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When Accuracy and Stopping Power Matter, Assault Weapons Are Simply Better

Heritage Foundation expert serves up FACTS on the assault weapons debate.

Amy Swearer is a Senior Legal Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Amy Swearer to Congress: No, Banning AR-15s Wouldn't Make Americans Safer

WATCH: Heritage expert Amy Swearer serves up FACTS on firearms to the House Judiciary Committee. While many House Democrats are trying to ban so-called “assault weapons,” they certainly weren't expecting to hear this.

Posted by The Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Commentary by Stewart Rhodes, Founder of Oath Keepers: 

Amy Swearer gave some very effective and compelling testimony before Congress.  Hat’s off to her.  She even touched on the historic reality that during civil unrest it has been demonstrated that governments at all levels often fail to preserve the peace and protect people, and the people end up having to do that themselves.   As examples, she brought up the 1992 LA riots where citizens were left to fend for themselves, with the Korean shop owners being the most widely publicized example (though they were hardly alone – entire neighborhoods did the same).

She also brought up Ferguson, Missouri, where citizens again had to post up as volunteer guards outside of shops to prevent looting and arson, in part because the incompetent Governor of their state failed to properly deploy the Missouri National Guard.   Oath Keepers was proud to send volunteers to assist in Ferguson, standing on the rooftops of an entire block of buildings, protecting local businesses and the apartments above those businesses, where families lived (note that most of the shops were black and asian owned – we protected EVERYONE).

But, like too many gun rights advocates, she failed to point out the constitutional imperative that We the People are the militia that the Second Amendment declares is “necessary for the security of a free state.”   The founders understood the necessity of a well regulated (well organized) militia made up of the people themselves, to preserve liberty and security.   It is precisely because we no longer have such an organized militia in each community that local and state governments routinely fail to keep the peace, leaving the citizenry no choice but to scramble to organize their own community defense on the fly, as she astutely pointed out.

Bottom line is that in ANY emergency, man-made or natural, the tiny paid professional police forces and the relatively tiny “select militia” of the National Guard will ALWAYS be overwhelmed and inadequate to respond effectively.  There are simply not enough of them.

We see that over and over again with each hurricane, for example, which led to the rise of the Cajun Navy volunteer groups, who acted on their own self-initiative by grabbing their flat bottom boats and rescuing thousands.   Those volunteers were so effective that when Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, Governor Abbot officially pleaded with Cajun Navy volunteers from Louisiana to come to the rescue in Texas.  Consider that an admission that the State of Texas was unprepared to take care of Texas.   Why was the State of Texas unprepared to take care of itself?   Because the people of Texas are not organized into militia units.

Oath Keepers also pitched in after Hurricane Harvey, and to date we have deployed for disaster relief in five hurricanes in the last three years (including Puerto Rico) to help fill the vacuum left by the absence of a true militia system.   And because Oath Keepers is made up of military and police veterans, along with first responders, we provide a crucial security function in addition to emergency medical, search and rescue, and food and water delivery (all the functions a true militia system would provide).  We have provided security escorts for relief convoys, for medical teams of EMTs, Medics, nurses, and doctors, and security for relief centers, as well as providing build in security for our own medical and search and rescue teams.   We have also stepped in to provide security for entire towns in the wake of hurricanes, because the local or state law enforcement were simply overwhelmed.   We did so with the express approval and invitation of local political leaders.

In Texas, after Hurricane Harvey, we even provided security for the National Guard, who were not allowed to be armed in the area we were operating in!   Our military and police veterans had to provide armed security escorts for the Guardsmen to keep them safe.   This was NOT coordinated through official channels, top down (the same “leadership” that had mandated that the Guard unit be unarmed).  But it was coordinated through the NCOs on the ground, who had the common sense to recognize the absurdity of their soldiers being unarmed sitting ducks for armed local gangs, drug addicts, and organized looter teams.   Our volunteers also did ride alongs with local law enforcement, again, with individual officers quietly requesting that an armed Oath Keeper police or military veteran ride “shotgun” while the officer went out on a potentially dangerous wellness checks into areas where local bad guys were known to be taking advantage of the chaos.

All of the above are only the tip of the iceberg of examples of We the People stepping up on our own, to fill the void left by the absence of what should be there – a real,  honest to God militia system of organized, trained units in each community made up of all of the people of that community, town, county, and state.

