The absurd cool of assault weapons


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As the debate over a renewed assault weapons ban seems to be taking a back burner for more politically feasible gun control measures, I find myself debating with myself why I actually find ARs, AKs and the like so attractive. I have long been a gun-liking lefty. My fondness for firearms of the tactical variety likely has more to do with my Americaness, than any well reasoned argument I’ve concocted. For as long as I can remember I’ve been bombarded with violently-cool images of tactical weapons in action.

Guns are cool. Like many cool things they are completely unnecessary for the vast majority. Having played with a few AR-15s over the years, I can say—with guilty indulgence—they are one of the coolest weapons on the market, a coolness that is just as much form as it is function. Capable of handling military-grade armor-penetrating 5.56×45mm NATO rounds—designed for mass bleeding, tissue fragmentation and death—while firing at 200 rounds per minutes with an effective range of 400 yards-plus. All with a military-chic M4-M16 aesthetic built of aluminum alloys and cutting-edge polymers.

They’d actually be great weapons to use in the violent removal of a tyrant for most of them can be easily converted into fully automatic carbines. Yet at this point guns would be counterproductive in the removal of the last bastions of tyranny in the United States, and the citizenry with the most private arms often have the worst politics.

I’ve said these instruments of death are cool but with full understanding that cool is often absurd.

It is said that people want what they can’t have, but for the United States in our economy that is overwhelming driven by private consumption, it seems we want things precisely because we can have them. While flipping through basic cable in a dingy motel room I saw disturbing brilliance in the form of a Prilosec commercial featuring Larry the Cable Guy.

“Why make a flavored heartburn pill?” asked Mr. the Cable Guy. “‘Cuz this is America. We don’t just make things you want, we make things you didn’t even know you wanted.”

The statement was followed with a slough of examples of disposable products that were made with the sole intension of being sold, then thrown away. The genius of the advert is that it nearly directly states that the product is complete absurd, but that it doesn’t matter because we will continue to consume absurd things.

What do wild-berry flavored heartburn pills and assault weapons have in common? Most people want them simply because they’re available, and since they’re available for most people who may only shoot the guns a few times because the ammunition is so damn expensive, they’re also available to those who are looking for the most effective killing machines available: drug cartels and suicidal mass murderers to name two. And yes, while I have no evidence to back this up I assume both narcos and the murderously disturbed may get heartburn from time to time and would want to take a pill that would both kill the heartburn and give them the fresh burps of artificial wild-berry flavor.

While debating with myself over my irrational keenness for weapons that have no use value to the average person like me, the hard-to-repress martial-side of me keep on rebuking me with arguments for purchase.

One practical argument—I tell myself—for spending well in excess of a grand of an AR-style rifle is economic. If I’m going to spend that much for something I’ll only use (read: play around with) a few times a why not purchase something that holds its value. Not many consumer items are subject to as little depreciation as firearms—high-end specifically, especially over the long run.

Being a fairly young American male, I am also subjected to the pull of the hero fantasy, one where I brazenly save the lives of many by taking the lives of a few. This is one fantasy I don’t think I have ever fully acknowledged to anyone else, and one I may never acknowledged again. As Mother Jones has reported, civilians carrying guns don’t often save lives, it’s normally off-duty police and military men who take down assailants. If in a scenario where one is witnessing a mass shooting in a public place, the least likely weapon one would have on them is an assault weapon. Just imagine the carnage that would ensue if the average NRA member attempted to take down a killer with a TEC-9 or Uzi (two of the four weapons primary weapons covered in the last assault weapon ban) in a shopping mall. Awful indeed.

Another rationale for arming oneself is home defense. In the home defense scenario where an assailant is willing to take my life or that of a loved one for my stuff, an AR is not the most practical weapon. A short-barreled 12-gauge shotgun with slugs or a .45 pistol would be a much better weapon in that close-quarters situation.

There’s also that pesky second amendment. I consider myself a civil libertarian, so why not the right to bare arms? While I read the first and fourth amendments in very broad of terms, I read the second very narrowly and with a great deal of historical subjectivity. Part or me feels impelled to find some sort of consistency in my understanding of the Bill of Rights, not only accepting that which I agree with but also that which I disagree. But that is bullshit, accepting the constitutional bad with the good would accept slavery and women as second-class citizens.

The final argument I make to myself—being one taken by the romance of revolution—is keeping assault weapons available to defend oneself against the well-armed dogs of capital. Granted this scenario might be a tad more fantastic than the hero fantasy, but it is also idiotic. If one were involved in a guerilla-styled movement, the worst possible thing one could do is have their weapons registered with the authorities.

It seems the proposed assault weapons ban introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein is dead in the water. Too many Americans like these silly machines and too much money is made from them for the bill to gain traction in both the Senate and the House. Yet even though assault weapons are rather absurd things for people to have, a weapon of that kind is one of the least deadly firearms on the market. On top of that, even the most objective analyses show the Assault Weapons Ban had little measurable effect on gun violence.

Second-hand smoke is far more dangerous than assault rifles, yet I still think they shouldn’t be available general populace, and yet I still kinda want one.

