The National Rifle Association calls it “the most popular rifle in America.” It is used by mass shooters because of a copy-cat mentality. “Thank God they don’t know any better because if they did they would use much more effective weapons,” one expert says.
AR-15-style rifles have increasingly appeared in mass shootings, including the deadliest high school shooting in the modern history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., Wednesday, as well as a Las Vegas concert, an Orlando night club, a Newtown, Ct., elementary school, and a Texas church, reports USA Today. The AR-15 used in the Florida shooting was legally bought by suspect Nicolas Cruz, attorney Jim Lewis told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The National Rifle Association has called the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America,” and estimates Americans own more than 8 million of them. The NRA said “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.” It is versatile and can be used for “sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations,” the NRA said, adding the ability to “personalize” so many of the rifle’s components “is one of the things that makes it so unique.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said the AR-15, a civilian model of the military’s M-16, also cited the weapon’s versatility. “They’re accurate and they can basically shoot as quickly as you can pull the trigger,” said the campaign. Dean Hazen of The Gun Experts in Mahomet, Il., and a master firearms instructor, said mass shooters turn 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.” Hazen said the AR-15 has “gotten a bad rap.” He believes mass shooters generally don’t know much about guns and choose the AR-15 because of it was used in other mass shootings. “Thank God they don’t know any better because if they did they would use much more effective weapons,” he said.