Why Do So Many Mass Shootings Involve an AR-15?

Why do so many mass shootings involve an AR-15? I saw an NRA spokesman on CNN address this question—very badly, as often is the case with the pro-gun side—by saying semi-automatic rifles have existed for a very long time, and there’s nothing special about the AR-15 except the way it looks and all the bad press it’s gotten (and perhaps its appearance in various video games).

It would be much more honest to say the reason many mass shootings involve an AR-15 is that the AR-15 is the most effective commercially available rifle in America. It is an exceptional design: Low-recoiling, light enough even for a small person to handle, accurate yet reliable, easy—with adequate training—to point, to maneuver, to reload. It is the obvious choice for any task that involves killing people at short to medium range.

But which would have saved more children in Uvalde: If the shooter had been armed with a Winchester 1873 instead of an AR-15, or if the police had not spent an hour hiding outside the school? Why is our first reaction to a shooting always that the government needs more power, and the individual less? Why is that our first reaction to all crises? Has the government performed so well? Ever? In anything?

We can ban AR-15s, and then watch school attacks happen with Winchester 73s or shotguns or .22s or knives for that matter. Or instead, we could pay attention when a young man posts on social media that he’s about to shoot up a school. It’s hard to find a mass attacker who wasn’t on the FBI’s radar, and I predict we’ll soon learn that the Uvalde shooting was no different.

It all depends on what your goal is. Do you want to protect kids? Or do you want to disarm Americans? The anti-gun side could at least be honest itself and say that if it could, with a wave of the mind, make not just AR-15s but all guns disappear out of the hands of private ownership and reside solely with the government, it would do so. Anti-gun advocates hate the AR-15 especially because it is so effective, but there is no weapon safe enough that they think an “ordinary” citizen can be trusted to wield it. Many believe, in childish ignorance, that our government can be trusted to act in good faith and protect us as though we were children ourselves. And so they become the dupes of totalitarianism.

The Buffalo News reported a few days ago that a retired FBI agent apparently had 30-minutes’ advance notice of the May 14 Buffalo shooting. The agent was “one of at least six individuals who regularly communicated with accused gunman Payton Gendron in an online chat room . . .” Since this unnamed agent clearly wasn’t in this chatroom to prevent a shooting from happening, we’re left to wonder exactly what he was doing there.

Here’s something else I wonder: How can a poor 18-year-old kid afford not one, but two AR-15s? These are expensive rifles—and he didn’t skimp on his, I’ve seen the pictures. I don’t think I could duplicate that setup for much less than $4,000. Who paid for the Uvalde shooter’s guns? 

And who trained him in their use? The AR-15 is easy to shoot, but it’s not intuitive. Playing video games won’t teach you how to manipulate the charging handle or the magazine release or the safety catch. The shooter clearly spent time with real AR-15s. But who showed him what to do? His mother or grandmother? The classmates he wasn’t friends with and who’d just turned 18 themselves?

Some person unknown to us bought this kid an AR-15, and taught him how to use it—and probably encouraged him to shoot up the school. 

And oddly enough, there is a similar unknown person in the Buffalo shooting. The shooter’s diary refers to a chat mentor known as “Sandman,” and quotes him as saying: “When the time finally comes to deal decisively with a whole host of society’s problems, and not go to prison for it, you’ll know.” (My italics.) Sandman advised the shooter in his choice of rifles as well. 

Could there be a pattern here?

You’d be a fool not to be concerned about school shootings. But you’d be equally foolish not to ask yourself who benefits from school shootings, and who is actually causing them. These kids don’t get the ideas themselves, and they don’t teach themselves how to shoot AR-15s. They don’t learn gun handling from video games and they don’t learn it from their absent fathers. They’re disaffected, socially isolated, but that doesn’t make them school shooters—it just makes them ideal recruits. Someone is recruiting them, teaching them, running them. Someone is killing America.

Why do so many school shootings involve AR-15s? It’s the gun of choice—but who is making that choice? Who is the someone? You don’t get to confiscate my AR-15 just because you think it’ll be easier than answering that question.

About Dan Gelernter

Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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