This report is a part of "Rethinking pistol Violence," an abc News series examining the level of pistol violence in the U.S. -- and also what have the right to be done around it.

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Alex Schachter, a 14-year-old marching tape member gunned under in the Parkland, Florida, fixed shooting, would have graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school this year.

"All of Alex"s friends were able come walk across that stage," his father, Max Schachter, told abc News. "Since Alex wasn"t there, i did it and gathered his posthumous diploma. It"s sad watching every one of these youngsters off and come college and also do everything that i hoped that Alex would certainly do."

The accused Parkland gunman was armed with an AR-15-style rifle as soon as he stormed right into Stoneman Douglas in February 2018, killing Alex and also 16 others.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People are lugged out the the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school after a shooting at the institution on Feb. 14, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.
The united States has over 20 million AR-15-style rifles legally in circulation, follow to the nationwide Shooting sports Foundation, a nationwide trade association for the firearm industry. The accounts because that a small percentage the the roughly 400 million weapons in the country -- yet the popularity of AR-15-style rifles has been cultivation "exponentially" ever due to the fact that the federal attack weapons half expired in 2004, said note Oliva, the NSSF"s publicly affairs director.

Because AR-15-style rifles are so versatile, through the capability to add scopes and change both the length and also size of the barrel, they ended up being a desirable weapon for plenty of Americans, especially human being who favor to hunt, abc News contributor and former FBI certified dealer Brad Garrett said.

Watch alphabet News Live top top Mondays at 3 p.m. Come hear more about pistol violence from experts throughout roundtable discussions. And also check tomorrow, once we look right into why professionals say the second Amendment isn’t what decides gun laws in the country.

But together with that climb in popularity, the usage of these tools in fixed shootings is also climbing, according to louis Klarevas, a study professor at teachers College, Columbia university who specialization in pistol violence and safety. From Sandy Hook to san Bernardino come Orlando to las Vegas, "most of the deadly high-profile mass shootings in the past decade to be perpetrated with attack weapons, specifically AR-15-style assault rifles," Klarevas said.

The history

Sometimes described as "assault weapons" or "military-style rifles," this class of firearm have the right to encompass numerous different kinds of guns -- not just the much more well-known rifles, such as the AK and AR-15 series weapons. The term "assault weapon" generally includes a wide variety of models, including the UZI rifle and pistol, the Beretta AR-70, the SKS rifle and more, according to the California lawyer General"s attack Weapons to know Guide.

AR-15 style rifles space rifles "modeled ~ above the AR-15 platform and also that fire the very same caliber cartridges," Klarevas said, such together the blacksmith & Wesson M&P15 and the Ruger AR-556.

Along v their usage in hunting, for some Americans, AR-15-type weapons likewise connote patriotism, which deserve to be traced earlier to the M16 military rifle that ended up being prominent throughout the Vietnam War, follow to Garrett.

A U.S. Marine, a bayonet fixed to his M16 rifle, prepares to get in heavy undergrowth searching for Viet Cong Snipers in Vietnam, Dec. 30, 1967.
"It didn"t hurt that Sylvester Stallone provides an assault-type weapon in "Rambo,"" the 1982 film around a Vietnam veteran, Garrett said.

But in 1989, one AK-47 was offered to death five kids at a Stockton, California, primary school school, leading California to end up being the an initial state come enact an assault weapons ban, Klarevas said. The was followed by two other high-profile massive shootings with semiautomatic pistols -- one in mountain Francisco and one top top a lengthy Island Rail roadway commuter train -- in 1993.

First responders job-related at the scene where a shooter opened up fire ~ above a long Island Rail roadway train stopped in Garden City, N.Y., Dec. 7, 1993.
Those shootings were the impetus for the Federal assault Weapons Ban, signed into result by President bill Clinton in 1994, stopping the manufacture, sale, transfer and possession the these species of firearms.

The federal legislation led come a decrease in gun massacre occurrences where 6 or an ext victims are killed, Klarevas created in a report he issued last year together an expert witness in a commonwealth court case challenging California"s ban on assault weapons. When compared to data native 1984 come 1994, the U.S. Experienced a 43% fall in gun massacre deaths and also a 26% decline in gun massacre deaths involving assault weapons in 1994 to 2004, according to his report.

The federal ban was not renewed by Congress and expired in 2004. Total massacre events involving these weapons then skyrocketed native 2004 to 2014, jumping 167% contrasted to the 10 year the federal legislation was in effect, Klarevas" report said, and active shooter cases with different guns as whole have been steadily climbing end the last two decades, follow to FBI data, which does not failure murders by precise model of gun used.

While there"s no federal assault weapons half now, Washington, D.C., and seven claims -- California, new Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and new York -- have actually banned the possession of particular kinds of these firearms, and the rules differ state to state. According to Klarevas" report, "In the previous 30 years, accounting for population, claims with assault weapons bans in place experienced 54% fewer gun massacres entailing the use of assault weapons and also 67% fewer deaths resulting from such strikes perpetrated with assault weapons."

The pros and cons

In countless rural and suburban areas, completely and semi-automatic rifles host a handy value, such together for defending property, and a familial value, to pass down tools to future generations, Garrett said.

