Commentary: I Need an AR-15

by Daniel Gelernter


I don’t need an AR-15 for hunting: It’s not even legal to take a deer with one in my state—the caliber is too small. I also don’t need an AR-15 for self-defense, though I’d want to have one if someone broke into my house. And I certainly don’t need one just because it’s a beautiful piece of engineering. I need an AR-15 because the government doesn’t want me to have one.

Governments hate private weapons, and have always hated them. In Europe, traditionally only gentlemen (that is, originally, only knights) were allowed to carry a sword. In Japan, the samurai’s right to carry his sword came along with the right to kill any commoner who offended him—uchisute or “strike and abandon.” In Soviet Russia, private weapons were illegal, as they still are in China. And when Hitler’s Germany swept through Holland, Belgium, and France in 1940, they put up notices giving the locals 48 hours to hand over private firearms or face death (by shooting).

When England prepared to defend herself against a threatened Nazi invasion, the Home Guard was armed in part with private weapons, as well as by rifles donated by Americans, who were the only people in the world with guns to spare. These were among the weapons confiscated and destroyed when Britain banned firearms in 1997.

There are only two forms of government: One where the people are afraid of the government, and one where the government is afraid of the people. Whoever has the weapons is the ruling class, and there is only one case in all history, only in America, that the ruling class has actually been the common man.

Controlling Guns, Controlling People

Our federal government has been trying to undo this remarkable fact for at least the last 100 years. The first serious blow came in 1934, justified by the rise of organized crime at the time. As I outlined in a recent piece on plea bargains, organized crime was a midway point in the cascade of unintended consequences from Prohibition. The government thought the best way to keep machine guns, short rifles, and silencers out of the hands of the mafia would be to make a national registry and require anyone buying one of these items to pay a $200 tax.

It may come as a shock that organized crime largely ignored the new registration requirements. And neither were they punctilious in the matter of paying taxes. For law-abiding citizens in 1934, however, when the average annual income was $1,600, the National Firearms Act had the practical effect of restricting ownership of certain weapons to the wealthy and, of course, to the government.

When viewed from the standpoint of limiting crime, the National Firearms Act is patently ludicrous: Requiring criminals to register and pay taxes on the weapons with which they are about to commit murder, or else forcing them to acquire these weapons illegally is crazy. When viewed from the standpoint of controlling people, however, the NFA makes perfect sense.

Every action taken by the federal government has one purpose in mind: To protect the government from its citizens by transferring power from those citizens to the government. It is a striking and horrifying fact that, in this eternal quest, criminals and the government are in perfect alignment. Criminal acts of a certain magnitude are necessary in order to make emergency government measures plausible.

Criminals Are Exempt

The government never lets a crisis go to waste—just try replacing the word “crisis” with “crime” to get an accurate picture of the history of gun control. In a twisted quid pro quo, the government has protected professional criminals from the laws it passes in answer to their crimes.

If you have any doubt on this score, a 1968 Supreme Court ruling confirmed that felons are exempt from registration under the National Firearms Act. And this is not a joke: Citing the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination, the court ruled in Haynes v. United States that only noncriminals were required to register NFA weapons and pay the tax.

The government’s legal gymnastics and lies concerning firearms laws are staggering. In 1939, the government argued in court that short-barreled shotguns could be regulated because such guns are not military weapons, and only military weapons are protected by the Second Amendment. The NFA, they explained, was purely a revenue measure conducted by the Department of the Treasury. (The very popular “it’s just a tax” argument.) The Supreme Court agreed.

But in 1968, the federal government banned importing military weapons on the grounds that the Second Amendment only protects guns with a “sporting purpose.” The Supreme Court agreed with that as well. In 1986, the government banned the manufacture of full-automatic and select-fire weapons. And since the only way to get one of these guns today is to buy one made and registered before 1986, a full-auto equivalent of the AR-15 will now cost you around $50,000. So unless you’re a wealthy person, or a member of the police (who can buy a new one for what it’s actually worth—around $1000) you can forget it.

The Last Resort Exists

The real problem is that a government with a monopoly on force might do anything. They might respond to your home-schooling plan by confiscating your children, as happened in Germany. They might jail you for making an offensive joke on your Facebook page, as happened in Britain. They might use a pandemic to force you to close your business indefinitely, as happened in New York. A man disarmed by his government is not a citizen—he’s a subject.

The individual American’s best friends in this fight are those states and counties that refuse to implement unconstitutional federal laws. Montana started the ball rolling in 2009 with its Firearms Freedom Act, and numerous other states subsequently passed similar laws. These laws, of course, were ruled out of order by the federal government, but it ultimately remains up to the states to insist that the federal government is operating outside its authority.

The question regarding dangerous weapons is not whether it’s safe for citizens to own them, but whether—or why—we might consider it safe for the government to own them. When the FBI descended on Waco, they managed to kill more people in one day than the most prolific serial killer they ever caught had killed in his whole career. The Branch Davidians at Waco were actually gun dealers and were well-armed, but of course the FBI brought a tank. The FBI should not have had a tank to bring.

