Why would anyone need an assault weapon?" is a rhetorical question, often posed by those people advocating gun bans, generally understood to assert that nobody needs an assault weapon, or to suggest it is perfectly reasonable that anybody who wants such a firearm should be required to demonstrate a need for one.

Lately the question has been applied specifically to the AR-15 platform.

Although, the AR-15 looks like an M16 rifle, it's not. The M16 is a true military assault rifle that can operate in full automatic mode (it's a machine gun); the AR-15 is a semiautomatic rifle that fires only one round for each pull of the trigger. Those who advocate banning "assault weapons" hope you confuse the two, and hope you don't know that M16s and all other machine guns are already banned.

A semiautomatic gun does not have a high rate of fire like a machine gun. Nor is the AR-15 a high-power rifle; it is a medium-power rifle that uses a varmint cartridge (designed to shoot small animals at intermediate distances).

It is generally chambered in 223 Remington (5.56mm x 39 NATO) that uses a lightweight bullet having very low recoil. This makes the AR-15 rifle far easier to shoot accurately than either a handgun or a shotgun.

Because of the long tapered shape of 223 bullets, they tend to tumble when they hit a solid object. The bullets break apart when passing through interior walls, thereby reducing the risk of casualties in other rooms or outside the dwelling. This is simply not possible in high-power hunting rifles, shotguns and handguns.

For self-defense purposes, handguns are not particularly good at stopping an aggressor -- they are simply convenient to carry. That's why many police departments equip their officers with a semiautomatic AR-15 or its fully automatic military counterparts, the M16 or the M4. These are much more effective tools for stopping an attacker quickly, and that is why policemen use them to protect themselves, and to protect us.

The answer to the question, "Why would anybody need an AR-15," is a simple one: because many people feel that the AR-15 is the ideal home defense firearm.

As already stated, the rhetorical question implies that without sufficient justification we shouldn't be allowed to own an AR-15. Such thinking is wrong.

Our Declaration of Independence, along with our Bill or Rights, tells us that people have certain unalienable rights -- these are natural rights, rights granted by our Creator, not given to us by our government. These unalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms by stating our right shall not be infringed -- it is an unalienable right that the Supreme Court affirmed in 2008, and made the law of the land in 2010.

Together these two mean that we have the God-given right to defend our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition the government by establishing that Congress has no authority to make laws to the contrary. Most people would agree that requiring us to demonstrate a "need," or ask permission, to practice our religion, speak freely, assemble, report the news, or petition the government is unconscionable. How is it that a requirement to demonstrate a need to defend our lives should be any less unconscionable?

To think that we need the permission of the government to determine the manner in which we defend our lives and the lives of our children is equally unconscionable.

There are few among us who would not defend the lives of their children with the most effective means available to them. It is not only our right to do so -- it is our duty to do so.

We the people are the sovereigns and our government is subservient to us. Our government does not have the right or the authority to dictate to us how we use our unalienable rights, except when doing so would violate the rights of others. Using an AR-15 or any other firearm to defend our lives or the lives of our loved ones violates the rights of no one, because the criminal who attempts to kill or inflict bodily harm on us has forfeited his right to life and liberty, and stopping him with any force necessary, up to and including lethal force, is not a crime.

Because some people commit crimes using these firearms is not justification to preventing law-abiding citizens from owning them. Banning such firearms will certainly infringe our unalienable right to self-defense.

-- Gregory B. Senft is a resident of New Freedom.