By Ruby Van Dyk || Staff Writer
The AR-15 used in the Florida shooting was legally purchased by the teenage gunman who committed the atrocity. But what exactly is a AR-15? How did they become so easy to get? And should we ban them?
In the 1950’s the United States Government designed a new firearm as a military weapon, now known as the AR-15. At first, it was not very popular. But in 1962 near the beginning of The Vietnam War, Americans found themself outgunned.
They adopted the AR-15 as the standard weapon for the war, and named it the M16. The M16 was supposed to essentially be the American’s match for the Communist’s AK-47 and ever since then it has become the standard weapon for American Soldiers and Marines.
A semi-automatic version of the weapon that we now refer to as the AR-15 was released and became available for civilian purchase. The gun was initially not very popular in the 70’s and 80’s. But after a slew of mass shootings in the late eighties and early nineties, Congress banned the AR-15 and other Assault weapons in the Assault Weapons ban of 1994.
For a period of ten years, the AR-15 was unobtainable to the public. During that period, the popularity of the gun started to take off. Once it was taken it away, people seemed to want it. So in 2004, when the ban expired and Congress did not renew it, all of a sudden people rushed out to buy them. Today, the gun has never been more popular with civilians.
The reasons that make this weapon such an effective military weapon are the same reasons that make it so deadly in civilian mass shootings. Bullets fly out of the muzzle of the gun more than twice as fast as the majority of handgun rounds.
They also make it extremely easy for a gunman looking to inflict as much damage as possible. AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped extremely quickly. Each standard magazine typically holds 30 rounds. This allows the gunman to fire more than one hundred rounds in minutes.
Of five of the six deadliest mass shootings in the past six years, the gunman used an AR-15-style rifle. This includes Newtown, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas. If someone does not have a felony record, domestic abuse conviction, a commitment to a mental institution or a handful of other exceptions, they can walk into a gun store, wait a few minutes to pass a background check and walk out with an AR-15, magazines, and ammunition.
The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, did exactly that. In fact, in Florida, where the gunman purchased the weapon, it is actually easier to buy a AR-15 then a handgun, which requires a three day waiting period and a person to be 21, whereas the AR-15 has no waiting period and an age requirement of 18. This, is simply ridiculous.
We need to pass another assault weapons ban that includes AR-15s. Simple as that. In no way am I advocating for the banning of all guns. We have a right to the Second Amendment and I fully understand that. I am simply arguing for the limitation of that right.
No person in the United States of America needs to possess a weapon which sole purpose is murdering as many people as fast as possible. Nobody. No hunter needs an AR-15 to shoot down a deer. No person needs an AR-15 to protect their house from intruders. These are weapons of war, and should remain solely so.
I am also not asserting that banning the AR-15 would prevent all mass shootings, but it could still save lives. If Nikolas Cruz had been armed with a pistol, he still might have killed people- but certainly not as many. The amount of time needed to reload a non-automatic weapon may have given students enough time to flee, or tackle him..
This is a deeply complicated issue that has been and will be debated over and over again. But along with the right to a Second Amendment, we as Americans have a right to safety and education.
These were children. Children with lives in front of them. Children who would become mothers, fathers, lawyers, teachers. Children who are now dead. Gone forever. If these children’s lives are not enough motivation for lawmakers and activists to finally step up and make a change, then I don’t know what is. There is no simple and clear answer to tackle this problem utterly and completely, but we can attempt to start somewhere. That somewhere should be banning the AR-15.
First-year Ruby Van Dyk is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.