Op-Ed Compares ARs to Pitbulls...and Not How You Might Think

Esther Atkins via AP

There are a lot of people who want to outlaw dog breeds like pitbulls. Why? Because they're supposedly dangerous. In fact, a piece at The Economist recently tried to make the case for doing so. It seems that these dogs are particularly dangerous and ordinary people can't be trusted with them.


Sound familiar?

Yes, it's exactly like the debate around things like the AR-15 and similar modern sporting rifles. 

In Colorado, the debate continues to rage on about these weapons, and surprisingly, an op-ed tries to compare the rifles to the dogs. While I could see many trying to make that comparison to justify banning one or the other, this author doesn't.

The Americans who responsibly own, maintain, target shoot, and hunt with the majority of those 20 million AR-style rifles as well as the shotguns and pistols described in HB 1292 disagree. The idea that no reasonable person can responsibly and peaceably own a so-called assault weapon is belied by the fact that so many do.

Recently a friend told me over coffee that he felt no one should own an assault rifle. The “no one should own” sparked a similar conversation weeks before when another friend had said, no one should own a pit bull; they’re too dangerous.

Indeed the muscular terrier accounts for more bites, more serious bite incidents, and more fatalities than other breeds. Of the 30 to 50 people who die each year in the U.S. from dog bites, pit bulls account for 28% of the deaths.

But this tragic fact needs context. There are 18 million pit bulls in the U.S. and the vast majority of pit bulls are gentle. Bite incidents have actually decreased over the past few decades even as cities have rescinded pit bull bans. The decline is due to increased spay/neuter rates (unneutered males are the most likely to bite), stray dog control, leash laws, and laws that hold irresponsible, neglectful, and abusive owners responsible for aggressive dogs. The fact that some breeds are more physically powerful than others is less relevant than the behavior of owners.

What is true for dogs is doubly true for potentially dangerous inanimate objects like firearms and automobiles. There are 20 million AR-style rifles and the vast majority of their owners will never brandish much less fire upon another person. Any firearm from a little single-shot derringer to an AR-15 rifle with every conceivable gadget is only dangerous in the hands of irresponsible people and those with ill intent. It is already illegal to maim or kill someone with a firearm of any kind or to even brandish such a weapon in a threatening or irresponsible way.


That wasn't what I expected, but author Krista Kafer is 100 percent correct in this comparison. Especially as we know that hands and feet are used to kill more people every year than rifles of any kind.

As noted, there are at least 20 million AR-style rifles floating around in private hands. If the guns served absolutely no purpose but murder, as many try to argue, then there would be a ton just sitting around collecting dust.

If there's a flaw in this comparison, it's that dogs have brains of their own. They have personalities and tendencies whereas firearms don't. One might argue that a dog can commit acts of violence of their own volition--though, admittedly, that's not something most dogs will do out of the blue without reason, much like people.

Guns, however, can't.

Yes, some people want to ban pit bulls and some want to ban ARs. In many cases, they're the same people, which is hardly surprising. They're used to giving people a pass for their poor behavior and to, instead, blame the instrument of that poor behavior.

But there are also many who want to ban guns but not the dogs. They rightfully understand the context surrounding these dog attacks, that there are tons of pit bulls who have done nothing except love their families. 

Why can't they see that AR-15s aren't sentient. They don't flip out and murder people, even if they're mistreated horribly. They're not responsible for their own actions, people are, much like with pit bulls.


And when looked at in context, modern sporting rifles just look scary because of high-profile incidents that were blown out of proportion to the real issues with violence in our society.

Banning them won't make anyone safer.

That's true of the dogs and the guns.

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