The Colt AR-15- Is It Rightfully Demonized?
The media outlets and the Washington D.C. beltway are abuzz, enamored, with compulsively uttering the name of one rifle, The AR-15. Contrary to popular myth the AR is not an abbreviation for “ Assault Rifle”, but rather stands for ArmaLite Rifle. The rifle was designed as a military rifle back in the late 1950’s and the patent was sold to Colt back in 1959. Then in 1963, colt was chosen by the U.S. military to be the manufacture of an automatic derivative of the rifle, which became the infamous M-16. The standard issue rifle of the Vietnam conflict. Then when the patent for the design of the AR-15 lapsed and other manufactures started replicating the style . Understanding this aspect of the rifles history makes it understandable how many copy cats, lower receiver kits, and 85% kits exist for a similarly engineered rifles. I suppose when you aren’t constrained by strict copyright parameters you can truly innovate and get creative with the composition of a specific rifle composition. I suppose this observation is superficial could lead to a completely unrelated tangent. There is little in the rifle’s history that makes it any more menacing than any other gun. It has been rarely associated with terrorism or political upheaval (the only example that comes to mind is the use of variants such as AR-18 by the IRA), like the AK-47. This relatively true until the past 10 years or so and the increased instance of AR-15s being used in mass shootings. Now a weapon that has been around for approximately 60 years is the matter of much controversy.
Many proponents of gun control claim that they are on the side of reason, implicitly inferring that those in opposition are cloud by emotion and superstition. However, a pervasive fallacy among the anti-gun crowd is to conflate the motives of the murder with the murder weapon. Often transferring the malevolent intentions of the assailant with the gun utilized, an inanimate object. Regardless of what its designed function is, an inanimate object does not possess motives. Making such demonization a conspicuous reciprocal of the idealization of reason or reasonable thinking. It stops just short of personification. Disregarding all personal perceptions pertaining to fire arms, any true champion of reason cannot deny concrete evidence. After all, those who knell at the altar of reason venerate enumerated analysis as it is a strong constituent of the scientific method. If you apply the axiom of “numbers don’t lie”, one would assume that personal convictions would be set aside for the facts conveyed by the numbers. The question becomes if the facts and figures do not comport with the narrative of the AR-15 being a weapon of mass carnage, what happens? Does the gun control advocate change their mind or begrudgingly acquiesce the truth of the about the AR-15? This is highly individualistic and difficult to ascertain. Unfortunately, the plethora of cognitive biases and fallacies people suffer from we can relieve our cognitive dissonance through telling ourselves clever lies.
One issue that seems to plague the CDC when it comes to reporting incidents of gun violence is a lack of distinction of what kind of gun was used. It should be specified that the FBI does track the variety of gun utilized . A .22 caliber Ruger pistol or a tactical style “assault rifle” which was utilized in the reported incident? Due to this lack of differentiation this does slightly muddy the waters of the arguments specifically aimed at AR-15s. What can be determined from the data collected is that in the ten-year time span from 2007-2017 four times more people were murdered by a knife than were by a rifle . However, per the FBI’s data within this same ten-year period only “…one-tenth of one percent of homicides were produced by mass shootings involving AR-15s…”. Only a minuscule 3.2 percent of all reported murders in the same decade were committed with rifles . Even per the New York Times, 173 people have been killed in a mass shooting where an AR-15 was used from 2007-2017 (total number of homicides 13,657)  . If you do the math (173 divided by 13,657=0.012667 X 100= 1.266 %) that is a number that is slightly above 1 percent of all homicides. All this uproar and outrage is being focused upon a weapon that is only responsible for approximately 1 percent of all murders. When confronted with such these statistics, it is evident that the AR-15s contribution to the murder rate in the United States is inconsequential. However, considering the amount of media coverage fixated on mass shootings involving the rifle combined with ignorance of the actual numbers, it is understandable to blame view the weapon with contempt. The truly unsettle matter is the fact that the media always presents these statistics with no context and almost never put the numbers into perspective. Percentages and ratios are only significant if you compare them in scale to all other data. Otherwise, it is a game of misrepresentation by omission.
The problem of media fear mongering certainly extends beyond the topic of whether “assault rifles should be banned”. This excursion into some of the many fallacies centered around gun control serves as a parole to a grander message. The take away here is that we need to be critical consumers of media. There are a myriad of misconceptions and skewed data represented as being conveying the whole picture. When, only a sliver of factual truth is being presented and is reframed to support a specific ideology or agenda. Contrary to what the conventional wisdom is, it isn’t just Breitbart or Fox News that is capable of faulty. Many of the establishment media outlets are capable of similar sins regarding framing of facts and figures. The only difference is that MSNBC, Huffington Post, CNN, etc. part of a different tribe, different team …. But play the exact same game. The uncritical among us, which is the clear majority of people are very susceptible to accepting such reports at face value. I particularly see the Appeal to Authority fallacy at work when it comes to the uncritical attitude towards reporting. It’s CNN, they are an established news outlet, therefore their reporting must be factual. Unfortunately, they much like every other source are beleaguered by media bias. All news in the current era is merely pundits editorializing, they are pontificating upon their perceptions of current events. This would be fine if such media was labeled as commentary in contrast to news.