On Wednesday there was yet another mass shooting in the United States – 19 children and two adults at the Robb Elementary School in Texas’ Uvalde were killed, and 17 others injured, by a teenage boy carrying a military-style assault rifle that is inexpensive, easy to use, and deadly. Salvador Ramos, 18, had two; he bought the first on May 17 – a day after he turned 18 – and the second on May 20, according to ABC News in the United States. The AR-15, USA Today said, has been used in 12 recent mass shootings in that country.
What is the AR-15?
The AR-15 (various weapons manufacturers make their own versions) is a type of semiautomatic, or ‘self-loading’, assault rifle; an assault rifle allows the user to fire multiple shots in quick succession.
AFP said Salvador Ramos bought two AR-15s manufactured by Daniel Defense, whose website lists 19 AR-15 models, ranging from $1,870 to $3,390.
The AR-15, The New York Times reported in 2016, is one of ‘the most beloved and most vilified rifles’, and that the National Rifle Association (described by the BBC as ‘a powerful special interest lobby group) had called it ‘America’s rifle’.
Why is it so dangerous?
AR-15 rifles are feared because they fire high-velocity bullets at triple the speed of a handgun, are accurate over long distances, and cause devastating wounds.
NBC News said projectiles fired by the AR-15 were also more likely to break apart as they pass through the body, thus inflicting even more damage.
The NRA claims the rifles are used for recreational target practice and home defense, but critics say their lethality means they do not belong in civilian hands.
Why is it so popular?
Part of the reason for the popularity of AR-15s in America is that they are widely customisable, with owners able to add scopes, large-capacity magazines and a plethora of other accessories.
How many assault weapons, including AR-15s, are in circulation?
Unknown. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not know how many assault weapons there are – federal law prohibits them keeping a gun registry database. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates over 16 million had been sold by 2018.
Are assault weapons banned?
Assault weapons were banned in 1994 under president Bill Clinton but the restriction lapsed in 2004 amid pressure from the NRA, AFP reported.
Efforts to renew the prohibition since then have failed.
President Joe Biden, after the Texas shooting, called for tougher gun controls and asked why the US is ‘willing to live with this carnage’.
“It’s just sick that gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them some of the biggest profits. For God’s sake, let’s have the courage to stand up to the industry,” he said.
Strong words aside, it remains to be seen if this administration can do what others failed to do – bring about effective gun control laws.
With input from AFP