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Where AR-15-style rifles fit in America's tragic history of mass shootings

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the gunman responsible for the Uvalde shooting Tuesday used an AR-15-style assault rifle. Here, three variations of the AR-15 are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif., in 2012.
Rich Pedroncelli
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the gunman responsible for the Uvalde shooting Tuesday used an AR-15-style assault rifle. Here, three variations of the AR-15 are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif., in 2012.

The weapon used to carry out the mass shooting in Uvalde on Tuesday is one all too familiar to Americans and lawmakers who have witnessed mass shootings occur over the past decade.

The Uvalde gunman used an AR-15-style rifle, a popular range of semiautomatic weapons that was purchased from a sporting goods store, to carry out the attack, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

This weapon is an AR-15 type called a DDM4 Rifle, which is manufactured by Daniel Defense, The Associated Press reported. The weapon reportedly retails from $400 to $2,000, the AP added.

While officials said the shooter, Salvador Ramos, purchased the gun, ammunition, and another weapon legally, the AR-15 and other guns like it have lingered on the minds of lawmakers for some time in terms of their legality.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban, which banned the AR-15 and other similar semiautomatic rifles.

After its ban, mass shootings were down in the decade that followed, in comparison to the decade before (1984-94) and the one after (2004-14), NPR reported in 2018.

Once the assault-weapons ban expired 10 years later in 2004, gun manufacturers quickly began production and sales rose.

AR-15-style semiautomatic weapons are civilian versions of military weapons that gun control advocates say aren't very different.

The AR-15, like its military version, is designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers, hence the term assault-style rifle, gun control advocates told NPR in 2018. They say it has no valid recreational use, and civilians should not be allowed to own them.

The gun industry, gun owners and their supporters on the other hand, say AR-15s are used for hunting, target practice and shooting competitions and should remain legal, NPR reported in 2018.

The AR-15 was called "America's Rifle" in a January 2016 blog post from the National Rifle Association.

Such AR-15-style weapons are semiautomatic, meaning a shooter must pull the trigger to fire each shot from a magazine that typically carries 30 rounds.

A shooter with a fully automatic assault rifle can pull and hold the trigger and the weapon will fire until the ammunition supply is spent.

Fully automatic weapons have been heavily restricted in the U.S. since the 1934 National Firearms Act, which was directed against machine guns at the time, NPR reported.

The shooting in Uvalde has resurfaced calls for stricter gun laws.

Among those making these demands was former congressman Beto O'Rourke who interrupted Gov. Greg Abbott's news conference in Uvalde on Wednesday, KUT reported.

O'Rourke was escorted outside, where he spoke with reporters.

"He's refused to expand Medicaid, which would bring $10 billion a year, including mental health care access for people who need it," O'Rourke said of Abbott, according to ABC. "He's refused to champion red flag laws. ... He's refused to support safe-storage laws so young people cannot get their hands on their parents' weapons."

The following is a partial list of when an AR-15-style weapon was used in a mass shooting:

  • Feb. 14, 2018: Shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida leaves 17 people dead.
  • Oct. 1, 2017: The Las Vegas slaughter of 58 people.
  • Nov. 5, 2017: The Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting that claimed 26 lives.
  • June 12, 2016: The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 dead.
  • Dec. 2, 2015: The San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that killed 14 people.
  • Dec. 14, 2012: The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that took 27 lives.
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Jonathan Franklin
    Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.

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