Style over Substance: Re-Designing AR-15s To Undermine Gun Control Bill

ar15

Above: AR-15 rifle with a telescoping stock and pistol grip. This gun is an “assault rifle.”

compliant ar15AR-15 with a compliant stock and no pistol grip. This gun is not an “assault rifle.”
(Photo by Cindy Schultz / Times Union) via Times Union

Oh, the futility of legislating gun styling! The NY SAFE Act signed into law by Governor Cuomo was created to limit the sale and ownership of assault weapons, primarily those based on the AK-47 or AR-15 design. However, the bill defines assault weapons not on their lethality but on the largely superficial aspects of military weapons such as bayonet mounts or a pistol grip on the stock. It’s like outlawing guns that are grey.

Gun makers are just going to change how they look and sell the same firearm for more money because it can “pass the ban.” As Rick Karlin in the Times Union so aptly observed:

The modifications aren’t particularly difficult for gunsmiths, who also point out that the AR-15-style rifle, first developed for military use in the late 1950s, has a modular design that makes it easy to add or remove different features.

I suppose that the law could function as a symbolic gesture expressing New York State’s preference for the elimination/control of guns that aren’t associated with hunting. There’s something to be said for affirming a group’s inclination to denounce the kind of weapons that we so often hear about in mass tragedies.

Perhaps the differences between hunting rifles and “assault weapons” can only be found in styling and cultural association. If the ban was based on lethality rather than military features, it would certainly impact more than a few dozen models of gun.

If you’re interested to learn exactly what counts as an assault rifle, here is an illustrated list (PDF) courtesy of NY State.

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