AR-15 sporting rifle may hold key to protecting schools

My personal Facebook page has exploded in the past few days with comments from a few of my liberal friends (yes, I admit I still have a few) who are jumping on the irrational bandwagon with screams of banning AR-15s and “What are our legislators going to do?” in light of the Florida school shooting.

Nobody disputes the tragedy of the situation. I have a 12-year-old daughter in sixth grade, and I can’t fathom the pain of losing a young child. It didn’t help that the FBI admitted it had received tips about the killer, but failed to act.

There’s no place for emotion when it comes to potential legislation that would affect millions of ordinary gun owners because one mentally ill 19-year-old boy blew a gasket and shot up a school. We need to approach the solutions logically.

“I want everyone to listen to what I have to say and if you disagree with me, I will unfriend you,” one of my friends proclaimed.

She didn’t like that I called her a snowflake, but that attitude is precisely why you can’t reason with some people. They don’t want the facts to stand in the way of a good knee-jerk reaction that will make some feel better until the next opportunity to ban some more guns!

Of course, those of us who have fought gun control for decades chuckle when some tell us that we have nothing to fear because nobody wants to ban guns. Then I remember the Connecticut residents who stood in long lines at Christmastime 2013 to register their AR-15s and high-capacity magazines prior to Jan. 1, 2014, or become felons overnight if they missed the deadline.

It was a feel-good solution to the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting. An estimated 300,000 gun owners, including a Connecticut state trooper, refused to register their guns.

Many states have already passed laws saying they will not enforce restrictive federal laws such as gun bans and registration. Apparently creating a potential civil war in an effort to ban certain firearms with cosmetic differences such as flash hiders, pistol grips and handguards is worth it to some. A similar ban was tried in 1994 and grandfathered out in 2004. Nothing but higher prices on these guns and magazines was achieved.

FBI records show that in 2014, about 370 people nationwide were killed with rifles. More were killed with blunt objects. Gang-bangers and the vast majority of criminals use handguns, but now the anti-gun drum beat has changed its tune to target certain kinds of rifles. Concealed carry in 50 states and the resultant dramatic decreases in violent crime have mostly ended the previous push to ban handguns.

If you would like to read volumes of scrupulously gathered data on the effects of concealed carry on crime and the solutions to mass shootings, please go to John Lott Jr.’s website,

Clearly, some want all guns banned, and this is one reason why our forefathers created the Second Amendment.

Why do we “need” AR-15s? I love the argument against needing certain guns, as if someone gets to decide which guns you get to own (sadly, California and other states with high crime already do this).

Why do you need a V-8 engine or a sports car when a 4-cylinder will do? Maybe because we still value freedom in America above all else? Firearms are one of the few items that Americans have a constitutional right to own. Yes, the military was the people back then, so military-style weapons would have the most protection.

Of course semi-automatic AR-15s and all the variants are not fully automatic “assault rifles” (as defined by the U.S. military). Sporting firearms often originate from the military because those designs are reliable, rugged and frequently accurate. The AR-15’s accuracy is one of its most important features for hunting, target shooting and competition, and most can achieve one MOA (1-inch groups at 100 yards) with careful ammo selection and tuning.

This design now dominates all major rifle events nationwide, including the national matches at Camp Perry. There are more than 50 manufacturers of this design, and due to its modular format, it can be tailored to the individual owner’s preference with shorter and lighter or heavy barrels, various sights, scopes, you name it.

Prices vary from a bare-bones $500 rifle to custom guns exceeding $3,000. Those who don’t own guns think the AR-15 has magic powers, but the most common variant fires the 5.56 or .223 round (there are slight pressure differences between the 5.56 military round and the civilian .223 round, but a .223 Wylde chamber will handle both because the bullet diameter is the same).

The bullet is essentially a fraction larger in diameter than the little .22 Long Rifle cartridge most of us shooters started with as kids, but fitted to a centerfire cartridge for high velocity. The energy generated is far less than the .308 round of the M14 or the common .270 and .30-06 rounds of the deer woods.

Yes, it can be lethal at almost any range but many states will not allow the .223/5.56 round for deer or antelope hunting because its small bullet is not an efficient killer with a marginal shot.

High-capacity rifles aren’t necessarily more dangerous, either, as drill sergeants found out in Vietnam. The “spray and pray” technique expended thousands of rounds, but few kills on the battlefield. Of course, at close range, the AR-15 is deadly.

Its mechanism is no different from hundreds of other models of hunting and target shooting rifles. There are perhaps 8 million or more AR-15s in America and millions of 20- or 30-round magazines. You would need to violate at least three Constitutional amendments (the Second, Fourth and Fifth) if government attempted confiscation.

Will the government reimburse owners? Where will the money come from? Would government agents go door to door? These Gestapo tactics would likely result in chaos at best and far worse if citizens resisted.

The simple solutions, already being done in some states, are to eliminate the gun-free zones (where the vast majority of mass shootings occur) and to allow teachers, administration, retired police and military or others to carry guns in schools. Wisconsin law already allows anyone under contract with a school district to carry with that district’s permission.

Most mass shootings are over in aix minutes or less, and police just can’t get there in time to stop the bloodshed. The same AR-15 that so many uneducated anti-gunners fear is the ideal self-defense weapon that could stop an attack quickly in the hands of a trained teacher or administrator. This rifle is easy to shoot, with a minimum of recoil and the accuracy needed to save lives.

Let’s look at real solutions, not the same old emotion-driven cries that would turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals overnight.

Ross Bielema is a freelance writer from New London and owner of Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC. Contact him at