Why The AR-15, At the Center of the Gun Debate, Is Such a Popular Weapon


The AR-15 rifle, a descendant of the Vietnam War’s M16, is at the center of a debate about gun ownership in America, The Tennessean reports. It has been the weapon of choice during three U.S. mass shootings since July. The AR-15's stopping power, bullet capacity, and use in mass shootings scare gun control advocates. Its modular design and reliability have made the gun popular for hunting, target shooting and self-defense.

Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, which supports the ban of weapons like the AR-15, says “I think the bottom line is, there really is no argument besides the fact 'I want it' to defend the sale of these weapons.” Stuart Fischoff, professor emeritus of media psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, says that History and pop culture have infused the AR-15 with a powerful mythology and symbolism. The “AR” in AR-15 doesn't stand for “assault rifle.” It referred to the company that created it for the military in the 1950s, ArmaLite. The modern AR-15 still looks like its military cousin. It is not a machine gun. Being a semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15 fires only one shot for each trigger pull. A standard model has a 30-round magazine using .223 ammunition, though it can be modified to accept other calibers and configurations.

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