The New York Times describes the gun used by the Florida high school shooter, the AR-15. It allowed Nikolas Cruz to fire on people in much the same way that many American soldiers and Marines would fire their M16 and M4 rifles in combat. Since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the U.S. involving AR-15s. The grim list includes crimes in Newtown, Ct.; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, Ca.; and now Parkland, Fl. The main functional difference between the military’s M16 and M4 rifles and a civilian AR-15 is the “burst” mode on many military models, which allow three rounds to be fired with one trigger pull.
The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups highlight the fully automatic feature in military M4s and M16s. The American military decided by the 1980s to issue M16s and later M4s to most conventional troops without the fully automatic function, and to train them to fire in a more controlled fashion. The Parkland gunman had the same rifle firepower as an American grunt using a standard infantry rifle in the standard way. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), an Army combat veteran, has called for a ban on the sale of AR-15-style rifles. Joe Plenzler, a 20-year combat veteran of the Marine Corps, is part of a social media movement of military veterans calling for reforms on the sale or possession of modern military-style firearms. “They are the Formula One cars of guns, designed to kill as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Plenzler said, referring to AR-15-style rifles. “We are seeing battlefield-level casualties because we are allowing those weapons on our street,” he said.