A lengthy and reasonably well-balanced article published in the Asheville, NC, Citizen-Times today suggests that the media is finally beginning to realize what is obvious to most firearm owners: the AR-15 rifle, which is now the most common single rifle type sold in the nation in recent years, is here to stay.

In a country where gun ownership is assured by the Constitution, the supply of ARs is abundant. Some even call it a glut.

It seems the battle over these guns, if not over, is close to it.

“I think the shift you’re seeing now is the military-style weapon is here to stay because it’s appealing to a whole new generation,” said Steve Denny, owner of Carolina Guns & Gear in Arden, which has a wall full of military-style weapons for sale.

“You can see it in the industry,” Denney said. “The industry had to change from military-style weapons being something that they sold sometimes to them being something that is at the forefront of all their advertising — the tactical use of a firearm.”

Jeff Stucker, co-owner of On Target indoor shooting range and gun shop in South Asheville, says his sales of ARs have “come to a screeching halt,” but not because people no longer want the rifles.

“The market is saturated. The market is flooded with them,” Stucker said. “Everybody ramped up, thinking they were going to be outlawed, and lo and behold they weren’t.”

In congressional testimony last year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated assault-style weapons domestically in the range of five million-8.2 million.

Denny, a former FBI agent and a Navy veteran, estimates the number in the United States now “somewhere around eight or nine million. The rate of them being produced is just enormous,” he said. And that’s just one type of semi-automatic, high-capacity rifle. Slate noted that more than 800,000 Ruger Mini-14 rifles, based on an M-14 design from the 1950s and ’60s, had been produced since 1974.

The article strives for balance and so reached out to gun control advocates as well for their take on AR-15s in specific and semi-automatic firearms in general, and I was particularly amused to watch gun control cultist Josh Sugarmann still attempting to claim that lawful gun culture was shrinking instead of rapidly expanding on all fronts.

“In the long-term trends, gun ownership in the United States has been declining steadily since the 1970s,” he said, noting that it used to be about 50 percent and now stands at 34 percent of homes owning a gun. “The traditional gun-buying public, basically white males, has been aging and dying off, and there aren’t enough replacement shooters to take their place. That’s why you’re seeing a shift in the industry away from traditional hunting rifles and shotguns evolve to focus on firepower and capacity.”

It’s quite the howler, isn’t it?

I suspect that Sugarmann repeats that claim to himself in the mirror every morning, attempting to convince himself it is true, or he’d never be able to summon the energy to continue on with his quixotic quest to undercut the basic human rights of his fellow citizens.

Here, in reality, firearms ownership is at an all-time high. There are now more firearms in the United States than at any point in history, owned by more people, from more widely varying backgrounds. They shoot more socially, in larger groups, and take part in many growing gun sports.

Sugarmann’s claims are simply false, based upon wishful thinking and self-delusion, not actual data.

Here in reality, concealed carry laws are expanding across the nation, and a significant demographic shift is occurring. “Gun culture  2.0″ is younger, urban, and far more interested in the utility of modular multi-purpose”tactical” firearms than they are single-purpose hunting firearms that were once the backbone of the industry.

They buy semi-automatic rifles and pistols, and they shoot a lot more frequently and in greater volume than previous generations of shooters, which is part of the reason that the ammunition industry is just starting to catch up to demand after years of demand that sees American citizens consuming more ammunition in shooting sports each year than were consumed when we were “the arsenal of democracy” supplying war materials for the Allies in World War II.

We’re clearly winning, and the unparalleled popularity of the AR-15 platform is undeniable evidence of that fact.