by Tony Wyman
There is only one reason the shooter in Dayton, Ohio was able to kill nine human beings in just 30 seconds. He was armed with a weapon designed to do just that.
The manufacturer of the weapon, an AM-15, practically brags about their firearm’s ability to deliver life-ending multi-calibre rounds faster and longer than other comparable models. The weapon, says Anderson Manufacturing, “…runs cleaner, faster, longer,” delivering “An orchestra of metal and hellfire built by calloused hands, gritted teeth, and passionate hearts” according to a testosterone-drenched video boasting about the weapon’s lethality.
Nowhere on the website does the company talk about their weapon’s value in home or self defense. While Anderson claims to be an “…ardent supporter of the Second Amendment,” nowhere do they write passionately about their support of the constitutional right to bear arms. Instead, they promote on every page, the efficiency and reliability of their firearms to dependably deliver lethal ordnance.
Our rugged series of complete AM-15 and AM-10 rifles is engineered specifically to meet the
ever-changing needs of the modern sportsman. Fully built and ultra dependable, Anderson-made
rifles deliver best-in-class performance and reliability that you can choose with confidence.
“Sportsmen,” in Anderson’s view, require semi-automatic rifles designed to look like military models and marketed to appeal to those who want to bring “hellfire” to deer hunting or target shooting. That contention is, of course, nonsense.
Just Google “Hunting Rifles” or “Target Rifles” and you’ll see what real sportsmen use in those pursuits. The vast majority of the models that appear in those searches are civilian firearms designed to shot game or targets, not human beings. Field and Stream‘s list of the 10 best hunting rifles of 2019 included only one semi-automatic rifle followed by nine that are bolt action models. While each is highly rated by the hunting and fishing magazine for hunting game, none would be effective weapons to use by a shooter intending to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time.
The same can be said for Gun Digest‘s list of the 17 best sharpshooting rifles of 2019. Only two are semi-automatic, while the rest are bolt action models. Like the semi-automatic rifle in the hunting list above, the two semi-automatics in this list are in the minority, overshadowed by more conventional models, and neither would be ideal weapons to bring “hellfire” to a group of young people out for a beer on a Saturday night.
So, what is the point to Anderson Manufacturing’s marketing strategy? Who are the customers they intend to attract with their dramatic and macho advertising and military styling of their products?
Are they looking to appeal to passionate hunters who value their sport and respect the game they hunt or are they targeting others who view hunting and firearm ownership as something else, altogether? From at least one ad on their website, one might come to the conclusion that the former customer, the real hunter, isn’t their intended target.
“JKT: Just Kill’N Time” crows an ad on the company’s website in a picture depicting an out-of-shape, impuissant woman staring into the camera with a blank, expressionless look on her face as she stands behind a bear she killed, presumably from long-range, with a scoped AM-10 weapon. (Just Kill’N Time is a YouTube channel sponsored by Anderson.)
“That sound freedom makes,” says the voice over in another ad, a video on the company’s website, as images of a grey-bearded man replete with pirate skeleton tattoos on his arm fires off rounds at an unseen target. “That sound freedom makes is incomparably, unmistakably American-made. Somebody cue the hellfire.”
Somebody Cue the Hellfire
Cuing the hellfire is precisely what Connor Betts did when he marched into the Oregon District in downtown Dayton, Ohio, wearing a bulletproof vest, a mask and hearing protection. Heading to the popular night spot, Ned Peppers, Betts carried his modified AM-15 (“AM” stands for “Anderson Manufacturing.”) with, it appears based on the latest reports, the intention of killing his sister and her boyfriend, along with as many other people as he could. Police officers, armed with only handguns, were able to put an end to Betts’ ambitions with a hail of gunfire of their own.
This shooting, coming so soon on the heels of a white supremacist’s attack on shoppers in an El Paso Walmart, has caused many Americans to ask why civilians have access to semi-automatic weapons like the ones so many mass killers seem to prefer.
Gun rights purists will say in response to that question the United States Constitution protects the rights of citizens to own semi-automatic weapons. But, the reality is, that isn’t necessarily true.
All rights are subject to limitations. Just as the First Amendment doesn’t grant us protection from committing perjury or using free speech to commit fraud, the Second Amendment doesn’t grant citizens the right to own any weapon they choose.
