Perspective on the AR15 from A Former Marine

I know that if you’ve been in the news much, you’re experiencing fatigue right now. But if you’ll allow me, I want to talk with you about something I don’t often speak of, and never before in any detail.

As you may know, I’m a former United States Marine. I’d like to tell you about my Rifle (there were many like it, but this one was mine).

The military version of the AR15, the M16A2 5.56mm rifle is a lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder-fired weapon designed for either automatic fire (a three-round burst, which is the only difference between the M16 and its civilian counterpart) or semiautomatic fire through the use of a selector lever. Weight with a full magazine, 8.79lbs. Max effective range, 550 meters. Max range, 800 meters for an area target. Cyclic rate, 800 rounds per minute. Sustained rate of fire, 15 rpm forever.

In the summer of 1999, after I went through the requisite background investigations and physical and mental evaluations, I trained hard every day for thirteen weeks in basic training to earn my title. During that time, I had my rifle with me day and night, always in my control, or under lock and key within the confines of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, or Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton. We never had any ammo unless we were on the firing line. At the end of recruit training, I had to turn that weapon back in. I didn’t not get to keep it. I did not have the option to purchase it.

Next, my classmates and I moved back north to 52 Area to engage in various levels of Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry. Again, I had my rifle with me at all times. Never any ammo unless we were on the firing line. At the end of MCT, I had to give up that weapon. It never left base.

Next we went to our various schools, and it wasn’t until I got to my unit that they finally issued me the M-16A2 that would be my weapon throughout my career. You know what? It stayed in the armory, locked behind a wall of concrete. When we weren’t deployed, I was only ever allowed to check out my rifle when it was time to go to the range. I had to re-qualify every year. Even then, I didn’t get any bullets until I was on the firing line. Every round was strictly accounted for. After the range, we cleaned the weapons and they went straight back into the armory.

Even in a combat zone, I was only able to check out my weapon when I was leaving camp on official business. I had to check out my ammo and check it back in after every outing, accounting for every single round. That’s how seriously the Marine Corps takes entrusting one of it’s vetted and trained members with one of these awful weapons. That’s how efficient these killing machines are. That’s how serious this is. When I left the Marine Corps in 2004, it stayed in the armory.

The state of affairs in this country is utter madness when an unsupervised, unqualified teenager can get one of these weapons and the ammunition to use it legally, and quickly, cheaply. M16s, in any configuration, are not for anybody that doesn’t need to kill a whole lot of people really quickly.

We need to change this for the sake of every living person that calls this nation home — your children and mine included. We must. I believe we can.

“Our problems are man-made — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.” -JFK