Assault-style rifles becoming weapon of choice for mass shooters

AR-15 assault rifle becoming common weapon in several mass shootings (Cropped Photo: C. Hunter/Outdoors Trader / CC BY 2.0 - MGN Online)

(KOKH) -- While authorities investigate the man armed with an assault-style rifle who killed at least 50 and wounded 53 others in a crowded Orlando nightclub, some are raising questions about the weapon used in the shooting.

According to the Washington Post, several other mass shootings used the same type of gun, an assault-style rifle. They're capable of firing many rounds of ammunition in a relatively short period of time, with high accuracy. And their use in these types of shooting is becoming more common: There have been eight high-profile public mass shootings since July of last year, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine. Assault-style rifles were used in seven of those.

In the past 10 years, assault-style rifles have been used in 14 public mass shootings. Half of those shootings have occurred since last June.

Assault-style weapons have long been a flashpoint in the American gun debate. They were outlawed in 1994. But that ban expired in 2004 and Congress opted to not renew it. Gun rights proponents point out that rifles, of any type, are rarely used to kill people in the U.S. Because of that, researchers have generally found that the assault weapons ban had little impact on U.S. homicide rates while it was in effect.

On the other hand, compared to other firearms, assault-style rifles make it fairly easy to kill or injure many people in within a short period of time. So perpetrators wishing to inflict indiscriminate harm on a large crowd of people often turn to them. Of the 10 mass shooting incidents with the highest number of casualties killed AND wounded in the U.S., seven involved the use of an assault-style rifle, according to Mother Jones's database.

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