The National Shooting Sports Foundation has launched a national media campaign designed to correct widespread misperceptions among gun owners and non-gun owners about AR-15-style rifles, also known as modern sporting rifles, according to a recent release by the organization.
“The best-selling rifles in America today are those based on the AR-15 platform — they are today's modern sporting rifles — yet they remain America's most misunderstood firearm because of confusion caused by their cosmetic features,” said Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, trade association for the firearms industry.
Sanetti said the confusion is understandable because a modern sporting rifle looks like a military firearm, like an M-16, for example. “We want people to understand that these civilian sporting rifles function just like many other sporting rifles, as semi-automatics, firing only one round with each pull of the trigger, and are widely used by hunters and target shooters and for home protection. They are not ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ firearms, as some would have you think,” Sanetti emphasized.
The media campaign illustrates how for more than 100 years rifles used by the military that possess battlefield requirements of accuracy, ruggedness and reliability became, understandably, popular civilian sporting rifles. This military-to-civilian evolution can be seen in some of the most famous rifle models of all time, including the 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle of World War I, the Garand semi-automatic rifle of World War II and the M-16 rifle of the Vietnam era. In the case of the M-16, its civilian version, the AR-15, was modified so that it functioned only as a semi-automatic.
Today's AR-15-style modern sporting rifles are just another step in the evolution of the tools hunters and target shooters use to enjoy their activities. These rifles may not look like current hunting rifles, but remember, your current hunting rifle probably doesn't look much like your grandfather's rifle either.
Sanetti emphasized that these AR-15-platform sporting rifles are not “assault weapons,” as they are frequently and incorrectly labeled by organizations, media and elected officials who would like to ban them. “An assault weapon is fully automatic — a machine gun — while rifles based on the AR-15 platform are semi-automatic,” said Sanetti. “Civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms has been severely restricted since 1934.”
The multi-pronged campaign will use print, video and Web-based components to reach as wide an audience as possible, with emphasis placed on educating sportsmen whose preference for traditional-looking firearms can lead them to misunderstand AR-15-platform rifles and to even describe them using terms such as “assault weapon,” which inadvertently lends support to those wanting to ban these rifles.
The campaign's educational ads have been placed in major firearm and sporting magazines such as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life and on outdoor cable television networks. The campaign's materials can also be seen on a dedicated Web site, which expands the educational messages delivered in the media campaign to promote an even better understanding of how civilian sporting rifles have evolved from military rifles over time.
The Web site offers video, a timeline of military-to-civilian rifle evolution plus interactive features that identify the components and functionality of modern sporting rifles. There is also a facts section of the site, where gun owners can arm themselves with facts to correct individuals, media and organizations who are misinformed about these rifles.
“We ask everyone who values their gun ownership rights to correct misunderstandings about the use and operation of these modern sporting rifles,” said Sanetti. “If we let misinformation go unchecked, we only assist those who would ban ownership of these and other types of semi-automatic firearms, like your duck-hunting shotgun. We can't let that happen.”