In addition to about three million soldiers, and we must not forget the over one million law enforcement officers who must also be viewed as government agents. That totals somewhere between three to four million government agents who could be called upon to repress the American people. Compare that number to the estimated 100 million gun owners in America. As long as the American people have the right to own the very same type of weapons with which the military and police are armed, they need not fear the government. It is that purpose that was and still is the primary reason behind the one line paragraph the States ratified as the Second Amendment, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The second reason Americans need high capacity semi-automatic firearms has a more practical, immediate application in our modern society. Citizens must not be stripped of the ability to effectively counter criminal violence. I was a law enforcement officer in the 70s and 80s when the transition to high capacity semi-automatic handguns for law enforcement began. I taught law enforcement officers firearms skills in the 90s, after the move to semi-autos was complete.

The reason law enforcement switched to semi-automatic handguns is twofold. First was the discovery that the ergonomics of the semi-automatic handgun worked better for most officers, than those of the six-shot revolver. Simply put, the officers could shoot better with semi-autos. The most pressing reason for making the shift to the semi-auto was that the criminal element had already gone there and the police were outgunned. Officers were facing dedicated criminals armed with high-capacity weapons, while they were still issued six-shot revolvers and pump action shotguns. The playing field had changed and the cops needed to catch up.

I know of no watershed moment that initiated the shift to semi-automatic handguns, but law enforcement endured one compelling incident that started the move to retire the pump shotgun, and replace it with the semi-automatic rifle. That incident was the North Hollywood bank robbery and the subsequent running gun battle that occurred in 1997. On Feb. 28th of that year, two career criminals armed with semi-automatic rifles which had been illegally converted to full auto, entered the North Hollywood Bank of America, robbed the bank of over $300,000, and upon attempting to make their getaway, were confronted by officers armed with .38 Special revolvers, 9mm semi-automatic handguns and pump action shotguns.

In anticipation of being confronted by law enforcement, the two bank robbers had donned full body armor that made the underpowered police weapons all but useless. A running gun battle ensued, in which hundreds of rounds were fired by both the robbers and the police. At one point, realizing the robbers had the upper hand, some officers went to a nearby gun shop, where they obtained semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, magazines and ammunition. Before those weapons were put into play, though, the gunfight came to an end, with one perpetrator shooting himself in the head with his handgun as police closed in after his rifle jammed, and the other criminal finally was neutralized with shots to his lower extremities, where he was not armored.

Now, 15 years later, virtually all law enforcement agencies and officers are either issued AR-15 style rifles, or have them accessible. But, that is the police. In the context of self defense, why do armed citizens need AR-15 style weapons? Because, the armed citizen faces the VERY SAME criminals that police face. The only difference is that police, because they are more often called TO the incident, face these criminals more regularly. Understand, though, criminals do not prey on police, but instead, they victimize the public.