Among the unique qualities of Professor English’s National Firearms Survey is that he asked respondents whether they owned AR-15 style rifles or large-capacity magazines (holding 10+ rounds of ammunition).
English finds that 30.2% of gun owners have owned AR-15 style rifles (around 25 million people), and 48% have owned 10+ capacity magazines (approximately 40 million people).
(From Episode 2 of “Light Over Heat,” remember these are very conservative estimates of ownership rates given the underreporting of gun ownership in surveys.)
Beyond simply being interesting empirically, these findings are relevant to the legal question of whether certain firearms are in “common use.”
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This is the third of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and reflection #2). The assignment to which students are responding can be found here. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to have their thoughts shared publicly.
By Hannah Coates
My experience at Veterans Range was surprising to me in more ways than one. Not only was the gun range different than I anticipated in appearance, structure, and regulation, but the act of shooting a gun was also eye-opening in comparison to my expectations, all in all expanding upon my prior understanding of guns in the US.
This is the first of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar. The assignment to which students are responding can be found here. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to have their thoughts shared publicly.
By Caleb Brinkley
To preface, I enjoyed the class range trip and thought it went well. My circumstances are different from other students in several ways, notably in experience and physical considerations. I have a relatively extensive background in the gun community with a focus on competition and training that extends beyond the level of the average American gun owner. Thus, what was unique about the range trip for me wasn’t the shooting per se, but the context in which it occurred in. The shooting itself was introductory level, as appropriate for the students since the majority had little experience with firearms.
The debate over civilian ownership of AR-15 platform rifles heats up every time there is a mass murder in the United States using one. Because I study gun culture, people often ask me, “Why does anyone need one of those weapons of war, anyway?”
I usually don’t have a good answer, since handguns are the gun of choice of Gun Culture 2.0, and most of my personal experience with firearms has been with handguns. In fact, about 5 years ago I bought an AR platform rifle with the intention of learning more about it, and it sat untouched for 4 years. Last fall someone shot 5 rounds through it and it has not been touched again since.
So I am happy to bring forth the writing of someone who has thought about this issue more than I have. Jon Stokes is a computer engineer who has two master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School, co-founded Ars Technica, was an editor at Wired, and continues to be a progressive gun nut.
I appreciate his allowing me to re-print his essay, “Why I ‘Need’ an AR-15,” originally published on Medium in June 2016 following the mass murder at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.