We already have laws that restrict gun ownership based on a number of criterion. For example, convicted felons are not able to own firearms. Automatic weapon ownership is limited across the country, with some states, such as Kansas, Iowa and California, banning them outright. Nevada, where a semi-automatic weapon modified to fire like a fully automatic rifle was used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas, allows private ownership if the owner complies with restrictive federal regulations. Red flag laws across the country authorize law enforcement to confiscate firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others under specific provisions.
Ultimately, we have the ability to limit the right to own firearms through legislation and the court system. And if gun makers like Anderson Manufacturing are going to produce weapons that they market as ways to “cue the hellfire” in our communities, the American people have every right to do so. Contrary to what gun groups like the NRA might have us believe, the Second Amendment is neither a blank check to make and own any sort of weapon imaginable, nor is it a license to market such weapons irresponsibly.
While there seemingly isn’t the will yet among either party to make substantial changes to gun ownership laws, the number of Americans believing the rules covering gun ownership should be made stricter is up to 73% from a low of 44% in 2011. And in a poll conducted shortly after the Dayton shooting, 55% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats favored banning so-called assault-style weapons like the AM-15 used by Betts. A supermajority of 90% of Americans favor universal background checks for all firearms sales.
Is It Time to Ban Semi-Automatic Weapons?
Even though President Trump believes there is “no appetite” in Washington to ban semi-automatic weapons, the rest of the country doesn’t seem to agree. In recent polling by Politico/Morning Consult, the results show the people overwhelmingly want real changes to our country’s gun laws that result in fewer people having the right to own firearms like the AM-15 that are designed to kill large numbers of people in very short periods of time.
Republicans and Democrats may still be far apart on basic gun ownership rights for citizens, but on a number of issues, they are much closer than they have been before. For example, 89% of Americans favor blocking gun sales to people reported to law enforcement by mental health care providers. 84% favor blocking people with violent misdemeanor convictions from owning guns. More than 70% approve of banning the ownership of high capacity magazines.
These numbers show that Americans are recognizing that we have a serious problem with gun violence in this country that isn’t being addressed with the “thoughts and prayers” of politicians who do nothing after each mass shooting. They are a recognition that changes to who can own and access guns has to happen if we expect the numbers of innocent people killed to drop.
“Guns and I go back a long way,” wrote former Army infantryman Ralph Peters in a 2018 NY Post piece he wrote. “And I’m a gun owner. As I write these lines, there’s an 1858 Tower musket behind me and a Colt on my desk. But I believe, on moral, practical and constitutional grounds, that no private citizen should own an automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon that can easily be modified for automatic effects.”
He said in the article that semi-automatic weapons, particularly those who can accept high-capacity magazines, are meant for one purpose: killing large numbers of human beings quickly and efficiently.
These are military weapons. Their purpose is to kill human beings. They’re not used for hunting (unless you want to destroy the animal’s meat). They’re lousy for target shooting. But they’re excellent tools for mass murder.
He added the framers of the Second Amendment didn’t foresee the future development of firearms to go where the gun industry has taken them, to produce weapons of such lethality that a single shooter could kill dozens of people in a matter of a few moments.
Does any serious-minded, morally centered reader believe that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson or any of our other geniuses of freedom intended that a disturbed young man or a disgruntled employee or just a vicious drunk should be guaranteed the right to a personal arsenal of weapons designed for mass murder?
That is precisely what the AM-15 that killed nine American citizens in Dayton, Ohio is designed for: Mass murder. It is past time we recognize that as a country and put an end to private ownership of such weapons. Too many of our fellow citizens have proven we can’t responsibly own them, that many among us are too angry or too hateful or simply too mentally unstable to own such firearms.
Prior to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in downtown Oklahoma City, anyone in America could buy as much ammonium nitrate as they wanted. It was completely unrestricted by the government, despite being highly explosive and, as domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh proved, in the hands of evil men, highly dangerous.
After the 19 April 1995 bombing by McVeigh that killed 168 Americans, the federal government regulated the purchases of ammonium nitrate. From that point forward, no one could buy more than 25 pounds without registering with the government. Those buying that amount were subjected to a federal background check against a list of terrorists and other people suspected of being dangerous. Buyers were also held liable for the material they owned and were required to report any thefts to the FBI within 24 hours of the loss.
Since then, there have been no mass casualty deaths associated with bombings using ammonium nitrate.
During that same period, there have been at least 758 people killed in mass shootings across the country.
And we’ve done virtually nothing to stop the next mass killing.