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Gayle Trotter "Good Moms Holding Babies Need Guns in the Home" Advocate Unintentionally Demonstrates Why the AR-15 is an "Assault Rifle"

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The congressional hearings this week about gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Massacre were a spectacle. There were grieving parents, "experts" offering up their own insight on guns and public safety, and a litany of Republican spokespeople (bought and paid for by the NRA) trying to suggest that video games are a bigger problem than guns in American society, and that gun violence is not a public health issue (but maybe it is a "black people problem"...who knows?)

As with other critical issues of public concern, it is apparent that sensible gun control is likely not to be put in place because there is a disagreement about basic facts. Moreover, the symbolism of the gun, the power of lobbying groups, the Right-wing media's myth making machine, and how some folks are actually possessed by magical thinking which suggests that they are contemporary "minutemen" who are going to fight "tyranny" and State power with their guns is both absurd and laughable.

Nevertheless, the mindset is still very compelling for a particular political personality type. Who wouldn't want to pretend to be G.I. Joe or Captain America?

In their efforts to derail sensible public policy about gun violence, one of the canards offered by the Gun Right is a fixation on what constitutes an "assault rifle." The amount of energy expended on this issue has become the equivalent of the TV show King of the Nerds where fine points about esoteric knowledge (of what is ultimately questionable value) are fought over until exhaustion.

Public policy-making is intentionally prevented and mucked up because these fixations about how to label and name a thing--in this case a rifle capable of delivering a high volume of fire in a short amount of time--are chaff used to distract the public from basic questions about health and safety.

In her testimony this week about how the AR-15 is the perfect weapon for women (it is also a "modern day musket" and "self-defense" weapon), Gayle Trotter unintentionally revealed her hand by letting slip a few basic facts about her beloved rifle--facts which undercut the Gun Right's claims about the seemingly "benign" nature of the favorite weapon used by Adam Lanza and other such mass shooters.

Gayle Trotter extolled the virtues of her AR-15:

"Young women are speaking out as to why AR-15 weapons are their weapon of choice," Trotter explained. "The guns are accurate. They have good handling. They're light. They're easy for women to hold."

She added: "And most importantly, their appearance. An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon, and the peace of mind that a woman has as she's facing three, four, five violent attackers, intruders in her home, with her children screaming in the background, the peace of mind that she has knowing that she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened, violent criminals."

The AR-15 is fundamentally the same gun as the M-16 family of weapons. Save for some cosmetic differences, the ability to affix a bayonet for example, and the lack of a 3 fire burst selector (or full auto feature in the M4 and pre-M16A2 versions), the civilian versions of the M-16 (which are marketed under any number of names) also fire the same type of ammunition, and are just as lethal as their military counterparts.

And for all of the obsession with the differences between a "fully automatic" rifle vs. a "semi-automatic rifle," until the widespread use of the M-4 during the Iraq debacle, most infantry was instructed to use the semi-automatic setting as the preferred way of firing the weapon.

As Gayle Trotter lets slip, the AR-15 "looks scary" precisely because it is a military weapon. Moreover, the AR-15 (as with other semi-automatic rifles) is popular with the Gun Right precisely because it is for all intents and purposes a very effective military armament.

The AR-15 is the civilian marketed version of the M-16 rifle. Both are "assault rifles," or if one prefers, "assault weapons." This class of weapon was developed because the military experiences of the post-World One and post-World War 2 eras revealed that most infantry in an age of mass mobilization and industrial war are going to lack any experience with shooting guns and rifles prior to their being drafted or otherwise joining the military. This was especially true in the United States, as the country became more urbanized in the early part of the 20th century.

During World War 2, the German military was the first to field an assault rifle, the MP43/44. This weapon would prove an inspiration for the legendary AK-47. The assault rifle was an acknowledgement of some basic facts about small unit combat in the modern era.

The individual soldier needed to be able to deliver a high amount of fire in an intermediate to close range of 50 to 300 yards. The ideal of long engagement ranges by master shooters was not supported by the data gathered after the two world wars. The individual infantryman needed to be able to have a light, reliable weapon, with a high capacity magazine. The soldier also needed a weapon that would allow for mass fire, closing with the enemy, and would support the battlefield reality that it often takes many thousands of rounds to result in one enemy killed. This weapon would also use a "lighter" round which meant that a given soldier could carry more ammo into battle.

These criteria drove the creation of the modern assault rifle. Gayle Trotter's explanation of why she needs an assault rifle to defend her home (in a fantastic scenario not supported by data about guns and women's safety) echoes these battlefield realities. Light, lethal, able to fight off multiple attackers because of ammo capacity, and ease of use, are the traits of the modern assault rifle. Gayle Trotter's beloved "defense weapon" has all of those attributes.

I wonder how the public discourse about gun policy would be transformed if we could be honest with one another, and remove all of the Orwellian new speak from the conversation? The Gun Right--as defenders of "liberty"--cling to the private ownership of assault rifles precisely because of how efficient those weapons are at killing people. Why are they afraid to admit that basic fact?