Here’s the Times‘ take. It’s long and reads a lot like this.
On one level, marketing military-style weapons to civilians is not so different from pitching professional sports equipment to high-school athletes. Garry James, the senior field editor at Guns & Ammo, says a military pedigree inspires consumer confidence in a gun’s reliability.
“Credibility of performance is what appeals to the firearms enthusiast,” Mr. James wrote in an e-mail.
Yet marketing combat-derived weapons to civilians is a risky business, particularly now. The industry itself has promoted the guns by using battle imagery and words like “assault” and “combat.” Bushmaster Firearms, a leading maker of AR-15-style guns, and whose rifles have been used in several mass shootings, features the Bushmaster ACR, short for adaptive combat rifle, on its Web site. “Forces of opposition, bow down,” part of the site says. All the same, gun makers say customers buy these weapons with peaceable intentions.
The AR-15 isn’t the first military-style weapon to gain a consumer following. After World War II, some people bought surplus German service rifles made by Mauser and repurposed them for hunting and competitive shooting. But the selling of the AR-15 represents the first mass marketing of a military-style semiautomatic rifle made by a number of different gun makers. Its success has led to an increasing militarization of the entire consumer firearms market, says Tom Diaz, a gun industry researcher and gun control advocate.
My take: Because they’re cool. Duh.
Having one will ensure that you’re ready for the zombie apocalypse.
They also make a great fashion accessory.