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The weapon allegedly used in deadly Florida shooting is known as 'America's rifle'

The AR-15 is a ‘modern sporting rifle’ and versions of it are legal in all 50 states.

Image: DPA/PA Images

THE STUDENT CHARGED with the murder of 17 people at his former high school in Florida yesterday was carrying a weapon that’s become known as “America’s gun” – the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after 17 people were killed during at the school. The incident was the 17th school shooting in the US in 2018.

When found in a nearby residential area, Cruz was armed with an AR-15 and carrying multiple magazines of ammunition.

The right to bear arms is enshrined in America’s constitution. To some citizens, guns are for protection. To others, they simply stand for killing: there are 33,000 gun-related deaths annually in the United States.

America’s gun

But why does the AR-15 in particular keep appearing in the hands of mass-murderers?

The National Rifle Association (NRA) says that the AR in the AR-15′s name stands for Armalite Rifle, but “could easily be used for America’s Rifle”. And due to the fact this rifle has featured in multiple mass shootings, it is becoming America’s rifle – in a very tragic way.

According to the Gun Owners of America website, the AR-15 was developed in the 1950s, but is today’s “modern sporting rifle”.

It says that while the AR-15-style rifles look like military rifles, they function like other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearms – meaning they fire one round each time the trigger is pulled.

Source: 45Snipers/YouTube

The group says that versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, “provided the purchase passes the mandatory FBI background check”.

The rifle is used for hunting, and for target shooting. But it can also be turned into an automatic rifle.

If you want to convert an AR-15 or AK-47 rifle into an automatic weapon, AFP says:

For $40 you can buy a trigger crank, a small device that can be attached to the trigger. It can make the gun fire three or four times with each turn of the crank, significantly faster than using a finger to pull the trigger.
For as little as $99, you can get a bump stock, a spring-loaded stock that, with one pull of the trigger, keeps the weapon firing using its own recoil. It can enable the weapon to fire at a rate of 600 rounds a minute or more.

Banning Bump Stocks A shooting instructor shows the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a bump stock. Source: Allen G. Breed

Trigger cranks and bump stocks are completely legal, and even come with certifications that they do not constitute an illegal conversion of the guns.

The NRA calls the AR-15 America’s most popular rifle, saying it “has soared in popularity amongst gun owners”.

It is customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate that can be used in sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations. Civilians can also modify and personalize their AR-15 from carbine-length, stocks, optics, barrels, etc. The AR-15s ability to be modified to your own personal taste is one of the things that makes it so unique.

It says that the makers of the AR-15, ArmaLite Rifle, sold the rights to Colt in 1959. It changed the rifle a little bit, and this version was then adopted by the United States military as a fully automatic M16 rifle.

Colt then developed the semi-automatic AR-15, aimed at civilians. The difference between automatic and semi-automatic firearms is that you have to release the trigger after every shot when you use a semi-automatic. With an automatic, you can keep your finger on the trigger.

The gun is modular too, meaning that owners can buy accessories for the gun to change how it shoots, or how it looks.

This style of gun has been used in multiple mass shootings:

  • Florida high school
  • Pulse Nightclub
  • Colorado cinema
  • Sandy Hook
  • Sutherland Springs

In Las Vegas, the shooter Stephen Paddock was able to modify his AR-style rifle into an automatic shooter. Nearly 60 people at an outdoor concert were killed, and 500 injured, as a result.

The families of Sandy Hook victims have been to court over the use of the AR-15 Bushmaster, as they want to hold its makers liable for wrongful death and negligence. But so far they have not been successful in their attempt.

The families say 20-year-old killer Adam Lanza would never have been able to carry out his 264-second attack if he had not had access to a high-capacity weapon which had been “specifically engineered” for military use in combat, AFP reports.

In 2014, Hillary Clinton called for a ban on assault rifles like the AR-15. But President Donald Trump hasn’t made any moves towards tackling America’s notorious gun laws – instead of talking about the ubiquitous weapon in yesterday’s attack, he focused on the behaviour of the shooter’s neighbours and classmates:

Tweet by @Donald J. Trump Source: Donald J. Trump/Twitter

Teenagers who were in the school during yesterday’s shooting have been joining the calls for gun control in the USA:

Tweet by @sarah Source: sarah/Twitter

To pro-gun supporters and groups like the NRA, the AR-15 is an essential part of homeowners protecting themselves and their families. When they look at such a gun, they see a lightweight and effective piece of equipment that will protect them against terror or other attacks.

But to others, the AR-15 represents danger – it’s a deadly weapon that’s been used in multiple mass murders, which a teenager was able to use to mow down his classmates, and which shows no sign of being curtailed by today’s government.

- Contains reporting from © AFP, 2018

Read: Former student (19) charged with premeditated murder after 17 killed in Florida school shooting>

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