It seems the only reasons why I would want to purchase an AR-style rifle is the cool factor, which is absurd, and for the simple fact that presently they’re available to me for a not-so-modest sum. I truly believe if the US had never made them available, I would never be having this debate with myself. I would have never known that I actually wanted one.

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  1. An AR-15 carbine with a collapsible buttstock is possibly the very best weapon you can own for home defense. .223 has low recoil and is accurate. Because of much longer site radius it is easier to shoot accurately than a handgun, and requires a lot less skill than a handgun to use. Put in a 30 round mag and don’t worry about reloading at O’Dark-Thirty. Use frangible ammo and don’t worry about shooting through walls and hitting a family member Mount a flashlight to blind intruders (and let you know who you are shooting – not a family member by accident). Put a laser on it and don’t worry you can’t see the iron sights in low light.

    I wrote a long article “Who Needs An Assault Rifle” that covers why is so good in detail.

  2. “…most of them can be easily converted into fully automatic carbines.”

    You may have shot a few ARs but you know nothing at all about them if you think they can ‘easily’ be converted to fully automatic. Of course that depends on one’s definition of the word easily. I can say anyone can easily build a fully automatic rifle at home. I suppose it is easy compared to say, building a fighter jet.

    FYI, ARs sold to civilians are made to make it difficult to convert to fully automatic. There is nothing easy about converting them whatsoever. There is no AR15 lower sold to civilians that can fit a full-auto fire-control group without milling the interior. The conversion is way beyond just drilling a hole or two. You need parts an real machining.

    If you think that an AR is such a terrible self-defense weapon tell me why nearly every police force has replaced their 12 gauge shotguns with ARs. I can tell you why. They are easy to shoot accurately and thus have a less chance of causing collateral damage and a far better chance of hitting your target. A handgun is the most difficult weapon to shot, the rifle the easiest. That’s a fact that you as a self-proclaimed gun nut should know. A shotgun loaded with self-defense rounds is painful to shoot for most people thus they never become proficient with the weapon. Also the .223 rounds penetrates LESS through wall and such. Yeah, less. I bet you didn’t know that now did you?

    As to what you call fantasies of government tyranny, why don’t you Google Ludlow, CO and read about what happened there when the state sent in troops to kill workers. Have you ever heard of the Trail of Tears? Read about lynching of Blacks in the South. Oh, and a liberal Democrat President signing an executive order to put American citizens in concentration camps because they happened to be of Japanese ancestory. There are plenty more incidents on the local, state and federal government levels I am sure you can find if you bothered to look. I am sure there would have and will be more if those in charge know the people have no way to resist. That is the primary reason Madison and Mason wrote the Second Amendment. It is a a final check on government tyranny. Of course you don’t think that could happen, it is only a fantasy. Yeah, right.

    Quite frankly I think you’re nothing but some shill and you do not even own any guns. Either that or one very, very ignorant gun owner.

  3. fuck off you pencil necked trotskyite! God I hate pseudo intellectuals like yourself…”educated” idiot is too nice a moniker

  4. civil libertarian!?!?!?!?!?! Bahawawawawa… god how the school systems are failing us. You are everything except a Libertarian, you don’t have a clue what it means to have the Libertarian ideology. This is how the communists fooled the stupid masses by changing their label to “liberals” then to “progressives”. Not surprised you are going to try and change your colors again by redefining the meaning of “libertarian” (the true classic liberals BTW) Libertarians don’t want to ban anything, they are above sticking their noses in others business and know that giving up freedoms for PERCEIVED security/safety is beyond moronic.

  5. “- the citizenry with the most private arms often have the worst politics.”
    Amen! My Facebook feed at the onslaught of gun law review made me to want to puke all over my own lap. It’s impossible to forget how many crazy right wing nuts are out there when you’re from a town with more gun racks than high school educations.

  6. I really liked this post. The people insulting you seem to not have really read what you were saying, so much as just reacted to what they thought they saw in your words. I’m also a liberal. I have a couple guns for hunting. My boyfriend recently bought an AR. I’m deeply conflicted about those weapons. And I agree 100% that it’s a case of “Because I can”.

  7. The absurd cool of power.

    Yes. The rich like power. That’s why they own guns, and guards with guns. But they don’t like little people having power. That’s why they don’t like little people having guns.

    Do you think that “gun control’ fetishist New York mayor and oligarch Michael Bloomberg would be caught dead in public without at least four weapons under his command? (That’s sort of a pun). Disarmament is so for little people.

    In wonderful gun-controlled Mexico the oligarchs could just line up striking workers and shoot them. Now wonderful gun-controlled Mexico is a cesspit with an official murder rate at least four times that of the United States.

    In America, when the oligarchs sent the Pinkertons to kill strikers, the strikers were armed and the Pinkertons got their butts kicked. It was messy but eventually the union leaders won. We can’t have that, can we? People should be good little sheep and do what they are told. They need to be completely disarmed so that when the goon squads go to crack their heads they can’t offer any resistance. Like good little sheep.

    Keep believing that not being defenseless is somehow bad. I assure you, the rich do not share your delusion.

    1. Political violence and collective self-defense from below will always fall outside the realm of legality, so why worry all that much if the guns you are using are legal or not. I think I subtly made that point in the article.

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