It's Settled: Government Rules That AR-15s Are Not Weapons of War


The newest argument against the AR-15 and other rifles of its type — now that the whole “do you really need a gun like that” spiel seems to have failed — is that they’re “weapons of war.”

The first known use of this construction, according to The Daily Caller, came from Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal back on Feb. 21. It’s been used all the time since — from CNN segments to the debate over gun-grabbing legislation in Florida (which, unsurprisingly, was still too tame for the Democrats). It’s fast becoming the go-to argument for banning certain rifles.

So, what does the federal government have to say about this? Well, it’s not exactly agreeing with the Democrats. In fact, it completely disagrees.

According to Breitbart, in a settlement with Defense Distributed — a group run by Texas libertarian Cody Wilson that shared 3D printed models of weapons online — the government agreed that weapons below .50 caliber aren’t “military equipment.”

The legal saga began a few years ago, according to USA Today, when the Justice Department and State Department tried to force Wilson to stop sharing his plans online.

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In 2015, the Second Amendment Foundation filed a suit against the Department of Justice on Wilson’s behalf. Earlier this month, they reached a settlement.

“The government has agreed to waive its prior restraint against the plaintiffs, allowing them to freely publish the 3-D files and other information at issue,” a news release from the SAF stated.

“The government has also agreed to pay a significant portion of the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees, and to return $10,000 in State Department registration dues paid by Defense Distributed as a result of the prior restraint.”

But there was a great deal more, particularly when it came to the government defining what “military equipment entails.”

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“The phrase ‘Military Equipment’ means (1) Drums and other magazines for firearms to 50 caliber (12.7 mm) inclusive with a capacity greater than 50 rounds, regardless of the jurisdiction of the firearm, and specially designed parts and components therefor; (2) Parts and components specifically designed for conversion of a semi-automatic firearm to a fully automatic firearm; (3) Accessories or attachments specifically designed to automatically stabilize aim (other than gun rests) or for automatic targeting, and specifically designed parts and components therefor.”

The AR-15 is none of these, obviously. It isn’t fully automatic, it (definitionally) doesn’t turn a weapon into a fully automatic firearm, it certainly isn’t .50 caliber.

In other words, it’s not a “weapon of war.” Far from it.

As for the lawsuit in toto, SAF executive vice president Alan Gottlieb told Breitbart it was a success.

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby. For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort,” Gottlieb stated.

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“The federal government now saying semi-automatic firearms below .50 caliber are not inherently military means that they are admitting that rifles like the AR-15 are civilian in nature. This makes perfect sense, as they existed years before the military adopted the fully automatic version,” he added.”

“Under this settlement, the government will draft and pursue regulatory amendments that eliminate (International Traffic in Arms Regulation) control over the technical information at the center of this case. They will transfer export jurisdiction to the Commerce Department, which does not impose prior restraint on public speech. That will allow Defense Distributed and SAF to publish information about 3D technology.”

In other words, the government didn’t have a case against 3D printing or AR-15-esque rifles as “weapons of war.”

This settlement is a lot more devastating to the left’s anti-gun agenda than they’d probably like to admit.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture