(Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

I was Just Thinking… 


In part I of this discussion, we recalled “the good ole days” when kids who had a beef with each other fought it out – by hand. They exchanged punches and bruises, exhausted themselves, made up, and shortly were friends again. They lived to fight another day, and as years passed, looked back on the disagreement and laughed about it as a learning experience. Not so today. Enter stage left the mass-killing power of the deadly AK-47 and AR-15 semi-automatic rifles that pro-gun advocates refuse to call “assault weapons.”  

I was just thinking…what is it about these two rifles that have so scarred our society in the hands of individuals who should not have access to them? Let’s explore. AK-47. This shoulder weapon has been in use for 76 years, since 1947. It was designed by Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, a Russian inventor, military engineer, and writer. AK-47 stands for “Automatic Kalashnikov 1947.” Kalashnikov for the name of the inventor and 47 for the year he designed it.  

As we said in Part I, media reports usually add the word “style” when mentioning the two weapons in news stories to avoid confusing them with the original models. The Soviet Armed Forces began using this attack and defense rifle in 1949, lauding it for being an improvement over previous combat weapons, and easier to mass produce. It holds 30 rounds and can fire 600 rounds per minute, depending on how quickly the shooter can reload.  

Eventually, Soviet soldiers reported some problems with the weapon’s accuracy. It still remains very popular, though more efficient military firearms have been designed. As the popularity grew, the inventor was quoted saying he lamented the direction society had taken his AK-47 invention. He said he designed it as a “weapon of defense, not a weapon of offense.” Below is the other weapon frequently used in mass shootings. AR-15.  

The letter ID of this weapon does not stand for Automatic Rifle or Assault Rifle – a common misconception. This weapon is named after its American manufacturer, Armalite Rifle. The 15 represents the model. It is the 15th weapon design that the Armalite company produced. Vietnam War soldiers used a Colt-manufactured derivative of the weapon called the M16. Eugene Stoner, Armalite’s lead gun designer, created the weapon shortly after the company began operating in 1954.  

He designed it for civilian use, mainly for local law enforcement and game hunters. It now is considered among the nation’s most popular high-powered semi-automatic firearms. The light-weight rifle weighs about 6 pounds and can easily be customized with fancy attachments — tactical lights, magazines, stocks, buffers, muzzles, etc. –that fascinate gun-enthusiasts at crowded gun shows.  

Unfortunately, because of its power, ease and efficiency, the AR-15 has become the go to weapon for mass shootings. Anyone can buy this deathly weapon at age 18, and in Tex – as with almost no regulation. Researchers say about 500 companies currently manufacture their own AR-15-style firearm. The now vilified National Rifle Association (NRA) estimates there are about 8 million AR-15-style rifles in circulation in the U. S. Under former President Bill Clinton, the federal government banned semi-automatic assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. After that decade, sales and popularity ballooned. Debate also heightened concerning how to confine its use to responsible and mentally stable individuals.  

(TO BE CONTINUED) Part III will examine the now-vilified National Rifle Association (NRA) – its history, purpose, leaders, and who it attracts as members. 

Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974. [email protected]