Latest mass shootings all have something in common: the AR-15
When a gunman attacked a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, killing 17 people, the event marked a depressingly familiar milestone.
As of this week, seven of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have all happened since 2007. The Parkland massacre is now the eight-deadliest attack.
The nation's mass-shooting problem seems to be getting worse. And the latest, most serious shootings all seem to have one new thing in common: the AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle.
The AR-15 that typically has large magazines, shoots rounds at higher velocities than handguns, and leaves more complex wounds in victims.
In each one of the older shootings on the 10-deadliest list — including the 2007 attack on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., that left 32 victims dead — the shooters carried handguns. (The exception is the 1984 San Ysidro, Calif., massacre, where the gunman also used a shotgun and an Uzi semiautomatic carbine.)
But in all of the latest incidents — Newtown, Conn., in 2012; San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015; Orlando, Fla., in 2016; Las Vegas, 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017 — the attackers primarily used AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.
Officials believe the Parkland, FL gunman had one AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, NBC News reports.AR-15 style rifles were also used in:The Texas church shootingThe Las Vegas concert shootingThe Pulse nightclub shootingThe Newtown school shooting https://t.co/Pqx6jLvAaU— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 15, 2018
There are a couple of theories that might suggest why AR-15s would be associated with deadlier attacks. 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 a shooter to fire more rounds uninterrupted, compared to the smaller magazines commonly used in handguns.
MORE: 'The suspect was heavily armed,' @jeffpeguescbs reports on Parkland, Florida, high school shooting. 'The sheriff just saying that he had countless magazines, and was armed with an AR-15-style rifle. That is what he used in that attack.' https://t.co/1Y5NBGZMdE pic.twitter.com/aWKwrh9gBl— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 14, 2018
Details were still coming in about the shooting in Florida, but officials say the suspected gunman, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was armed with at least one AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and "countless magazines," according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
There's one thing that does make the Parkland massacre unusual. Of the 10-deadliest mass shootings, Cruz is the only suspected gunman to escape, survive and likely face trial — giving the public a chance to learn why the massacre happened.