Why own an AR-15? Four Texans tell why they own the most popular gun in America

DALLAS — Some say it’s too powerful for civilian use. Others say it’s the most user-friendly rifle around. Politico dubbed it “the most political gun in America.” The NRA calls it “America’s rifle.”

The AR-15’s ability to be customized makes it the favored rifle for all kinds of shooters. You can replace parts, attach accessories and paint it to make it your own. Gun advocates call it the Lego or Barbie of guns because of that versatility.

Everything that makes it the most popular rifle in the U.S. — easy to buy, easy to shoot, easy to customize — also makes it an extremely efficient killing machine, critics say.

A similar modified rifle was part of the arsenal used in the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the AR-15 was the weapon of choice for mass murderers who killed 12 moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., 14 partygoers in San Bernardino, Calif., and 27 children and teachers in Newtown, Conn.

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After every mass shooting, politicians and Facebook pundits alike ask the same question: Why even own such a weapon?

Last year, The Dallas Morning News interviewed many local AR-15 owners, but few wanted to be named despite moderate, measured views. They feel the voice of reasonable gun owners is being ignored, but they worried that they would get backlash from employers or be depicted as radicals.

“I think as a community, we’ve been burned so many times,” said Ben Allen, a U.S. Army veteran from Denton who owns four AR-15s. “Everyone else gets drowned out.”

Here’s what Allen and three other North Texans said about their AR-15s.

Ben Allen, Denton

“A lot of it is perception. People don’t know the difference between this and an M-4 … . If we want meaningful change, we need to fix what we already have. Finding the right way forward takes that respectful discussion.”

Daley Laurel, Blue Ridge

“I had shot AR-15s many times before, but shooting your own, cleaning your own, knowing you have that kind of awesome power in your hand—it’s an adrenaline rush for sure … It’s like riding a roller coaster, but different. You don’t feel scared anymore.”

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Colion Noir, Dallas

“It looks dramatic. There’s a lot of theatrics with an AR-15 … If you have an ignorant perspective of the AR-15, what you end up with is a terrified public … The very reasons they want to condemn it are the same reasons I want it.”

Ro Carter, Frisco

“It’s versatile, it’s manageable, it’s excellent for defense, it’s excellent for sport shooting … Why do you buy health insurance? Why do you buy life insurance? It’s all the same thing.”