I get this question a lot. And the answer is a resounding YES.
Being vegan I tend to hang with a lot of more “progressive” people, and many of them seem to lack the understanding about AR-15s and why they are important. So I will address my long-winded answer in parts:
Part 1: Basing Rights on Needs
This is a VERY slippery precedent to be setting. As Americans, we are granted a series of rights per our Bill of Rights which is an extension (amendments) of our constitution. Some of these rights focus on religion, speech, press, illegal searches, and self-implication.
Once we ask ourselves what rights are “needed,” we open all of them to the same scrutiny. What if in the future, a loud minority of our population questions our need to free speech? I mean, do we really need it? How about a right to a speedy and fair trial?
The bottom line is that all amendments together are crucial to the freedoms we all enjoy and appreciate. We should not do anything to undermine the inherent “need” of any of them, lest we compromise all of them.
Part 2: The Musket is not the same as an AR-15
Many anti-gunners point to the fact the weaponry available today is crazy advanced against the muskets and muzzleloaders of our forefathers as they inked the constitution. I think in the 1750s the fastest shooter was able to fire about 3 rounds per minute.
At least these are the myths perpetuated by the media.
But, even during the revolutionary war, there were some advanced weapons. The Ferguson rifle shot a projectile MUCH larger than today’s rifles, and could be fired up to 7 rounds per minute. Then there were other advancements like the Puckle Gun, which, in 1722 fired 63 rounds in 7 minutes.
Even the Jennings rifle fired 12 rounds instantly! That rifle was released just 30 years after the Bill of Rights was signed.
But why base our modern day rights off the times and technology of the 1700s? Do we find it odd that people exercise their 1st amendment rights using a computer and not a quill pen and ink?
The point here is that the Brown Bess or the “musket” of the time was about the same weapon that armies and governments were outfitted with. Our founding Fathers wanted the citizenry to always be equal to the military, in an effort to secure a free state.
The bottom line here is that there was no way to predict the future of weaponry when the BOR was ratified. But it is clear to see that even back in the day, there were some pretty crazy guns floating around, and those advancements were there in our founding days.
Part 3: A Gun for Everyman
The AR-15 (which, BTW stands for Armalite Rifle, the company that first designed and produced it) is a basic rifle that is adaptable and customizable in a million different ways. Which is why it is so appealing. When you consider the fact the .223 cartridge is actually pretty underpowered (the military has been looking for a larger caliber replacement for years after claims the 5.56/.223 caliber round is ineffective at stopping enemies), you begin to see it’s utility.
Some people use it for varmint control, some use it for defense (watch this crazy video), and others (like myself) use it for recreational and competition shooting. It is the Jack of all trades and master of none.
After living in Alaska for a few years, I grew addicted to the necessity of carrying a weapon with me in the back country. Call me paranoid, but I like the idea of being able to defend myself against animals (but hopefully never having to). My AR-15 was designed (by me) to be small, reliable, and lightweight. So, I sling it over my back on occasion when exploring into the woods. It is purely my utility rifle. It gets dirty and scratched up, but that is the purpose of it.
That to me is the beauty – and the reason why we need AR-15s. They are simple, customizable, and are OK (not perfect) at just about anything we need them to do.
I know it seems like a logical question. We have a mass shooting, and in our collective anger we ask ourselves if we, the people, really need these guns. But to properly answer that question we need to look at an examine a host of other questions and points. From the constitution, to the utility.
But we also need to remember our rights as Americans were never given to us based on need alone. We have a lot of things we do not need.
In the end, when you consider the low number of crimes committed with these weapons (Nationally, “assault weapons” were used in 1.4% of crimes involving firearms and 0.25% of all violent crime … In many major urban areas (San Antonio, Mobile, Nashville, etc.) and some entire states (Maryland, New Jersey, etc.) the rate is less than 0.1%) and the adaptability, sporting uses, and original intent of the second amendment, the answer is still a resounding YES.