Recently I bought my first "real" rifle, a Ruger AR-556. This is Ruger's version of the Colt AR15, sharing ancestry with the military M16. (M4 is the current standard rifle, it is mechanically an M16, but with a shorter barrel and telescoping stock) AR15 is a Colt trademark, AR is used to refer to all rifles of this type.
Isn't that too powerful for civilians? No, the .223 (5.56mm) is at the low end of rifle power. Before WWII, almost all armies used bolt action rifles with a much more powerful cartridge, generally near the limit of what a draftee soldier could handle one shot at a time. During Vietnam we switched from .308 to .223 caliber giving up some range and power for the ability to control full auto fire and carry two or three times more ammo. Most other armies followed a similar path. Hunters of medium to large game generally wanted something closer to the old full power rounds.
But it will go through a bulletproof vest! Bulletproof vests are a compromise, designed to protect against handguns without excess bulk. Rifles (other than .22 rimfire) are far more powerful than handguns and will penetrate most vests. A vest to withstand rifle fire would be much bulkier for little real world benefit, since rifles are rarely used against police.
Isn't the AR a military style rifle? Depends on what you mean by style. Many if not most rifles have military ties--in some cases a military design was adopted by civilians, in others the opposite. Most military rifles from the last 100 years are either more powerful or full auto--intermediate caliber semiautos like the AR-15 are uncommon in military use. Before must service rifles were full auto it was common for leftover military guns to be sold as surplus, generally a really good way to get a quality rifle cheap.
Civilians shouldn't own machine guns! What crimes are you aware of by legally owned machine guns? You're almost certainly wrong, we go decades without violent crimes using legal machine guns anywhere in America. It is possible to legally own a true machine gun, but only if it was registered prior to 1986, if you've had a background check, and you've paid a $200 transfer tax every time ownership changes.
Isn't the AR an assault rifle? The M16 is, the modern AR15 is not. Assault rifle has a pretty standard definition of a machine gun using an intermediate power rifle cartridge.
But it is an assault weapon, and it is a rifle, what's the difference? Assault weapon is a term invented to sound like assault rifle. For 10 years, assault weapon rifles (there was a definition for pistols as well..that included most of the pistols that police use) were defined federally as a semiautomatic rifle with a removable magazine and 2 or more of the following:
Folding or telescoping stock (so a stock adjustable to fit 2 different people would fall under this)
Pistol grip--a gun is more deadly if the angle of your wrist changes?
Bayonet mount (do we really have bayonet crime?)
Flash hider or threaded barrel to accommodate one. A flash hider redirects the flash so less shows up to the shooter, it is still visible to others. They are also used to make a 14" barrel legally 16 inches to duplicate the look of an M4.
Grenade launcher--this one is particularly silly. An underbarrel grenade launcher is more restricted than an AR15 by itself (same rules as real machine guns), while a 22mm launcher is a flash hider of 22mm diameter, so a rifle grenade slides over it. Plus each grenade falls under the same rules as a machine gun, including the $200 transfer tax.
If this is the best they could come up with, it indicates to me that there isn't a real functional difference, they are banning things that look scary--or they are banning whatever they can get away with.
Aren't they easily converted to machine guns? AR15's are not easily converted except by replacing the sear with an auto sear...which is legally a machine gun all by itself, subject to all the laws of machine guns. The receivers of AR15's have enough differences from M16s that the "machine gun" parts of the M16 either will not fit or will not function as machine guns. There was a time when some semiautomatic machine gun lookalike guns (mostly pistol caliber) were easily converted, this loophole closed decades ago--current law says that if it is easily converted, it is a machine gun.
What about capacity? Isn't that a problem?
There is at least some sense to that in the particular, unusual situation of spree murders, but it isn't inherent in the AR-rather almost ANY gun with a box magazine (which is almost all semiautomatics) can take a larger magazine. You probably won't see many extremely high capacities in larger calibers just because the magazine length and weight would be unwieldy. Capacity works both ways though--a good guy is likely to have only the capacity he's legally allowed.
You don't need an AR for hunting, do you? Did Rosa Parks need to sit on the front of the bus? Although I don't hunt, .223 ARs are used for hunting when the game is small enough, with deer being somewhere around the upper limit. The Second Amendment isn't about hunting--it was written by literal revolutionaries. It was meant for a situation like a president who refuses to leave office, for police turning a blind eye when racists firebomb churches, to protect against rioting, looting or foreign invaders.
A couple of guys with AR15's can't stand up to the US Army. A couple of guys shouldn't be able to. A majority on the other hand should be able to withstand their own government if the government won't obey or allow an honest election. I see this as deterrence rather than something that will ever happen--As long as we CAN revolt, we won't need to. To be clear, I don't think we are anywhere near needing to revolt, but I don't want to move in that direction.
The second amendment only applies to guns available when it was written, and it's a collective right Does freedom of the press only apply to literal manual, mechanical presses? Does freedom of speech cover telephone conversations? What would be an unconstitutional infringement of a collective right?
That's different, speech doesn't kill people. How many kids has anti-vax idiocy killed? And yet giving the government the ability to censor this sort of speech would be worse. We've had bans on sex worker ads under the pretext of protecting exploited women and girls, that in fact makes sex work more dangerous.
OK, I don't know the details, but isn't it obvious we need to do something to stop these mass shootings? How much should we base laws and loss of rights on sensationalism? We're talking about 0.24% of gun murders, according to Mother Jones magazine. What about the Red Menace and McCarthy? There were a few communist agents in the government and Hollywood back then, there are almost certainly a few now--does that justify purges and blacklists? Another possibility for "do something" is to violate the first amendment instead of the second--these shootings are more likely in the days after a previous one. If we restricted reporting on the first one, if we didn't keep reporting the name of these losers, refused to let them become famous we would have fewer of them.
...and while I would love it if news organizations would adopt that policy voluntarily, or even via threads of boycott, I'm firmly against a law demanding it. A free press is just as important as gun rights. I don't want the Trump administration or any other in charge of deciding what's "fake news"--especially since there is no way to limit this to what was originally intended.
So why an AR for me? In the 70's and 80's, there were many, many different architectures of personal computers. Eventually IBM released their version. This used many third party parts including the operating system, making the clone industry possible. It wasn't the best or cheapest at first, but the backing of IBM got it past the initial teething pains until it became the dominant type of computer. The AR-15 took a somewhat similar path--Invented by Armalite, sold to Colt, years of improvements resulting in a lightweight and reliable gun. At some point the patents expired and the clone market opened up (this took a lot longer than with computers), now it is the most common centerfire rifle type, possibly the most common overall. (Centerfire effectively means anything more powerful than a .22 rimfire, including most handguns) If you gol look at the rifle section of a typical gun shop, you'll probably find something like roughly a third .22 rimfire, a third ARs and a third everything else--and a lot of that last third are guns too powerful to be practical in an AR platform. There is no worry about the manufacturer dropping support or going out of business. it's the most common for many reasons, and many of those reasons apply to me.