The Family That Invented the AR-15 Just Made a Confession

June 16th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The AR-15 — a semi-automatic rifle that has been used in multiple mass shootings — was never meant for civilian use, the family of the gun's inventor told NBC News on Wednesday.


"Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47," the Stoner family said. "He died long before any mass shootings occurred, but we do think he would have been [as] horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more, by these events."

Similarly, the inventor of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, expressed regret over his creation of the popular assault rifle. He said that we would've preferred to invent "a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work," Business Insider reports.

The admission comes amid growing debate over U.S. gun laws. In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, reform advocates and lawmakers are pushing for what they call "common sense" gun control measures, including a proposal to ban assault-style firearms such as the AR-15. (The Orlando shooter did not use an AR-15, but another type of semi-automatic weapon known as a Sig Sauer MCX.)

The children and grandchildren of Eugene Stoner spoke exclusively to NBC News about the inventor's legacy. It marks the first time the family members have gone on record about the subject, and they requested anonymity "in order to speak freely about such a sensitive topic."

"After many conversations with him, we feel his intent was that he designed it as a military rifle," the family said. They added that Stoner himself — an "avid sportsman, hunter and skeet shooter" — didn't use his own invention for sport or home defense. He didn't even own one, they said.

A semi-automatic version of the military weapon was created shortly after Stoner's death in 1997. It has since become a best-selling firearm, heralded as "America's rifle" by the National Rifle Association, and has been used in at least 10 recent mass shootings, NBC News reports.

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

RELATED: How Long It Takes to Buy an Assault Rifle in Orlando