The Right Is Man-Spreading Myths To Defend Murderous AR-15 Rifle

Gun Rights

A viral video online after the mass killings on Saturday at the outlet mall in Allen, Texas, has caused a lot of consternation, most of it on the right, because it showed dead bodies piled next to a sidewalk. One of the bodies was that of a three-year-old child. His brain matter could be seen sprayed across the sidewalk. Another one of the dead was missing part of her face. It’s just terrible, many commenters said, that Twitter would allow the video on its platform. What happened to the standards Twitter used to have that would have prevented such a thing from being seen before being caught by an algorithm or human monitors?

Well, for one, Elon Musk happened. An expert on social media interviewed on MSNBC yesterday said that Twitter’s entire force of human content monitors had been reduced to two people. Musk himself, having taken over Twitter, announced that there would be far less “censorship” of content than there had been under the old management.

But conservatives weren’t complaining about algorithms or content monitoring. They were complaining that photographs had finally reached the public showing the damage an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle can do to the human body. A single bullet fired by an AR-15 can explode heads. It can remove faces. A single gunman armed with an AR-15 can kill eight human beings and put seven more in the hospital in a matter of minutes. The gunman who killed five people in a house in Cleveland, Texas, only days before the killings in Allen was also armed with an AR-15. No photographs emerged from that shooting, but police reported that all five victims were shot at close range in the head.

Gun rights advocates sprang into action soon after both shootings, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who blamed the alleged mental health problems of the shooters. In commenting on the two latest shootings, Abbott did not mention the seven other mass shootings that have taken place in Texas since the killing of 19 children and two schoolteachers in Uvalde, Texas, almost a year ago. His messages after the Uvalde massacre and the shootings in Allen on Saturday were nearly word for word.

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“We’ve seen an increased number of shootings in states with easy gun laws as well as shootings in states with very strict gun laws,” Abbott said on Sunday, seemingly pointing to an imaginary map of the United States. He blamed the mass shootings on “a dramatic increase in the amount of anger” in the country. “The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue,” Abbott said.

Last year, Abbott cut about $200 million from state mental health funding and redirected the money to “Operation Lone Star,” a state-funded mission intended to stop illegal immigration. Defenders of Abbott say that he replaced the budget cuts to mental health with federal funding, but that happened after the budget cuts, not before.

Nobody on the right, not Abbott, not the NRA, not the Texas legislators who passed the so-called constitutional carry laws that allow anyone to carry firearms in public without a permit – none of them blame the gun that practically every mass-shooter in the last decade has used, the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Instead, supporters of the AR-15 are leaping to its defense as a normal sporting rifle that just happens to be the choice of 20 million Americans for self-defense.

A female friend of mine recently told me of a discussion she had with a male friend about the mass shootings taking place all over the U.S. She sent him a copy of my Substack column, “Semiautomatic terrorism,” which took on the AR-15 as the root of the problem with mass killings. Without that weapon of war, I contended, we wouldn’t have so many dead bodies, because its design to kill human beings is so deadly efficient.

Her friend responded with what can only be called verbal man-spreading, attempting to take up all the information space about the AR-15. It’s not a military weapon like the M-16, he explained. The AR-15, named after the company that first manufactured it, the ArmaLite company, was originally designed and produced for civilian use in the 1950’s, and became popular because of its upper and lower receivers and the barrels that could be switched out to handle different bullets to hunt different animals.

He is wrong. The AR-15 was not originally designed for civilian use, but on orders of the U.S. Army Continental Command as a replacement for the M-14. Before the AR-15, there was an AR-10, similar to the current weapon but designed to fire a larger bullet.

His unprompted description of upper and lower receivers could apply to many different rifles, referring to the top part of the gun that holds the bolt and firing pin and the mechanism that makes it fire semiautomatically or automatically, and the bottom part that holds the trigger assembly. But you don’t need to know the nomenclature of firearms to understand the AR-15.

My friend’s friend opined that what must happen for people to understand the issue of mass shootings is that everyone should become better informed about guns, and she should stop listening to politicians on either side of the issue who are just out for votes.

I’ll endorse the second of those ideas, but not the first. You don’t need to know the names of the parts for the AR-15, or the way its gas-operating system works, or what barrels it can be fitted with.

All you need to know is that the AR-15 was designed for the military, which bought tens of thousands of them in 1963 and designated the weapon the M-16 and began shipping them to Vietnam to be used to kill Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. That’s what it was designed for – killing people — and what it’s been used for ever since, no matter which succeeding model of the rifle has come along.

Here’s another thing you need to know about right-wing defense of the AR-15. The videos that originally spread on Twitter showing the pile of dead bodies in one video and the dead body of the killer lying next to his AR-15 with a puddle of blood around his head, have both been taken down. In their place is a blank screen with the words, “This Tweet violated the Twitter rules.”

You bet those tweets did, because they were evidence of the deadly effects of the AR-15 that people like Gregg Abbott and Elon Musk and legislators in every state who take money from the NRA don’t want you to see. They should replace that little Twitter notice with this: “Your ideas were taking up too much space. You have been man-spread.”

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

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