As I write this in late July 2022, the House of Representatives is poised to pass another ban on semi-auto rifles similar to the federal ban enacted in 1994. That ban expired in 2004 because it didn’t do much, if anything. Something will likely have passed the House by the time you read this, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats, then it will head to the 50/50 Senate. Normally, a split like that would doom any anti-gun measure that would have to reach 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but some Republican senators have gone soft. Fifteen of them rolled over earlier in the year to pass a bill negotiated in part by Soft John Cornyn (R-TX), whom I will work to get primaried out in Texas if he chooses to run for his Senate seat again in 2026.
But perhaps all these Modern Sporting Rifles ban efforts will be like waves crashing against the rocks of the recent Bruen decision, which makes bans of any sort immediately suspect. Moreover, guns which are in “common use” have additional Constitutional protection, which brings me to my actual point here.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, updated the industry estimate of Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) in circulation in the United States to 24,446,000 since 1990. That is an increase of more than 4.5 million rifles since the last estimate was released in 2020. Folks are buying them some ARs.
The estimate is derived from NSSF research, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report (AFMER) and U.S. International Trade Commission (U.S. ITC) data, in cooperation with manufacturers, importers and exporters of MSRs, or AR-15 and AK-style rifles. This most recent estimate includes production figures current through 2020, when the industry estimates more than 2,798,000 of these rifles were produced or imported. This estimate does not include MSRs that were produced and exported or imported and later exported.
The MSR remains the most-popular selling centerfire semiautomatic rifle in the United States today. There are more MSRs in circulation today than there are Ford F-Series trucks on the road.
The MSR’s popularity for lawful ownership is attributable to several factors, including accuracy, reliability, modularity, and low recoil.
The NSSF also produced a table showing the growth of MSRs produced annually from 1990, and it’s really quite remarkable. Annual totals of MSRs ranged from 74,000 in 1990 to 311,000 in 2005, the year after the ban expired. Then production totals started climbing in 2006 (398,000) to more than a million in 2009 (1.006 million), then 2.275 million in 2013, 2.447 million in 2016, then 2.798 million in 2020. This is the definition of in common use, and it’s hard for me to understand how a ban on these rifles could be legally sustained at the state or federal level. Commonly owned is common sense.