Did Eugene Stoner intend for civilians to have his AR-15 design?

In an interview with NBC News, the family of Eugene Stoner said that the inventor of the AR-15 would be horrified to know that his design is being used as a killing machine.  The family spoke on condition of anonymity and didn’t make any calls for bans or other changes to U.S. law.  They claimed that Stoner was a hunter and skeet shooter, but that he did not own one of his creations and intended it only for military sales.

Of course, saying that takes all the moral force out of the assertion that he’d be horrified over the AR-15 being used for killing, considering that for death on a grand scale, war is an efficient mechanism, ending the lives of some 160,000,000 during the twentieth century, according to one estimate.

It is valid to point out that several recent mass shootings have been committed with one variation of the AR-15 or another.  We can also note that most drownings happen in bodies of water.  That statement isn’t meant to be flippant.  The number of such rifles in the United States is approaching ten million, making that style of weapon one that certainly is in common use.  But the guns used by people intent on a killing spree vary widely, mostly being legally bought weapons that were what was available.  In addition, the family’s claim that Stoner died (in 1997) long before any mass shootings occurred is easily refuted, as a simple search can show.  The Clocktower shooting (1966) and the massacre at Luby’s Cafeteria (1991), both in Texas, are two infamous examples.

But what about the claim that the AR-15 isn’t for hunting, an assertion made by Patty Sheehan, Orlando City Commissioner, in a video associated with the NBC article?  The original manufacturers didn’t seem to agree, as a famous Colt advertisement offering the sporter model indicates.  And a number of hog hunters working to remove the invasive species that tears up much farm and wilderness land here in the south would be surprised to learn that the AR-15 isn’t useful to them.  But Sheehan did say that the weapon is designed to kill, not to hunt, so perhaps I’m expecting too much of her body of knowledge on the subject.  (I also need to put a pad down on my desk to protect my forehead when I read such statements.)

The NBC anchor doesn’t do much better, though, saying that anyone with a permit to buy can obtain an automatic rifle like the AR-15.  (Got to pad that desk….)  Do I have to point out that most states don’t require a permit to purchase?  Apparently I do, at least when members of the press—other than the hardworking writers and editors of this publication—are involved.  Now to buy a genuine automatic, you do need a lot of paperwork and approvals completed, but I’ve seen all manner of guns labeled “automatic” in recent days, so it’s hard to say what specifically was meant here.

One statement in the NBC article demonstrates that this loose thinking and lack of facts may have implications beyond the headlines.  It is suggested that the family’s statement could be used in the lawsuit against Bushmaster in the lawsuit over the Newtown shooting.  As I’ve discussed before, that suit has serious flaws from a legal standpoint, but while Stoner’s opinions are being delivered to us secondhand, that sadly doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that would be out of bounds to the plaintiffs in Connecticut.

If ever we needed evidence that support for gun control is grounded on knowing as little as possible about guns, here it is.  It’s our job to get the facts into the discussion and never to give up defending the rights that ignorant people would love to bring to an end.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.