PHOENIX (AP) — Military-style semiautomatic rifles have been used in at least four high-profile shootings in the past year. Bushmaster variations of the weapon have been used in two recent attacks, including the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and the Christmas Eve ambush slayings of two New York firefighters. While commonly called the AR-15, Colt and Armalite have been the only companies to make weapons by that specific name. Many other manufacturers, however, now sell similar versions of the rifle largely styled after the military’s fully automatic M-16.
A look at the guns, their history and why they’re so popular:
HOW WERE THE WEAPONS DEVELOPED?
Armalite first built the so-called AR-15 rifle for military use, but the design was later acquired by Colt, which produced the M-16 automatic weapon for the U.S. military. In the early 1960s, Colt then began marketing the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle largely as the civilian version of the fully-auto M-16. Many other companies have since begun manufacturing and selling AR-15-type rifles, but under different names, including the Remington Arms R-15, Bushmaster X-15 and Carbon 15 and the Smith & Wesson M&P15. The AR-15 has become the commonly-used generic term for all similar rifles.
WHAT ARE THEY USED FOR?
The AR-15-type rifles and .223 caliber ammunition are largely used for hunting small game like coyotes and prairie dogs. They also are extremely popular in shooting competitions due to the light weight of the gun and ammunition and the weapon’s accuracy.
HOW DO YOU PURCHASE ONE?
Most military-style semiautomatic rifles were restricted for sale under the 1994 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. However, the ban made an exception for weapons that were made before the law took effect. Today, such weapons can be purchased in gun stores across the country except in some states, like California, which has a law that bans the sale outright of specific varieties of semiautomatic military-style rifles.
ARE THERE ANY LIMITATIONS ON SALES?
Licensed dealers must first run a background check on the buyer to determine whether they are eligible under state and federal laws to own the weapon; convicted felons, for instance, cannot legally own firearms. However, private sellers of such rifles are not required to perform background checks. This would include a person selling their private collection to a buyer from their home, as well as private sellers hawking their weapons at any number of dozens of gun shows that occur nationwide every year.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11