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The AR-15 holds a dubious distinction.
Officials inititally said Omar Mateen used to it carry out the deadliest mass shooting in US history – at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. They have since clarified that one of the weapons he used was a Sig Saucer MCX rifle, aesthetically similar to the AR-15.
The AR-15 rifle itself, however, is extremely easy to come by.
Not much that distinguishes an AR-15 from other production rifles. Often the differences between an “assault rifle” and a “hunting rifle” are superficial – but sometimes they are practical.
The AR-15 does offer multiple rails, which allow things like scopes, additional grips, and laser sights to be readily added to the rifle.
Importantly, it is a semi-automatic rifle that is less powerful than many common hunting rifles, but these distinctions mean little in reality.
A semi-automatic rifle fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. It is commonly known that by “belt-loop firing,” you can essentially use the gun’s own momentum to make it fire as if it was automatic.
In states like Florida, where Mateen’s rampage took place, there are no limitations placed on the design and capacity of magazines that can be sold for semi-automatic rifles.
This means that the AR-15’s 30-round capacity can be readily expanded.
Mateen was also licensed to carry a firearm, as he worked as a security officer. That means he passed a background check and demonstrated firearm competency in front of state licensing agents, as The Wall Street Journal noted.
But there were also signs that Mateen was violent.
Sitora Yusifiy, Mateen’s ex-wife, said Mateen “was not a stable person.”
“He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that,” she said, according to The Washington Post.
Additionally, FBI official Ronald Hopper said Mateen had been investigated twice by the FBI for links to terrorists.
He was cleared both times, and this did not affect his legal right to own guns.
This post has been updated to clarify the type of gun officials said was used in the Orlando shooting.