Yes, according to federal statute – at least on paper -all able-bodied men from 17-45 are still part of the militia, and that age limit goes up to 65 for those of us who are trained military veterans.   And we are all still subject to being called forth, as the militia, by the President of the United States.

But we ARE NOT organized into units, and we do not train as units, in our local communities.  We need to fix that.

As the Supreme Court said in Heller, the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and, as the Court pointed out, men were expected to provide their own personal weapons when they participated in their local militia.   But that was it, so far as the Court was concerned – just a historic reference to the men using personal weapons to fulfill their public duty to be in the militia.   Then the Court focused on the modern use of firearms for self defense.  And that has been the focus of all of the modern gun rights groups, such as the NRA, GOA, SAF, etc.   They say nary a word about the rest of the Second Amendment, that talks about a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.   They just focus on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  And they therefore tend to defend the keeping and bearing of rifles such as the AR 15 as being good choices for self defense against criminals.  And they are correct.   But by limiting the discussion to that purpose, they end up having to make a comparatively weak argument that a civilian semi-auto copy of a military rifle has a legitimate “civilian” purpose for individual self defense, while leaving out the obvious utility of such rifles for  the very public purposes of suppressing insurrections (including looting, arson, mass murder, or terrorism), repelling invasions, or executing the laws of the union, in addition to all the other things that a militia would do within the states even when not called into federal service, such as disaster relief and aiding their local and state law enforcement in executing the laws of the town, county, and state.

Point being, an AR-15, or AK47 or AR10, etc is precisely what MUST be in our hands so that we can fulfill the obligations of being the militia of a free state, whether organized or not.  Bearing such arms as the militia is “necessary to the security of a free state.”  And that is the strongest defense of our right to keep and bear such arms – not individual defense against criminals.   They ARE weapons of war (or at least semi-auto copies of weapons of war), and that is precisely what is supposed to be in the hands of we the people as the militia – battle rifles (AR 10, M1A, Garand, FAL, HK 91, .308 Galil, etc.) and battle carbines (AR 15, AK 47, Mini 14, Mini 30, Tavor, SIG, Galil, HK 93, etc).

Such weapons are in the hands of the police, as well as in the hands of the National Guard and in the hands of our active duty Army and USMC infantry, and the semi-auto versions are in the hands of we the people.   The fact that the police use them shows they have obvious utility in enforcing the laws and keeping the peace in situations and actions short of war – but for the very same reason they are also useful in warfare.  Whether you are engaged in combat with an “active shooter,” a bank robbery gang, MS-13, some drug cartel, a terrorist cell, an organized band of armed looters, a rioting mob, or in combat against an invading army or defending your liberty against a rogue government (God forbid) you are in combat.   You are in a firefight.  Your weapons, gear, and basic tactics will be the same or very similar (obviously adjusting if you are dealing with an enemy with air-power or artillery).  The basic arm for all of those situations is the military pattern rifle.  And frankly, a semi-auto AR -15 is really just as good as a select-fire M-4 for 95% of purposes.  That full auto selection switch is only useful in very limited circumstances, such as close range suppressive fire and room clearing.

And we have the right, and the duty, to keep and bear such arms as INDIVIDUALS so that we can fulfill that duty, in all of those circumstances, regardless of whether our negligent public officials (local, state or federal) take that duty seriously or not, and whether they organize us into official units or not, ahead of such need.

We do have a duty to bear such arms in organized militias, and we need to work tirelessly to get our fellow citizens up off the couch and organized into true militias (made up of ALL able bodied citizens in the community).  But whether we can find a way to organize in advance, as the founders expected us to do, or whether we have to do it on the fly, as we have had to do on so many occasions, it is both our RIGHT and our DUTY, to keep and bear such arms and to train to use them effectively – and that means we must train to use them not just as individuals to defend against home invaders or street criminals, but also to use them in concert with other citizens, in buddy teams, fire-teams, and squads, to defend against looters, arsonists, insurrectionists, terrorists, or invaders, as the U.S. Constitution makes clear, in Article 1, Section 8, which delegates the Congress the power to:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Congress has provided for that calling forth in statutes dating back to the Founding, but unfortunately has done next to nothing to organize, equip, arm, or train us as the militia.  And no, the National Guard is not the same thing – that is a “select militia” that is only a fraction of our able bodied population, which is inadequate to fulfill the purpose of the militia in time of need, as we have seen over and over.  Further, because the National Guard is used as an auxiliary and reserve for the standing Army, National Guard units are often deployed overseas and entirely unavailable to assist in their home states or anywhere in CONUS.

