Semi-automatic rifles look like military weapons, and in many cases they are. But most types of semi-automatic AR-15 rifles — like the one the Broward Sheriff’s Office said was used to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday afternoon — are legal for civilian use across the United States. In Florida, any adult can buy a rifle so long as they are not a convicted felon.
Most guns used in mass shootings across the United States were legally obtained — sometimes by the individual, or they were taken from a family member with a permit.
“AR-15s are designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once,” said Frank Smyth, weapons expert and founder of GJS, an organization that trains journalists for combat reporting. “But of course in the hands of an active shooter or an individual that was targeting civilians, it’s a tactical weapon. It enables them to target multiple people in a quick period of time.”