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Family of AR-15 inventor Eugene Stoner: He didn't intend it for civilians.

kdc's Avatar

The AR-15 is the most talked about gun in America.

But the AR-15's creator died before the weapon became a popular hit and his family has never spoken out.

Until now.

"Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47," the Stoner family told NBC News late Wednesday. "He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events."

The inventor's surviving children and adult grandchildren spoke exclusively to MSNBC by phone and email, commenting for the first time on their family's uneasy legacy. They requested individual anonymity in order to speak freely about such a sensitive topic. They also stopped short of policy prescriptions or legal opinions.

But their comments add unprecedented context to their father's creation, shedding new light on his intentions and adding firepower to the effort to ban weapons like the AR-15. The comments could also bolster a groundbreaking new lawsuit, which argues that the weapon is a tool of war — never intended for civilians.

Eugene Stoner would have agreed, his family said.

The ex-Marine and "avid sportsman, hunter and skeet shooter" never used his invention for sport. He also never kept it around the house for personal defense. In fact, he never even owned one.

And though he made millions from the design, his family said it was all from military sales.

"After many conversations with him, we feel his intent was that he designed it as a military rifle," his family said, explaining that Stoner was focused on making the most efficient and superior rifle possible for the military."

He designed the original AR-15 in the late 1950s, working on it in his own garage and later as the chief designer for ArmaLite, a then small company in southern California. He made it light and powerful and he fashioned a new bullet for it — a .223 caliber round capable of piercing a metal helmet at 500 yards.

The Army loved it and famously renamed it the M16.

But after Stoner's death in 1997, at the age of 74, a semi-automatic version of the AR-15 became a civilian bestseller, too, spawning dozens of copy-cat weapons. The National Rifle Association has taken to calling it "America's rifle."

The bullets that tore through the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were Stoner's .223 rounds, fired from a AR-15 spin off made by Sig Sauer.

In all, an AR-15 style rifle has been used in at least 10 recent mass shootings — including at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and a work party in San Bernardino, California.

"What has happened, good or bad, since his patents have expired is a result of our free market system," Stoner's family said. "Currently, a more interesting question is 'Who now is benefiting from the manufacturing and sales of AR-15s, and for what uses?'"

That's the question for the rest of us.


Michael Irwin
Archie .
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kdc's Avatar

Kenneth, I'm glad you did comment. It's always interesting to hear what people have to say about topics posted on here, that's why I post them.  

I didn't post this as a topic of gun control. I posted this because many times I have held back on going forward with some of my ideas that I think are good ideas that people can benefit from...but then, I always go through a stage of 'what if' and one of those 'what if' is what if someone got injured on the product, what if a child was hurt or worse. I am always held back with my 'what ifs' in fear that someone may somehow get hurt by it. And when I read this today, it made me wonder how I would deal with something happening to someone because of an idea I had. 

When I come up with an idea, I make so many changes to it once I start questioning 'what if' this and 'what if' that.  It drives me nuts. I'm very detailed oriented, so I pick apart everything I do, piece by piece to figure out what can possibly go wrong, so I can fix it to prevent it. The ideas themselves are great...IF they are used for the purpose and used the way they are created to be used.

This is true especially with game ideas. Yes, you can state that the game is for ages 12 and up...but, if they have a younger sibling in the house they can get a hold of pieces and choke on it. I know that's not the responsibly of the inventor...but like I  said, these thoughts drive me nuts.

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kdc's Avatar

Thank you, Kenneth! I needed to hear that!

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kimmyk's Avatargold

Good words, Kenneth.

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kabuj's Avataree_badge

Hmmmm... the cost to benefits of "airplanes"  to the American people cannot be compared to the cost to benefit of an AR-15 to the American people no matter how it's rationalized.

As to the ability to own an AR-15 being the purpose of the Second Ammendment  is something politicians, scholars and many people have argued over and reasonable people can disagree.

There are many sides to a position. I happen to appreciate the "current administration" attempting to limit the access of such weapons to Radical extremist of any kind foreign or domestic born (regardless of their religion or lack thereof).

I'm sure there are many americans who agree and disagree with my comments. Hey it's a FREE country and you know what they say about opinions.


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