The current administration in Washington, D.C. is not elected and is not legitimate. As if confirming this fact, they’ve surrounded themselves with barbed wire and soldiers carrying machine guns. In so doing they implicitly acknowledge the danger posed—to them—by an armed and angry population. An AR-15 is not just a tool of last resort: It is a declaration that the last resort exists, a reminder that there are outer limits to the abuse of power.

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Dan Gelernter is a writer and entrepreneur living in Connecticut.








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16 Thoughts to “Commentary: I Need an AR-15”

  1. LargeMarge

    The largest irregular military in the known universe.

  2. William Delzell

    It’s one thing to have a hunter’s rifle for food-hunting if you are alone in the woods and hungry, and it’s okay to have a small hand-gun to protect your home from criminals. However, the only people who want an AR-15 or a similarly situated weapon are those who want to go on shooting rampages at shopping malls, at schools, or at other venues where the law-abiding public gathers. We don’t need to make it easier for deranged snipers or terrorists (some of whom have been hired by our own government over the past seventy plus years) to kill innocent people for kicks.

    1. Boyd

      So you are just gonna let the government kill ya? Oh, that`s right, you haven`t done anything. Much like the Branch Davidians, or Randy Weavers son and wife. How about getting SWATTED and one of them yells “gun” while you try to use your cell phone or reach for your wallet?
      Your discourse shows how little you know about firearms. There are millions and millions of AR-15 owners who have NO intention of shooting up a bunch of innocent people, let alone one person.
      Go live in Canada or England, you`ll like their “gun control”, in fact go live in almost any other country including Mexico.

    2. Well well, Mr Delzell, I am so happy you will allow us some rights.

    3. Steve Allen

      William: Do you own any firearms? If not, have you ever spent time at a range shooting or have you ever spend the time to become familiar with firearm usage for hunting, target shooting, or personal defense? Firearms are one of the most vilified objects in existence by people who nothing about them. I own AR platform rifle that is specifically for hunting and target shooting. Never in my life would I even consider going to a shopping mall or school and use it to shoot anyone. For you to make the statement that I would own one with the intention to kill innocent people is disingenuous to say the least. Your statement only shows how little you know about firearms ownership.

    4. noquarters

      Name or list the recent mass killings with an AR-15. I can think of one in the last 20 years. The rest have been handguns, shotguns, bare fists, knives, etc…

    5. Alan

      You go to mass murder quickly. Are you a potential mass murderer? Sounds a lot like it. Do you need an ankle bracelet so we know where you are?

    6. Harry Titshaw

      So you actually believe the single most popular rifle in the entire rifle is desired by the vast majority of the population is because they want to go on shooting rampages in designated killing zones. (no guns allowed). Carefully selected by the crazies and criminals who are actually tiny in number. By the way sport and food have nothing to do with the purpose of the 2nd amendment. We actually need weapons in order to dissuade foreign invasion (both Japan and Germany in WW2) and to prevent an out of control Federal Government (which we have) and a corrupted and treasonous bureaucracy which is actively attempting to instill a tyrannical, Marxist style government right in front of your eyes. I’d suggest you need to get an AR15 for when they come knocking on your door. They only have rules for thee, not for themselves.

    7. Johnny

      Some people just repeat what the little black tube tells them ! Don’t watch tv go to the range and meet people and see if you have the same feelings . Better yet when the fema crew come to take you because your sick to a special camp let me know if you want to borrow that AR which is nothing more than a 22 .. some people are clueless and you sir are one of them . God bless and god bless every American gun owner !

    8. EdC

      The claim that only people who want a AR-15 or similar weapons are deranged killers is ludicrous and deranged in itself. If that were the case, it would have manifested a long time ago. Such claims are based on a emotion fueled lie and false narrative. The proponents know this or, are parroting useful idiots. Both camps would use the term “situated weapons”.

  3. jhunter

    Thank you for a great article.

    1. noquarters

      Actually, an AR-15 in a large caliber, like 300BlackOut would make a very good deer dropper. Same for hogs, etc.

  4. Steve Allen

    Thank you for the very well written commentary. I can hardly wait for the sad liberal responses.

    We are one of the last countries in the world that allows the common person to own firearms, and consequently, we are blessed with freedoms that other countries populations only dream about. The leftists/socialists/marxists and the globalists/UN know this and are working overtime to ban the possession of ALL firearms in America.

    The donks can pass all the executive orders they please but there are enough Red States that well disregard these orders to make them ineffective. Send in the military? While there is a movement to purge the military of conservative members, the military is not going to take up arms against U.S. citizens. This brings us to a statement made by the community organizer while he was president. On July 2, 2008 Obama stated;

    “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

    So here’s the “force” that could be used to confiscate America’s firearms. Think not, look at the history of countries such as Germany under Hitler. I believe we’re not that far down the rabbit hole yet, but nothing is out of the question these days. American’s freedoms are so fragile right now. Look at the crap the leftists put American cites and their citizens through all in the name of a biological attach by the communist Chinese. Constitutional freedoms were striped from law abiding Americans. If for some reason America falls into lawlessness, people’s right to own firearms will be the only thing that will save them.

  5. JRin

    Excellent article

  6. Dean - Knoxville

    Great article – 100% agree.