Brock Peterson covers his heart while hold his tradition AR-15 rifle during a pro-Second revised rally hosted in prior of the Wyoming can be fried Court in Cheyenne, Wyo., April 14, 2018.
AR-15-type rifles are likewise beloved as sporting rifles because they are accurate, versatile, light and also easy come disassemble, Garrett said. They"re also simple to shoot -- Garrett said anyone could be trained in a few hours.

Oliva and his wife, both naval Corps veterans, shoot AR-15s recreationally.

"The way it"s designed, the is conveniently adaptable. It can fit my frame," Oliva said, and also with adjustments, "It can also fit my wife, and also she can shoot the rifle simply as easily."

Oliva stressed that AR-15-style rifles room semi-automatic -- and also the automatically rifle he provided in Iraq and Afghanistan "is not the very same rifle that I have actually in mine gun for sure today."

The rifle he brought in war was automatic and could fire three rounds without any type of other action, Oliva said, while the gun in his for sure is semi-automatic and requires pulling the trigger every time you desire to fire.

But according to Garrett, automatic and semi-automatic rifles can conveniently fall into the hands of those who want to murder.

Residents grieve complying with a shoot on Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary institution on Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Conn., whereby at the very least 26 people, consisting of 20 young children, were killed when a gunman attacked the school.
Sometimes after ~ a high-profile massive shooting, says will tighten up gun laws, such together by inquiry background checks, reducing the revenue of specific weapons or banning the revenue of high-capacity magazines. Yet those looking to buy this items can often find another way, Garrett said.

In most states you must be 21 years old to buy a handgun indigenous a commonwealth licensed guns dealer, however only should be 18 to buy a rifle, the pointed out. That"s because, historically, rifles have been supplied by world in rural locations to hunt or defend property, Garrett said. Yet with the pervasiveness of private and black market sales, "none of these laws use in reality," the said.

Inside the hotel room the the gunman at the Mandalay Hotel in las Vegas, adhering to the mass shooting in 2017.
Some weapons are modification by bang stocks, which are provided to make the weapons fire like an equipment guns. The perpetrator the the 2017 ras Vegas massacre, the most dangerous mass shoot in modern American history, offered a bang stock, leading them to it is in banned federally in 2019.

A bump stock device that fits ~ above a semi-automatic rifle to increase the shooting speed, do it similar to a fully automatic rifle, displayed at a total store, Oct. 5, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Since 9/11, the 10 deadliest acts of intentional violence in the U.S. Have all to be gun massacres, follow to Klarevas. Of those 10 acts, the seven many recent -- including Parkland -- connected what he defined as an assault weapon. The other three shootings, lugged out v handguns, were the oldest, one ensuing in 2007 and also two rather happening in 2009.

In the 1980s, much less than 20% of total massacres involved assault weapons, when in the 2010s, that number went approximately 35%, Klarevas said. In the last three years, those weapons comprised 67% of pistol massacres, follow to his report.

The push and also pull over bans

When Alex was eliminated in Parkland, "it left a huge hole in my family that could never it is in replaced," his aunt, Gail Schwartz, told alphabet News. Alex would have turned 18 in July.

Schwartz, along with other household members and also survivors of the Parkland and Orlando fixed shootings, introduced Ban assault Weapons now (BAWN), a grassroots initiative aiming to ban assault weapons in Florida v legislative and electoral efforts.

BAWN an initial looked to lug a constitution amendment banning attack weapons prior to Florida voters, and accumulated signatures and also donations across the state, she said.

"But as soon as we take it the amendment come the Florida supreme Court -- since we need to obtain their approval before showing up on the ballot -- the ... Justices rejected the amendment," Schwartz said.

Florida"s can be fried Court rubbish the proposed constitutional amendment in June 2020 on grounds that the wording to be misleading, The Miami Herald reported. The ballot measure up summary, i m sorry was limited to 75 words, said assault weapons legitimate possessed prior to the new rule would certainly be exempt; the ballot measure"s full text said the weapons could not be transferred, the Herald reported. The majority of the justices, however, stated "the summary exempts the weapon itself. So, under the theory, the weapon, if the registered, might be transferred to someone else," and since the justices" "interpretation of the review conflicts through the complete text of the amendment," they reputed that "the measure up itself is misleading," the Herald reported.

When BAWN lobbied the Florida legislature in 2020, 52 co-sponsors signed on, bookkeeping for 90% the the state"s democratic legislators, she said. However no republic -- who hold the majority in Florida"s legislative branch -- would co-sponsor the bills, Schwartz said.

Those numbers mostly complement up with just how members that political parties feel about a potential ban. When break-up by party, 27% the Republicans support an assault weapons ban and also 70% oppose, if 88% of Democrats assistance the idea and also 11% protest it, follow to one April poll native Quinnipiac University, a nationally recognized public opinion polling center.

Overall, 52% of american support and 43% oppose a nationwide half on the revenue of attack weapons, according to the poll.

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Oliva is amongst those against a ban.

"It"s important heartbreaking to hear the stories" of mass shootings, Oliva said, but he added that AR-15s have tendency to take it the reprimand "for the evil the the individual has actually committed instead of stop those people responsible."

"I don"t want to take far the capability for those who choose to protect themselves with a firearm that their selecting from that choice," Oliva said. "I think once we begin to look in ~ bans on entire classes of firearms, what you"re act is acquisition a device away from those that would choose to protect themselves."