The Corner

Dear Anti-Gun Liberals, Don’t Tell Me Which Gun I ‘Need’ for Self-Defense

Any person who breaks into my house or who threatens my family on my property will very soon find themselves staring at the business end of an AR-15 — specifically this one, made by the DoubleStar Corporation, a Winchester, Ky., arms manufacturer. It’s light, maneuverable, accurate, and highly reliable. While self-defense experts can and do disagree on the optimal weapon for home defense, large numbers choose AR-style rifles for exactly the reasons I do. It provides more firepower — with greater accuracy — than the alternatives.

But now I’m told — largely by people who don’t know the first thing about firearms — that no American “needs” an AR-style rifle. But when your life is on the line, what do you want? More accuracy or less? More firepower or less? More recoil or less? More reliability or less? It’s always interesting to take a relatively inexperienced shooter to a range, let them first shoot a handgun (where the bullets generally scatter all over the target), and then hand them an AR. Even rookies will shoot far more accurately with far less recoil. It’s just easier to use.

But not — in general — for criminals. For the average criminal, concealment is key. So they use handguns. Moreover, the average criminal isn’t spending $1,000 (or sometimes more) on their weapon. Rarely (very rarely) extraordinary criminals will use AR-type rifles, but most mass shootings are committed with handguns.

And that brings us to the next point. If the justification for banning a weapon is simply that “criminals find it easy to use to kill lots of people,” then the quest to narrow private ownership of firearms to the mythical class of weapons that law-abiding civilians find handy for self-defense but that criminals can’t use to commit mass murder will reduce legal gun ownership to the vanishing point. Any weapon that’s easy for law-abiding citizens to use is just as easy for criminals to abuse.

In reality, jihadists are the class of criminal least likely to be deterred by gestures like assault-weapons bans. In a nation with millions of AR-style rifles, is it really the case that a determined jihadist would have any real challenge getting his hands on the rifle he wants? In France and Belgium, jihadists often possess fully automatic AK-47s — a true “military weapon” — in spite of gun controls far more draconian than any proposed in the U.S. If you want to stop jihad, gun control is the least effective mechanism.

Earlier today, I did a bit of math. It turns out that less than 1 percent of Americans who’ve died in the war on terror fell to guns purchased in America. If you narrow the inquiry to only those American deaths in the United States, the number is less than 3 percent. Jihadists will kill with boxcutters, pressure cookers, knives, guns, cars, airplanes — with anything they can possibly use to end a human life. It makes far more sense to aggressively fight jihad than it does to render American families more vulnerable to crime.

Which weapon do I need for self-defense? Why don’t you let me make that choice.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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