Gun Terms to Know When Discussing Mass Shootings


AR-15 rifles for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pennsylvania on October 6, 2017.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle and has been named by the National Rifle Association as “America’s Most Popular Rifle”.

The “AR” in AR-15 does not stand for “assault rifle” but is related to the original manufacturer of the firearm: ArmaLite Inc. The name stands for ArmaLite Rifle.

The AR-15 was originally developed by ArmaLite to be a military rifle, designing it for rapid reloading in combat situations, but the company ran into financial problems. In 1959, ArmaLite sold the AR-15 design to Colt, who successfully introduced it to the US Army.

The automatic version of the rifle, the M-16, was used during the Vietnam War. Colt sold the semi-automatic version, the AR-15, to the public and the police.

“If you’re a hunter, camper, or collector, you’ll want the AR-15 Sporter,” read a 1963 advertisement for the gun.

Colt’s patent on the rifle’s operating system expired in 1977, opening the door for other manufacturers to copy the technology and create their own designs.

The AR-15 was banned from 1994 to 2004 via the Assault Weapons Ban. Gun manufacturers quickly reintroduced the AR-15 after the ban expired, and sales increased dramatically.

There are ‘well over 11 million’ AR-15-style rifles in American hands, according to a CBS News ’60 Minutes’ survey, which also notes that handguns kill ‘far more people’ .

But AR-15-style rifles have frequently been used in mass shootings, placing the firearm at the center of the gun control debate – particularly regarding the question of whether a ban on assault weapons should be reimposed.


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