This Is The Gun That Committed The Deadliest Shooting In U.S. History

How was Omar Saddiqui Mateen able to carry out the deadliest massacre by a single gunman in U.S. history? By bringing “America’s gun of choice” into a closed and crowded space.

Orlando police recovered an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at Pulse, the gay nightclub that Mateen chose as his target. He reportedly bought the AR-15 and a handgun legally within the last few days.

Without the semiautomatic rifle, which allows a shooter to fire off many rounds at once without reloading, it would have been harder to inflict quite as much damage in such a short period of time.

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S.; there are an estimated 9 million in circulation as of 2014.

It was also the gun of choice for the massacres in San Bernardino, California, where 16 people at a holiday party were gunned down, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and staffers were murdered, and at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where twelve were killed.

The rifle is a favorite in part because it’s highly customizable, the NRA blog notes. It also accommodates high capacity magazines that can fire off 100 rounds or more within minutes.

Another contributing factor to its popularity is the gun lobby’s fearmongering after every mass shooting. Though the federal government has never attempted to mass-confiscate guns, the NRA and other groups often warn that the government will respond to each shooting by cracking down. As a result, assault rifle sales skyrocket in the wake of each attack.

The NRA claims the rifle is primarily used for hunting, but hunters find the rifles sloppy and controversial. The model is actually marketed more toward civilians who want to play war. Colt’s first AR-15 model in the 1960s was inspired by civilian interest in the automatic version of the rifle the company had sold to the U.S. military as the M16.

AR-15 style rifles were once illegal under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Evidence is mixed on how effective the ban was at reducing gun violence. However, as a Center for American Progress report pointed out, assault weapons like the AR-15 were significantly less regulated than handguns after the ban expired. Since the federal ban expired, some states and cities have taken it upon themselves to ban semiautomatic and automatic weapons, though Florida has not.

Parents of some of the children killed in Newtown recently advanced a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the AR-15, arguing that the companies are liable for their loved ones’ deathsbecause they market the gun as a military grade weapon “engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.”

We’re 165 Days Into 2016 and We’ve Had 133 Mass Shootings

A gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, killing at least 50 people and making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

It was a terrible, tragic event — and the 133th mass shooting in 2016 alone. It was the 15th mass shooting in Florida this year, and the fourth in Orlando.

The non-profit Gun Violence Archive (GVA) tracks mass shootings in the United States. And their data shows that there have been 76 days this year with mass shootings in the United States — and 88 days without. A total of 207 people have died in those incidents, including the known victims of the shooting this morning in Orlando.

GVA uses the FBI definition of a mass shooting, which is defined as a single event where four or more people are shot (not necessarily killed) and does not include the shooter in the tally. It’s important to note, however, that there is not one universally accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, and many methodologies differ from how GVA collects its data.

Some counts, like the one compiled by USA Today, only track mass killings, or events in which four or more people were killed. Mother Jones also maintains a database, which, like USA Today’s, only tracks events in which four or more people were killed, but Mother Jones excludes shootings related to “gang activity, armed robbery, or domestic violence.” (GVA does not exclude shootings related to gang or domestic violence.)

Even so, its an important resource that underscores the prevalence of gun violence in America — and how frequently shootings that involve multiple people happen across the country.

Florida has had more mass shootings this year than any other state

There have been 15 mass shootings so far in Florida, which is more than any other state. GVA’s database shows that there are two other states that have had more than 10 mass shootings this year: California has had 14 and Illinois has had 11.

Four of those shootings occurred in Orlando, including the shooting at the Pulse nightclub this morning. The other shootings were:

There were five mass shootings on February 20 alone

On February 20, 10 people died from mass shootings and 15 were injured — in five separate places.

This includes the Feb. 20 shooting in Orlando mentioned earlier, where four women and a police dog were shot during a grocery store robbery. This was the same day as a shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich. that got national attention— and left six people dead.

A man in Tampa, Fla. was killed early that Saturday morning in a bar. An Alabama man died in a drug-related shooting — and a Mississippi police officer also died, at the end of a six-hour stand-off related to a domestic dispute.

Mass shootings are one part of America’s gun violence problem

On the whole, regardless of differences in classification, deaths from mass shootings make up a small fraction of deaths from gun violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2013 alone, 33,636 people died in firearm deaths, or 92 people every day. But looking at 2013 data from the Mass Shooting Tracker, only 502 of those deaths — or 1.5 percent — were connected to mass shootings.

Most gun deaths in the United States (21,175 of 33,636 in 2013) are suicides. And most non-suicide deaths (11,208) are homicides. The rest are classified as accidents and police shootings. And while it’s true that homicide rates have reached historic lows, no other developed country in the world has the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times the rate of Sweden, and nearly 16 times the rate of Germany, according to UN data compiled by the Guardian.

