The Bell Foundry

Rediscovering and recovering lost and endangered American liberties by studying our Founders' ideas, contemporaries, and etymology – because our united States "…are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…"

Why Does Anyone Need a Semi-Automatic Rifle?


“No one needs a fully automatic, or even a semi-automatic, rifle.  They are much too effective when used for mass killing. We need to restrict legal access to these weapons to prevent the wrong people from getting their hands on them.”  You’ve heard the pious argument. It sounds like a great idea – pass new legislation and remove certain weapons from society – and a large portion of violent crime will be eliminated. This assumption, though, jumps over lots of facts to get to its conclusion, and is morally wrong on other levels.

Rifles Are Rarely Used in Murders

The FBI’s homicide statistics for ‘Murder Victims by Weapon‘ for 2016 show that while handguns are the leading weapon in homicides (7105), rifles were only used to kill only 374 people per year. That is almost half the number of murders committed with hands, fists, and feet (656).

Criminals Will Use Other Weapons

Firearms are by no means many criminals’ first choice in mass homicide weaponry.  Here are just a few examples of mass murders committed using other weapons:

  • Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured 600 more in 1995 using fertilizer and a van – no firearms were used.
  • Terrorists destroyed 3000 lives on September 11, 2001 using box cutters and airplanes – no guns were necessary for this mass murder.
  • James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, killing one person and injuring 19 others.  He used his car as a weapon, not a gun.

Violent Firearm Owners are the Vast Minority

Multiple studies show that between 30% and 40% of Americans are gun owners – so up to 120 million citizens currently own firearms, and yet the total number of yearly firearm homicides is only 11000. This means that for every one homicide, there are almost eleven thousand non-violent gun owners. And that’s assuming every firearm homicide is caused by a separate gun owner! The real ratio would be much smaller.

Guns Are Here to Stay

There are around 300 million civilian-owned guns in America. This means that even if we wanted to, we can’t legislate all, or even certain types of, guns out of existence. Guns would be hoarded away in the event of a ban… and criminals would still get their hands on some of them. Ammunition can be reloaded by hand, so even banning ammo won’t eliminate gun violence.

Firearms Are Essential to American Liberty

This is by far the most important reason that American citizens need to own not just semi-automatic rifles, but any and all of the same personal arms that the federal government owns and uses.  Our American independence, and our republican form of rule-by-the-people government was literally made possible by having access to the same weapons that the British government had. Victory over the British certainly would have been impossible if the colonists were limited to using pitchforks and scythes. This doesn’t mean we should expect a future where Americans will need to rise up with arms against an oppressive government for a second (or third) time – just the knowledge that innumerable armed citizens exist may be enough to hold a government in check, making potentially tyrannical leaders fearful of just such an uprising. Thomas Jefferson confirmed this very idea in a 1787 letter discussing Shays’ Rebellion:

“…what country can preserve it’s [sic] liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

What did the other Founders – the very ones who conceived, fought for, established, and worked to secure American liberties – have to say about civilians owning firearms as a defense against oppressive government? Here are a few examples:

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories [sic] as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”

George Washington, ‘Father of His Country’

“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments [states], to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

James Madison, ‘Father of the Constitution’

“…when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British parliament was advised… to disarm the people. That it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them. But that they should not do it openly; but to weaken them and let them sink gradually, by totally difusing [sic] and neglecting the militia.”

George Mason, ‘Father of the Bill of Rights’

The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed”

Alexander Hamilton

The Founding Fathers agree: an armed populace is essential to securing liberty from an oppressive, powerful government.  The opposite is also true: tyrants and dictators love an unarmed citizenry.

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjugated races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjugated races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.”

Adolf Hitler

The American government is founded on the idea that its very existence is to be maintained and corrected by an armed, free people – and to lessen or remove this essential right to self-defense against a potentially oppressive government is both immoral and offensive.

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