June 15, 2016

A PEOPLE-KILLER BY ANY NAME:

What makes the AR-15 an assault weapon (The Economist, Jun 14th 2016)


ON JUNE 12th Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 with a 9mm handgun and a semi-automatic gun called the Sig Sauer MCX, an AR-15-style rifle trumpeted by its manufacturer as "the first true mission-adaptable weapon system" which "eclipses everything that came before it". Despite having been under FBI investigation in 2013 and 2014, Mr Mateen faced no obstacles when buying these weapons in the days before he walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Florida, and sprayed revellers with bullets. Many commentators are wondering anew why such a dangerous weapon is freely available for civilian purchase. The AR-15 has been the gun of choice in several other recent mass shootings, including the killing of 14 people attending a holiday party last December in San Bernardino, California; the murder of 12 in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado in 2012; and, later that year, the slaughter of 26 children and staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) muses that the "AR" could stand for "America's rifle", as the AR-15 is the nation's most popular long gun, with as many as 10m units in circulation. People gravitate to the AR-15 for hunting, sport shooting and self-defence, the NRA says, because "it is customisable, adaptable, reliable and accurate" as well as lightweight and easy to modify. Whereas its fully-automatic military cousin, the M16, shares its looks, the AR-15 shoots only one round per trigger-pull. It is thus a misnomer, gun-rights advocates say, to call the AR-15 a military-style "assault rifle", a term that has been in use since Nazi Germany introduced the Sturmgewehr in 1944 (which in turn inspired the Soviet AK-47). Unlike fully automatic rifles, which can fire 750 to 900 rounds per minute and are available only to the armed forces, the AR-15 and its kin (sold by the millions to the general public) can muster only about 45 to 60. But as the Orlando tragedy showed, this circumscribed capacity can still be highly lethal.

Posted by at June 15, 2016 12:20 PM

  

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