Despite the fact that millions of Americans own a variant of the AR-15, we are often questioned about why we own them. Most recently I was asked, “Is an AR-15 legitimate as a self-defense tool?” I don’t resent the question, but there exists a lack of honesty in the answers heard from politicians and the media. We hear, “The AR-15 is a weapon designed for war! It has no place on America’s streets!” However, in truth, AR-15s and so-called “black rifles” are used in self-defense by a would-be victim more often than you’d think.
A notable, and possibly the most heroic example of a good guy using an AR-15 to save lives, is the case of Stephen Willeford. You might recall seeing the tragedy of the attack on a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017. What you may not have heard was that Willeford confronted and wounded the assailant. The active shooter was prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law, but he opened fire on the parishioners of a small church, taking 26 lives and leaving 20 wounded. Alerted to the shooting in progress, Willeford grabbed an AR-15 and ran out the door of his home barefoot, all while loading rounds into a magazine as he went. He engaged the shooter and forced him to turn his violence away from the church. Willeford then managed to flag down a passing vehicle, and together the two men risked their lives in pursuit of the murderer. Willeford hit the shooter twice and wounded him severely. Bleeding and likely dying, the shooter took his own life. Willeford, an NRA-certified firearms instructor is regarded as a hero, though the mainstream media did not show him, nor his rifle, the respect that his actions warranted. “He had an AR-15, but so did I,” Willeford said.
At 2:25 a.m. on May 6, 2017, three men attempted a drive-by shooting in a Houston neighborhood. The would-be victim, who was in his own front yard when the attack occurred, returned fire with an AR-15 and hit all three assailants. Two of them died — one on the scene and the other at the hospital — and a third survived his injuries while the victim was unscathed. The homeowner was not charged in the incident; It was considered self-defense.
“Why would anyone need a 30-round magazine?” We’ve heard that familiar refrain repeated at nauseum. At least one Florida resident would disagree. On April 15, 2018, a Glen St. Mary resident awoke at 4 a.m. to a home invasion that was spurned by an apparent Facebook dispute. Seven masked and armed individuals forced their way into a mobile home where one of the residents was armed with an AR-15. According to reports, the resident fired more than 30 rounds during the event, resulting in one home invader being killed and others wounded. Five individuals were arrested in the attack and the resident who defended his home faced no charges. Home invasions are often carried out with multiple intruders. Would you really want to face seven armed individuals in a critical situation with only a 10-round magazine?
In May of 2019, four men in a stolen car attempted a home invasion at a Tallahassee, Florida, residence. The homeowner was armed with a rifle and exchanged fire with the assailants, hitting two out of the four of them. Local news reports later revealed that the would-be victim fired 25 rounds from his AR-15 in self-defense. A search of the assailants’ homes revealed property stolen during other burglaries, including firearms. The four men were charged.
Why do we need AR-15s and 30-round magazines? Constitutional rights aside, in these circumstances an AR-15 and its magazine meant the difference between life and death for their owners.
The world will always have bad people who do not follow laws. To achieve the advantage in a personal defense situation, AR-15s are a necessary option for law-abiding citizens due to their ergonomics, light weight, and compact profile. They are easy to shoot effectively while minimizing collateral risk. If you are faced with more than one violent offender, having to reload is not ideal. The survivors of these brutal crimes would agree.