Why AR-15s Are Weapon of Choice in Mass Shootings

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AR-15 style rifles have become the weapon of choice in recent mass shootings, including the Texas church shooting Sunday, the Orlando nightclub last year and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, USA Today reports. The manufacture of rifles more than doubled in the last decade, to nearly 3.7 million in 2015, says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Much of the growth coincided with the Obama administration, when gun owners were worried that the government would restrict weapon sales. Amid that growth, the AR-15 style of weapon became popular for its ease of use and versatility. The National Rifle Association calls the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America” and estimates Americans own 8 million of them. The NRA says “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.”

The site TacticalGear.com offered a favorable comparison of the U.S. AR-15 to the Russian-made AK-47. The AR-15 has a higher base price, shoots farther effectively, fires more rounds per minute, is lighter and its service life is longer if properly maintained, the site said. Dean Hazen, owner of The Gun Experts in Mahomet, Il, and a master firearms instructor, said mass shooters are turning to the AR-15 because of a “copy-cat” mentality more than any feature of the rifle. “It’s really just a perception thing,” he said. “There are rifles that are more powerful and more dangerous than that, but they’re not being used.”

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