Mass Murderers and the AR15
by Kirk Lawson
[1973 Colt AR-15 SP1 rifle - By Steelerdon at en.wikipedia, CC BY 3.0]
It seems as if the claim is on everyone's lips now. Mass shooters, particularly "school shooters" use the AR15. One thing that we need to acknowledge; no one wants these murders to happen. That said, there are any number of "solutions" offered. One common claimed "solution" is to ban AR15 "Assault Weapons." Ban them because mass shooters are using them more and more. Ban them because they are "more deadly." Ban them because they "hold more bullets" and can "kill more." Ban them because "you can shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger." Just ban them and "school shootings" will disappear or at least become a lot less deadly.
But are any of these claims true? Well, kinda sorta but not exactly, no. While there have been plenty of mass shootings that did not use an AR pattern rifle, such as the watershed Columbine mass murder, it is true that some of the most recent high-profile murders used an AR pattern rifle. So going from "zero" to "anything more than zero" does equal an increase. However, it turns out that, even using the most inflated numbers available, that AR pattern rifles are not the most common choice.
So is the AR15 more deadly? The AR15 is most commonly chambered in .223 Remington. Prior to the adoption of the M16 by the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam era, the .223 Remington was considered by shooters and hunters as, at best, a "varmint" cartridge, suitable for hunting small to medium sized game such as ground hogs or coyotes. The .223 Remington has a smaller bullet, smaller cartridge case, and considerably less energy than its military and hunting predecessors the 30-06 and .308 Winchester. Even today the .223 Remington is still sometimes referred to as a "poodle shooter." Honestly, the AR15 used by mass shooters really is less "deadly" than rifles chambered in predecessor cartridges. So that isn't why mass shooters are choosing the AR15.
But AR15 rifles can hold more ammunition, right? Well, no. Standard capacity magazines for the AR15 is 30 rounds. But that is nothing new. The M1 Carbine semi-auto rifle from the WWII and Korean conflict era was commonly equipped with 30 round magazines. You can still buy war surplus magazines today. The M14, chambered in the physically larger and much more powerful .308 Winchester, standard capacity magazines are 20 rounds and greater capacity is easily available. It turns out that there are "large capacity" magazines designed for every detachable magazine-fed gun going back more than a century. So that isn't why mass shooters are choosing the AR15.
But the combined attributes AR15 allows for more killing, right? It seems an intuitive conclusion, but, like many "intuitive" conclusions, no, that is wrong. In the Virginia Tech mass murder in 2007 the murderer killed 32 using two handguns, one of which was chambered in .22LR, and a bag full of magazines with capacities of half or less than the standard capacity AR15 magazines. It still remains one of the most deadly mass shootings. In the Sandy Hook mass murder in 2012, it took 11 minutes before police entered the school in response while in the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting, it was three hours before police entered the building. The Virginia Tech assault had more murders and, to be blunt, with 11 minutes the Sandy Hook murderer could have had a 5-shot revolver and a pocket full of cartridges and murdered just as many, while the Pulse Nightclub murderer, with (again) three full hours, could have used a rock and murdered just as many. So the selection of the AR15 is not really because it gives the murderer the ability to "kill more."
So why are these cowards choosing the AR15? You are not going to like the answer but here it is. It is because of very public pushes to ban the AR15. Yes, the strident and vocal calls to "ban the AR15!" are the cause for mass shooters choosing the AR15.
There is a growing body of evidence that an important driving incentive for mass shooters, particularly "school shooters," is the desire to achieve infamy. In fact, the latest "school shooter" announced his desire publicly on social media. Another coward, who was fortunately stopped, just the day before the Parkland murders also announced his intentional on social media. Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence that media coverage drives copycat events.
The mass hysteria over the scary black AR initiates an ideation in these cowards. They want infamy. They want power. They want to make a "statement." They know a lot of people are afraid of the AR15 so that is what they choose in order to cause the most fear, gain the most "power," and make the biggest "statement."
So in the same way that if you want to reduce mass shootings and school shootings you need to stop giving attention to the shooters, if you want shooters to stop using AR15 rifles, you should stop talking about how uber-deadly scary AR15 rifles need to be banned. Stop letting these cowards manipulate you.