Mass killers’ weapon of choice


Seventeen people are dead and more than a dozen wounded in just the latest American mass shooting. Parkland, Fla., joins the sorry decades-long record of slaughter that has made ours a uniquely murderous society.

This isn’t even the first mass shooting of the year. As of Feb. 14 there have been 30 across the country. It’s not even the first school shooting of 2018. Before yesterday there had already been 17 other shootings at schools in the United States.

The weapon of choice in the massacre at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and many of the most recent, and deadliest mass shootings that plague the United States, was the AR-15. USA Today has compiled the weapon’s bloody record:

  • Feb. 24, 1984: Tyrone Mitchell, 28, used an AR-15, a Stoeger 12-gauge shotgun and a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun to kill two and wound 12 at 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles before killing himself.
  • Oct. 7, 2007: Tyler Peterson, 20, used an AR-15 to kill six and injure one at an apartment in Crandon, Wis., before killing himself.
  • June 20, 2012: James Eagan Holmes, 24, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber Smith and Wesson rifle with a 100-round magazine, a 12-gauge Remington shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistols to kill 12 and injure 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
  • Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, used an AR-15-style rifle, a .223-caliber Bushmaster, to kill 27 people — his mother, 20 students and six teachers — in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself.
  • June 7, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, used an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle and a .44-caliber Remington revolver to kill five and injure three at a home in Santa Monica, Calif., before he was killed.
  • March 19, 2015: Justin Fowler, 24, used an AR-15 to kill one and injure two on a street in Little Water, N.M., before he was killed.
  • May 31, 2015: Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, used an AR-15 and .45-caliber handgun to kill two and injure two at a store in Conyers, Ga., before he was killed.
  • Oct. 31, 2015: Noah Jacob Harpham, 33, used an AR-15, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to kill three on a street in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he was killed.
  • Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Rizwyan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, 28 and 27, used two AR-15-style, .223-caliber Remington rifles and two 9 mm handguns to kill 14 and injure 21 at his workplace in San Bernardino, Calif., before they were killed.
  • June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, 29, used an AR-15 style rifle (a Sig Sauer MCX), and a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol to kill 49 people and injure 50 at an Orlando nightclub before he was killed.
  • Oct. 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock, 64, used a stockpile of guns including an AR-15 to kill 58 people and injure hundreds at a music festival in Las Vegas before he killed himself.
  • Nov. 5, 2017: Devin Kelley, 26, used an AR-15 style Ruger rifle to kill 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, before he was killed.
  • Feb. 14, 2018: Police say Nikolas Cruz, 19, used an AR-15-style rifle to kill at least 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The LA Times breaks down this morning some of the reasons why mass shootings are becoming deadlier, and how the AR-15, which according to the National Rifle Association is America’s most popular rifle, is intimately connected to that trend.

AR-15 rifles shoot small but high-velocity .223-caliber rounds that often shatter inside victims’ bodies, creating more devastating injuries than the wounds typically left by larger but lower-velocity handgun rounds.

Shooters also commonly use the rifles with 30-round magazines, which allow them to fire more rounds uninterrupted, compared with the smaller magazines commonly used in handguns.

We don’t yet know how the accused Florida killer, Nickolas Cruz, acquired his weapons and ammunition, but as I wrote following the mass killing in San Bernardino in 2015, we make it ridiculously easy to acquire the hardware needed to carry out slaughter. You can pick an AR-15 up at Walmart, or, if that might raise too many questions, from a private seller through one of many online firearms marketplaces. Bulk orders of ammunition, including hollow-point rounds, and the high capacity magazines to hold them, can also be ordered online from the privacy of your own home.

As long as we make it this easy, we’re going to keep seeing massacres like this happen.


    • Pete Trumbore says

      Wow, that’s a tune I’d not heard before. And I thought I was pretty up on my rebel music.