The AR-15 — or "America’s rifle," as the National Rifle Association (NRA) likes to call it — was not intended for average Americans at all. That’s according to the family of the assault rifle’s inventor, who spoke to NBC News about the subject in an article published Thursday. The inventor died before it became a popular civilian gun and the weapon used in many mass shootings.

“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. “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.”



Stoner designed the gun in the 1950s. His surviving children and adult grandchildren talked to the news outlet through emails and phone calls, but opted to speak as a group to talk openly about a controversial subject. Some gun control advocates have argued that assault rifles were not intended for civilian use and should be banned. A national ban on certain assault rifles expired in 2004 and wasn’t renewed. Stoner’s family did not make any policy recommendations.

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left at least 49 people dead Sunday morning has renewed a national gun control debate. It was initially reported that an AR-15 was used in the massacre, but the weapon was later revealed to be a Sig Sauer MCX, an aesthetically similar gun that, like the AR-15, is portable, easy to operate and able to quickly fire a large number of rounds.

As International Business Times reported, this style of weapon was used in the mass shootings at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, in December; the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, in October; and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

Stoner was an avid sportsman, hunter and skeet shooter, his family told NBC News, but he did not use his invention for those purposes. In fact, he did not even own an AR-15, which the U.S. military renamed the M-16. “After many conversations with him, we feel his intent was that he designed it as a military rifle,” Stoner’s family said.



Gawker noted recently that documents from the Vietnam War era show the military chose the AR-15 as a weapon for its ability to cause maximum damage. And Mother Jones pointed out that the Sig Sauer MCX was developed at the behest of the Army’s Special Forces.

ar AR-15 rifles line a shelf in the gun library at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Dec. 15, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst