Mark Kelly Whips Up Fear of ‘Gas-Operated’ AR-15s: Here’s Why that Doesn’t Mean Anything

Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat from Arizona, speaks during a news conference following the
Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is pushing a ban on AR-15s by focusing on their gas operation system approximately 64 years after the gun’s design included such a system.

Breitbart News reported that Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and a group of Senate Democrats, including Kelly, introduced an AR-15 ban early Thursday. In so doing, they used new catchphrases such as “lethal capacity weapons” and “gas-operated semiautomatic.”

AR-15 (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Later Thursday, Kelly posted a video on X in which he continued to emphasize the new catchphrases by explaining that this latest attempt to ban AR-15s and similar rifles “focuses on the lethality of their internal mechanisms.”

He described the proposed ban as a “renewed effort” and explained that the firearms he wants to ban are “semiautomatic, gas-operated rifles.” He did not mention that the gas operation of an AR-15 is nothing new. In fact, it is about 64 years old if we date it back to 1959, when Colt acquired the license to manufacture the rifle.

By design, an AR uses gas emitted from a spent round, directing the gas to the bolt carrier group to reset it, at which time another round is chambered and ready to be fired with the next trigger pull. Non-gas-operated semiautomatics operate off recoil, with the action of the gun, such as a 9mm pistol, cycling as a result of the energy pushed backward during the process of firing a round.

Using the “gas operated” designation for an AR-15 does not change the fact that an AR-15 is a semiautomatic firearm that shoots one round–and one round only–per trigger pull.

Moreover, designating a gun ban as a prohibition against “semiautomatic, gas-operated rifles” just means it is a ban targeting the same guns all other “assault weapons” bans have targeted.

RELATED: Here’s the Difference Between an AR-15 and “Assault Weapon”


AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio and a Turning Point USA Ambassador. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in 2010 and he holds a Ph.D. in Military History, with a focus on the Vietnam War (brown water navy), U.S. Navy since Inception, the Civil War, and Early Modern Europe. Follow him on Instagram: @awr_hawkins. You can sign up to get Down Range at Reach him directly at


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