This is not to say that Americans shouldn’t care about mass shootings. But mass shootings are only one part of the equation in America’s ongoing problem with gun violence.

Why Can Florida Adults With Mental Illness Still Buy Guns?

After every tragic, gun-related suicide the question inevitably arises: Why, in a country that purportedly mandates background checks and champions mental health, was a suicidal person permitted to purchase a firearm? Now, a new study in Health Affairs sheds light on the loopholes in our background check system, which allow people with serious mental illness in Florida to legally purchase guns—even after involuntary mental health examinations and hospitalizations.

“Our federal gun regulations pertaining to mental illness prohibit lots of people from accessing firearms who are not violent, and never will be,” coauthor Jeffrey W. Swanson of Duke University said in a press statement. “At the same time, they fail to identify some people who will be violent or suicidal. With these data, we can improve criteria for restrictions that might actually reduce gun violence, but also carefully balance risk and rights.”

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Gun violence and suicide are growing problems in the United States. Studies have shown that states with higher rates of gun ownership also have higher rates of gun-related suicides, and one report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were at least 21,175 firearm suicides in 2013, alone—accounting for nearly half of all suicides that year.

Unfortunately, politics make it tricky to study this phenomenon without raising the ire of the gun lobby and Congress is still actively preventing the CDC from conducting meaningful gun violence research. And that’s a shame, because independent studies have consistently proven that a scientific approach—rather than a hotheaded political one—could reduce these tragedies without sacrificing individual freedoms.

Regardless, as long as Congress continues to prevent the CDC from performing robust research, privately funded studies will continue to be our best resource for preventing gun violence. For this particular study, researchers examined gun use, violent crime, and suicide among 81,704 people diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression in Florida between 2002 and 2012. During the study period, they found that 254 study subjects had committed suicide and that 50 of them had used a gun to kill themselves.

Shockingly, a full 72 percent were legally eligible to buy guns—despite their clear diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

This loophole was based in a (now, thankfully defunct) Florida law that stated only mental health patients who had been involuntarily committed were prohibited from purchasing firearms. In other words, a schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression patient who had been involuntarily examined and even hospitalized for his or her own safety could still buy a gun in Florida as of 2012, as long as he or she had never been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by court order. And even though Florida has since tightened up these lax laws, officials are still not permitted to seize a patient’s guns after he or she has been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. So as long as someone buys a small arsenal before receiving a diagnosis, he or she can keep the weapons!

The authors suggest that many gun-related suicides could be prevented if states would prohibit people who have been involuntarily held during any mental health crisis—regardless of whether they were formally committed to a psychiatric hospital—from buying firearms from federally licensed dealers. “These individuals have already been identified during a previous mental health crisis,” Swanson says. “They haven’t been committed, but we know they’re at increased risk of harming themselves or others. This is a lost public health opportunity in many states.”

Meanwhile, Swanson and his team recognize that their results are limited to a specific population, and not necessarily applicable to other states and situations. But they hope that their study will nonetheless help guide federal and state efforts to reduce gun violence in meaningful ways. “The study in Florida is one piece of the puzzle, and we want to continue to build evidence from different states to draw a better picture of how these laws work under different conditions,” Swanson says.

“We live in a country where private gun ownership is cherished, constitutionally protected, and very prevalent. Gun violence is a challenging problem in the U.S., and one that requires a lot of careful thinking and research to bring evidence to bear for these policies.”

Florida is Opening its First Gun Range That Serves Alcohol

Florida is opening its first gun range attached to a restaurant with a liquor license in Daytona Beach. This actually isn’t an unprecedented concept for our great nation, as Oklahoma City somewhat famously opened a gun range with a liquor license in 2014. And hey! This is Florida we’re talking about. What could go wrong?

The Daytona Beach News Journal seeks to dispel concerns:

The new entrepreneurs, Ron Perkinson and Edward Staudt, of Port Orange, said they’ll turn the property at 2900 Bellevue Ave. into an upscale restaurant that serves alcoholic libations and an indoor gun range. Perkinson stressed that he’s opening a restaurant, not a bar. But he said he needs alcohol sales to make the restaurant profitable.

Perkinson said he’s studied combining restaurants and ranges for two years and will take his precautions further than those of other establishments across the nation. He said he’ll keep a watch list for customers who could be trouble and he’ll contact police when necessary.

A watch list of customers who may cause trouble! That sounds about as foolproof as oh, I dunno… America’s firearms regulations in the first place? Perkinson claims that the restaurant will also be required to scan the drivers licenses of anyone partaking in an alcoholic beverage. Sounds like a winning plan to me.