I'm sure this post will be dismissed by the usual suspects as the ranting of a "guntard," but I ask you to read it honestly, with an open mind to these easily verified facts.
A big problem in the gun debate is ignorance of both history and technology. Many people who think "assault weapons" should be banned have poor awareness of technical characteristics of firearms, and their roles in U.S. history. This contributes to misperceptions and false assumptions. I'm not suggesting that you have to be a gunsmith or an academic historian to participate effectively in this debate. However, some easily obtained knowledge adds perspective.
The M-16 rifle and its AR-15 semi-auto cousin were proceeded by a weapon called the M1 Carbine. Introduced in WW2, the M1 Carbine was designed as a lightweight, high capacity weapon to bridge the gap between U.S. military sidearms (the 1911 45acp pistol) and main battle rifle (M1 Garand). It was light weight. It fired a .30 caliber, round nose bullet, in a small cartridge, from a high capacity magazine which could be carried in quantity and quickly swapped out. As with the AR-15 twenty years later, the design idea was a weapon suitable to rear guard and auxillary unit service that had more firepower than a handgun, without the weight, recoil and bulk of a full sized, front line battle rifle. Magazine capacities were 15 and 30 rounds. Later commercial magazines included 20 and 40 round capacities.
The M2 Carbine was a select fire variant, capable of full auto fire. Other major variants included a folding stock intended for paratroopers.
Approximatey 7 million M1 and M2 Carbines were made under U.S. military contracts. Several million more were made for foreign governments and as commercial variants. Many of the M1 Carbines that saw service in the U.S. military were sold to foreign governments, and saw military and police service all over the world.
Now, what may come as a surprise to you is that many M1 Carbines live in the homes of U.S. civilians. GIs brought them home after WW2 and Korea. Others were sold to dealers and directly to the public by the U.S. government, often through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Fifty years ago, it would have not been unusual to see several M1 Carbines for sale in a small town hardware store, selling for $50, alongside the shotguns, squirrel and deer rifles. Anyone could buy one without paperwork or a background check. They were widely popular as plnking and small game rifles with the American public. Surplus ammo was cheap and widely available. The rifles also saw duty as patrol rifles with many law enforcement departments.
If you skipped all of the above, please read this statement: From 1945 to 1968, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of M1 Carbines, with characteristics similar to the AR15, were sold to the American public, with zero gun control, zero registraton, zero paperwork, and zero concern for mass shootings.
The M1 Carbine was not used in crimes at any extraordinary rate, and on very rare occassion, one was used in a in mass shooting. James Pough used one in Florida in 1990 at a GMAC office in Florida. Charles Whitman had an M1 Carbine among the many weapons he carried the day he murdered people at the University of Texas, but as far as I know, it wasn't used.
So, I put the question to you: if these weapons were sold to and possessed by the American public in great numbers, for more than twenty years, in the absence of any form of gun control, and were rarely ever used in mass murder...what makes you think the AR-15 is somehow unique?
Practically speaking, the guns and the capacity for fast killing haven't changed. Something else in our society changed.
Blaming the guns won't get us far. It will let us off the hook until the next shooting, but no more.