How Many Mass Shootings Were AR-15 Rifles Involved In? It's Not The Only Semiautomatic Rifle On The Block

Much attention has been given to the AR-15 in the wake of Sunday's mass shooting. That's actually not the rifle that was used; it was a Sig Sauer MCX, another type of assault rifle. But the initial reports pointed to the AR-15, the same gun that has been used in many other mass shootings in recent years. Some of the high-profile cases were the San Bernardino shooting in December and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut in 2012. How many mass shootings were AR-15 rifles involved in?

That's difficult to say because the AR-15 has been around for a long time. It has been used by the U.S. military in every war since Vietnam, where it was an answer to the Soviet AK-47. The original brand, Armalite (that's what "AR" stands for) still makes the original design. But "AR-15" also describes the type of assault rifle, made by many different manufacturers. The military now buys most of theirs from Colt, but Smith & Weston, Remington, and others all have their own version. The significant features of the AR-15 design include its relative light weight, the plethora of available add-ons, and most importantly, the large-capacity magazines.

A total number of mass shootings involving the AR-15 is unavailable. We can, however, consider mass shootings since 2004, when the 1994 assault weapons ban ended. That's because Mother Jones has tracked them by location, date, fatalities, wounded, and type of weapon. Of the 48 total mass shootings since 2004, 13 featured semiautomatic or assault rifles. Six of those, though, were from 2015 and 2016 alone. It seems these types of rifles are becoming the weapon of choice — you should note, though, that they were not all AR-15s.

Take the Orlando shooting, for example. The Sig Sauer MCX is different, technically. It's similar to an AR-15, though, in its deadliness. It is also a weapon of war, designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The differences come down to the form, not function. It also was developed for the military, this time at the request of the US Army's special operations forces. Sig Sauer, says it's "battle-proven" and is ready "no matter the conditions":

The SIG MCX stands as the first rifle built to be silenced from the ground up. It also accepts a broad array of accessories, enabling you to build a complete weapon system for any scenario or environment.

The problem is that for some shooters, the preferred "scenario or environment" is a movie theater, elementary school, or, now, night club. The "civilian" version may just fire on semiautomatic, but tell that to the families of the deceased in Orlando, Newtown, or Aurora. Now is the time to ban them before sales go up, as they always do after mass shootings.