NEWTOWN, Conn. — In media stories nationwide, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and its firearm-manufacturer members continue to correct misinformation about AR-style modern sporting rifles, the sale of which would be banned and ownership severely restricted if proposed legislation is passed by federal and state lawmakers.
Much confusion exists about the function and use of these legal-to-own, semiautomatic rifles, prompting NSSF to take every opportunity to provide accurate information about modern sporting firearms to media, legislators and anyone else willing to listen.
Advocates for banning these rifles have made misleading claims that these semiautomatic firearms can be fired as fast as a machine gun. A fact-filled video report aired this week by Connecticut’s WTNH Channel 8 debunks that claim, showing the huge difference in the rate of fire between a fully automatic machine gun, which will continuously fire shots as long as the trigger remains pulled, and the semiautomatic modern sporting rifle–“one of the most popular guns in America”–that shoots just one shot with each separate pull of the trigger. Civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms has been severely restricted since 1934.
Jake McGuigan, NSSF’s director of government relations-state affairs, pointed out that while the modern sporting rifle looks like a military rifle capable of fully automatic fire, it is instead a semiautomatic model made for purchase by civilians–and is not a machine gun.
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The video begins with people being asked what the rifle’s AR prefix stands for. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they say “assault rifle” and “automatic rifle.” Neither is true. The prefix stands for ArmaLite, one of 55 companies manufacturing this style of rifle today.
“We call it the modern sporting rifle because these guns are all used legitimately every day for sporting purposes,” said Michael Guerra of Colt Manufacturing in the video.
About 4 million modern sporting rifles have been purchased in the last 10 years. The rifle’s ergonomics, accuracy, low recoil and versatility are prized by target shooters and hunters, as well as those who own them for personal and home defense. The rifle is the latest example of a long-established trend in which firearm models used by the military such as the bolt-action rifle of World War I and the semiautomatic M-1 of World War II have became popular with civilians who use them for recreational shooting–except that today’s semiautomatic modern sporting rifle is not a fully automatic “weapon of war.”
In the WTNH piece, Colt Manufacturing CEO Dennis Veilleux said many returning servicemen and women are purchasing modern sporting rifles. “They like to hunt and shoot. Their first choice is going to be what they are most familiar with, what they are most comfortable with. It’s a large part of why this rifle has become more and more popular,” Veilleux said.
Regarding the rifle’s modern look, NSSF President Steve Sanetti has made the point in many interviews, including in aWashington Post story this week, that the appearances of firearms, as with many consumer products, are changing. “Nothing looks like it did 50 or 100 years ago,” Sanetti said. “Today, this is the way a rifle looks. It doesn’t have a wood stock or blued steel. It can be a scary-looking thing, and the other side plays on that fear. Yet it has become ‘America’s rifle.’ When target shooters and hunters–age 25 to 40–go to purchase a rifle, the modern sporting rifle is what they want, and they take great pleasure in using it for a variety of lawful, recreational purposes.”
Mark Malkowski, owner of Stag Arms, which solely manufactures modern sporting rifles, said in a USA Today interview, “We have to understand that there are millions of people who do use our products safely and responsibly. We’ve seen that bans have not been successful. If anything, all they do is open up black markets and turn everyday citizens into felons.”
Instead of banning firearms, Malkowski said, “I think we have to look at what really makes a difference . . . [which is] preventing unauthorized access to firearms and as well as immediate improvements to the National [Instant] Criminal Background Check System.”