal gun background checks no fewer than 2,265 times. At least three of those background checks involved the purchase of explosives. Only 212 attempted purchases were blocked, a successful purchase rate of over 90 percent.
“Last year alone, people on the terrorist watch list attempted to purchase guns 244 times. Of those, 223 attempts were successful.” The Washington Post, June 17th. But this obvious token legislation, if passed, is hardly more than a blip of what needs to happen. Civilians should not have weapons intended as lean, mean human being-killing machines designed for the military. It does not matter that the civilian version requires a finger pull for every bullet fired. Mass shooters always seem know how to do that… and change magazines quickly.
Are more guns the answer, as too many right-wingers believe? “If we had people with bullets going the opposite direction right smack between the eyes of this maniac — if some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or right to their ankle, and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting — and one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes 'boom, boom,' you know what, that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks. That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight.” Donald Trump at a Houston rally on June 17th. Maybe or maybe not, but I find it strange that Mr. Trump, with NRA support, is basically advocating that people in bars would be safer if they were armed. Nothing like a little alcohol and an argument to encourage gun safety, right? What’s wrong with this picture?! What is it about “obvious” that we just do not get? And when the courts begin to grapple with the “well regulated” phrase set out as an intimate part of the Second Amendment?
I’m Peter Dekom, and the AR-15 is the weapon at the top of this blog; the M-16 below.