The horrible Orlando massacre puts the gun control issue front and center yet again. It’s not just guns, but primarily firearms commonly referred to as assault weapons that gun control advocates still hold out hope they can get banned. It’s semantics, perhaps, to call a certain subset of guns assault weapons — as every gun can be used for deadly assault. But the category of weapons often identified as assault weapons — those that were previously banned under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2004) — includes semi-automatic weapons with the controversial “large ammunition capacity.” One of these is the AR-15, which was reportedly used in the Orlando massacre.
The AR in AR-15 doesn’t stand for “automatic rifle” as many believe, but for ArmaLite — the company that originally developed it. A popular model, the AR-15 is described as “adaptable, reliable and accurate” for use “in sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations.” In an article entitled “Why the AR-15 is America’s Most Popular Rifle,” the NRA describes the difference between the semi-automatic and automatic weapons like this: