Why I “Need” an AR-15
Jon Stokes

Dear Jon,
First, I must say that I’m incredibly proud of myself for reading this from start to finish. Next, I must say that I am incredibly surprised to find that I learned something valuable. …And I’m appreciative of that. Thank you. Admittedly, my gut and my brain are in an argument right now because my gut wants to hold on to its long held dissent of “assault riffles.” (You have to admit the name is horrible and inciting.) My brain, however, received the information you shared and can’t co-sign the simple solution ignorant people, like me, who were ignorant of the fact that we were ignorant, keep touting.
So here’s what I’ve learned. AR-15 are a more common and less rare gun than I thought, so when the word “ban” is said, we really actually are saying, “We’re going to take your gun.” I didn’t know that! I don’t think any of us knew what the gun actually was or that it was that common.

Don’t get it twisted. I don’t like guns. More specifically, I don’t like guns shots I live with and grew up with. Still, I at least knew I wasn’t hearing an “assault riffle” though (lol) I was clearly hearing an assault, AND I might have been hearing one since apparently they can be reconfigured for different purposes. All that is beside the point. I have fired a riffle at camp. (Mind you, I was the only Black inner-city on this camping trip.) I knew it was supposed to be cool and make me feel cool, but guns are so closely associated with death to me that I just don’t care for them.

That said, I COMPLETELY understand the need for them. Cops come after the fact, and you’re not going to ask a criminal, “But okay, so, how violent are you really? Like are you going to hurt me or kill me?” to determine if you should “shoot to kill.” (That’s something else that made a lot of sense. It is easier to shoot at the torso than moving limbs, and you aren’t out of danger until someone stops moving/attacking. Gee, you have no idea how hard it is to admit these things because in some ways it means I understand how Black lives can be taken by cops with this logic, BUT of course that’s no actual absolution, as it’s still outrageous that unarmed Blacks can be killed while a number of armed White people aren’t. I digress.) So I get the need for a gun for home defense. I get the allure for sport and hunting. I’m turned off by the feeling of power that comes with being able to end someone or something’s life — though I know the thought is really about defense if it came to it — and that’s legit. A cop friend of mine who always a number of guns on he person and one near him when he’s in the shower, he admitted, (He’s former Marine, Desert Storm, and being a cop & living in the hood is dangerous) said he’s glad I’m the kind of person who can’t get on board with killing. It makes him feel better about people. He also said though that when you shoot a gun you have to be prepared to take a life, otherwise you can end up getting yourself killed. Guns aren’t for threatening and talking it out. That’s when I started taking the idea of guns far more seriously. Some people have them and aren’t prepared to kill, so that makes them a danger to themselves and others. Other people are ready to kill and that such an uncomfortable thought. Still, I’m grateful for those who would kill on my behalf if needed. I hope it’s never needed. Once again, side-tracked.

I wanted you to know that I didn’t think I would see you point for “needing” an AR-15, even as I read through a good portion of the article. In fact, I wasn’t on board until right around the picture of the dead fox where you mentioned that it’s versatile and can be reconfigured for different things — eliminating the need for 3 guns. How do you argue with that? I mean I tried. I thought of the fact that I don’t know anyone with just one gun unless it’s a handgun they bought for protection, just in case. People who want a gun for sport or hunting usually have more than one. Still, that was a very strong point.

For me, the article became persuasive there. At times, at first, I felt I didn’t think you understood what people were actually arguing about. The history lesson didn’t seem like it was comparing the same thing since soldiers literally came from their homes and enlisted for wars fought right here on U.S. Soil and through some American’s backyard. Having a war-time weapon at home, before, during and after war, just made sense. My dad still was a Marine and still had his riffle. That’s not odd. Also, when you factor in the fact that after war, soldiers see the world as a different place, their innocence or naivety lost, the idea of being prepared with a gun they know made sense. The way wars are fought and killings are done today, so much can happen so quickly to so many people, it’s unsettling to think of bringing that kind of disposal power to a residential street or a Walmart near you. Even the idea of militarized cops feels uncomfortable considering Black history in America, including the police in Philadelphia dropping a bomb on a residential neighborhood in my lifetime in the 80’s, for real! So I’m not keen on them thinking about policing in a military manner in general. It hasn’t worked out for us so well.

The final thing I wanted to say was that you really made me think that I need to shut up about matter I don’t know. I mean my feeling are legit, but they’re uninformed. That said, it’s heartbreaking, because something need to be done and someone needs to speak up. So, you gave me hope and an “ah-ha moment” when you said you had some idea. It occurred to me that the people who need to be making the changes are the people who really know the situation. So why don’t they and how can they? How can we encourage gun owners and makers to come up with solutions, because that makes way more sense than cigarette companies doing commercials about not smoking. Is it going to have to be motivated the same way — through the courts? I’d much rather have thoughtful people like you who know about guns coming up with brilliant, practical and more than likely effective ideas, that manufactures who have fought for their profits for so long, though their participation is needed. What do we do? If people like you can get people like me to listen to your ideas, couldn’t we get our congress people to push better informed, well conceived bills? If we, the public, heard the merits of a good plan, couldn’t we say that’s what we want and even offer the bones of a bill?

I’d love to read your idea. I look forward to reading more and become wise about this topic. I actually lost one sense of hope, but gained another while reading your article.

Thank you again.

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