What gun dealers say is the nation’s most popular rifle, the AR-15, was the weapon of choice for Adam Lanza, the Newtown, Ct., shooter. The New York Times say the increasing appearance of the rifle in rampage killings — an AR-15 was used by Aurora, Co., theater shooter James Holmes and by Oregon shopping mall shooter Jacob Roberts — has prompted a debate about its availability and its appeal to killers bent on mass slaughter.
“The people we're talking about, once they get into 'I want to kill a lot of people,' it's not a leap for them to see that these guns are made and designed for war,” said Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center. “And if you look at the industry advertising, that is a consistent theme.” Some advocates argue for banning assault rifles, though some acknowledge that the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, was inadequate and largely ineffective. Defenders say most AR-15s are chambered for low-caliber rounds that are less deadly than those used in many handguns. Unlike handguns or shotguns, rifles account for only a tiny fraction of U.S. homicides. Of 12,664 murder victims last year, 323 were killed with rifles.