President Obama expressed expressed exasperation when he asked in his Oval Office speech this month, how can we not limit weapons that can kill dozens in minutes? Why would any sport shooter need extra hand grips and a magazine holding 30 or even 100 cartridges? The New York Times says many gun enthusiasts express deep exasperation of their own, arguing that most non-shooters do not understand the technology and appeal of modern weapons that are widely used for target shooting and, increasingly, hunting. They say proposed bans would do nothing to prevent crime or even lessen the toll of mass shootings. “I like the way it looks, and I like the sport of it,” said businessman Eddie Pereira, shooting a semiautomatic assault rifle at a Florida range with his son, 15. “It's good, clean fun.” He added, “And I have it if I ever need it for personal protection,” Another shooter practicing with an AR-15 semiautomatic hunting rifle, Oscar Plasencia, said, “From my experience, the bad guys are always going to get the guns, and gun control is only going to affect law-abiding citizens.”
Variants of the AR-15 design, a civilian version of the military's M-16 without the capacity to fire in automatic bursts, have been the nation’s highest-selling rifles, says the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Ct. Less common but also popular are models based on the AK-47, the Soviet-designed assault weapon that is widely used worldwide. American sales of these rifles, as indicated by production plus net imports, reached 1.5 million in 2012, far higher than in any previous year, according to foundation estimates. Sales have remained brisk over the last three years and appear to have surged in recent months, suggesting that more than 10 million “modern sporting rifles,” as the foundation has sought to rename them, are in circulation in the United States.