The National Rifle Association is clearly in trouble. Not only are they becoming a toxic political endorsement, with misguided moves like running ads criticizing the Secret Service protection for the President’s family, but now it’s clear they do not even represent their dwindling numbers of members but are just a lobbying group for weapons manufacturers. In an attempt to defend themselves, NRA President, David Keene, was interviewed by the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas for Bill O’Reilly’s site, The Daily Caller, on Sunday (see the video here). But in his attempt to defend himself, he wound up looking worse than before.
“This nation was founded as a result of the fact that people – citizens – who had a musket above the fireplace grabbed the gun when an emergency confronted them. For four million Americans, the AR-15 is the musket of today.
“You hear some of the gun controllers saying, ‘Well, the Second Amendment only applied to muskets, it didn’t apply to AR-15s or semi-automatic pistols or semi-automatic shotguns, for that matter.’ That was handled by the Supreme Court in the Heller decision. That was the technology of the day. The technology of this day is different, and those guns are as protected by the Constitution today as the single-shot musket in the 1780s and 1790s.”
On the surface, this sounds strange. But let us example it deeper for a moment. The Heller decision did not give unfettered, unrestricted access to military firearms, nor did any of the judges opinions within it imply that. Heller did require that access to personal hand-held weapons be applied fairly. The decision still stated that there is need for the government to regulate the kinds of weapons to be sold.
But, as for the example itself, is the AR-15 the modern musket? Well, simply put, no. First off, a musket is a category of weapon, not a specific model. There were, in fact, several thousand different models of muskets produced for the Revolutionary Army, each with their own unique traits. But the musket was remarkable in that it was not the heavy weapon of the army. Based on its traits, including being a common hunting weapon, and having the most popular ammunition and style, the equivalent to the Revolutionary Army’s musket would, in fact, be weapons derived from the M-1 carbine, such as the M-14.
For an AR-15 equivalent, we would need to turn to the higher-powered weapon of the Revolutionary Army, the Kentucky Long Rifle. Unlike the common musket, the long rifle was a far deadlier weapon, designed to hit its target from much further away. Nicknamed the “Widow and Orphan Maker,” it was the status symbol of the Army of the Republic, and what set it apart from its British opponents. However, like the AR-15, the Long Rifle was temperamental. Even today, the AR-15 based rifles in the U.S. military are not as prized as the M-1 derived weapons, such as the M-14, M-21 and M-25. If you watch a military parade, they do not use the AR-15 derived M-16, but instead the M-1 derived M-14. The AR-15 has been decried by its critics as a “Mattel toy” and a cheap piece of plastic. Not the most reliable weapon, but in the hands of a skilled user, it is deadly.
And, the Long Rifle was only for use by the Continental Army, until advances in weapons technology had them lift the prohibition on private ownership in 1815. So, per NRA President Keene’s logic, the AR-15 should be prohibited by private ownership, just as the Long Rifle was, for national security. While one can understand why he would make this argument, frankly, he looks silly, both from a historical perspective and from a realistic standpoint. Nobody is talking about taking away the weapons from the 4 million as he claimed, but 3 million reported AR-15’s in existence, worldwide. Of course, his 4 million number is the reported number of NRA members, a number which includes lifetime members who have died, people who have turned in their memberships, etc. The NRA is in trouble, so they are acting like a scared, declawed cat, puffing themselves up to look bigger than they are.
A sad state to see a group which used to stand for responsible gun ownership.