Our local and state governments have also failed, completely, to organize, equip, and train us as the militia, and barring some miraculous renaissance of virtue and understanding among our public officials, I expect pigs to fly before we see any level of government organize an actual citizens militia.   We must never give up trying to get them to do it, but don’t count on it.

Given the ignorance, corruption, and laziness of the political class in this nation, it will fall to we the people to do it ourselves, in whatever imperfect manner we can. The closest thing we are likely to achieve when it comes to an official militia with the cooperation of any level of government is likely to be an armed posse under the command of a constitutional sheriff.  And that is what we should strive to build in each county.  Short of that, my advice is to form neighborhood watches “with teeth” (armed) in your own neighborhood and then to do your best to organize a town or county level group of volunteers, such as the “Mayberry County Volunteers” who get together to train in disaster relief and public security operations.   Do your best to get your sheriff onboard and involved, with your county volunteers also serving as his posse, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

I will write up some further advice and “lessons learned” on that topic.  Expect to see that within the next month.

But one thing we cannot do is ever disarm.  And in particular, never give up your military pattern semi-auto rifles.  Above all, never concede to any claim that we don’t “need” our military pattern semi-auto rifles.   We need them now more than ever, especially now that the anti-gun left has taken off the mask and showed that their true intent has always been to disarm us.  Francis (“Beto”) O’Rourke was just dumb enough to spill the beans on what has been their plan all along (which is why he has now eclipsed Obama as the all time top AR 15 salesman in history – Congratulations Beto!).  Bloomberg is livid with Beto for tipping their hand too soon.  But now the cat’s out of the bag.

Beto, Bloomberg, Swallwell, Sheila Jackson Lee, and the rest of their lot have no idea what kind of hornets nest they are poking at.  This is NOT England, Australia, or New Zealand.  We will NOT disarm, and especially now that the Marxist dominated American left has spent the past ten years telling us and showing us what their intent is for us, if they do manage to disarm us.  I don’t expect them to ever catch a clue and back off, so expect to experience “interesting times” in our future.  We are on a collision course with totalitarian fools who will not stop until stopped.  Prepare your mind, body, and spirit.  It is now our turn. It is now our watch.

Our situation brings to mind what George Washington told his troops before the battle of Long Island:

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.” – General George Washington. Address to the Continental Army Before the Battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776.  

May we have the courage and wisdom to preserve what was won for us so long ago, against such incredible odds.  May we do so for our children and our children’s children, so that the light of liberty will not be snuffed out.

For the Republic,

Stewart Rhodes

Founder of Oath Keepers

Attribution: The Heritage Foundation





  1. Perfect essay and summary of our state of the militia.

    “But one thing we cannot do is ever disarm. And in particular, never give up your military pattern semi-auto rifles. Above all, never concede to any claim that we don’t “need” our military pattern semi-auto rifles. We need them now more than ever.”

    For those of us with financial means, I strongly suggest gifting such weapons to trusted family and friends, include range time for functional training and on its utility.

  2. I find the blanket statement: “When Accuracy and Stopping Power Matter, Assault Weapons Are Simply Better” both factually incorrect and offensive.
    A. This assumes an incorrect definition of an assault weapon. A tank is an assault weapon, an AR platform long gun – the inferred firearm – is not.
    B. The average hunting rifle is more accurate than the average AR platform firearm. US Military requirements for service rifles don’t require the level of accuracy the police has been led to believe via movies and false rhetoric. Any reading of the actual specifications US military firearms are required to meet proves this unambiguously.
    C. The average hunting rifle is much more powerful than the average AR or the average military issue M16 and its variants. In fact, the cartridge used in standard issue US Military infantry firearms isn’t powerful enough to be allowed for deer hunting in many states and not even wild hog hunting in most states. The 5.56 MM or .223 caliber civilian version are just .22 caliber firearms firing small light weight projectiles chosen for the lower weight they require the user to carry and the increased number that can be carried due to that weight and smaller size.
    It sure would be nice if those speaking or writing about firearms had an adequate and honest knowledge about them.

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