US shooter's rifle a copy of US Army M-16

2012-12-17 22:38

Washington - The weapon used in the Newtown school massacre is a civilian version of the powerful M-16 assault rifle issued to US troops since Vietnam, and can be purchased legally across the United States.

Police said gunman Adam Lanza killed most of his victims with the Bushmaster AR-15, manufactured by Bushmaster Firearms International, which fires .223 calibre bullets, equivalent to Nasa's standard 5.56mm ammunition.

Lighter than the rifles used in World War II or Korea, the round is designed to penetrate body armour or steel helmets and take out an enemy soldier from up to 600m, at a velocity of nearly 1 000m/second.

The AR-15 is also the template for the military's current M-4 rifle, a shortened carbine variant of the M-16, which is carried by the American soldiers in Afghanistan and around the world.

The same military-style assault rifle was used in another shooting spree in July in Aurora, Colorado, with the gunman opening fire in a cinema at the premier of the latest Batman film.

The gun featured in other rampages in recent years and was employed by the infamous Beltway snipers, when John Allen Muhammad and his stepson Lee Boyd Malvo murdered 10 people in the Washington DC area in 2001 and 2002.

The M-16 is featured in many war films, from Apocalypse Now to Rambo, and in the popular, violent video game Call of Duty.

The civilian version of the rifle is virtually identical to the one carried by American soldiers since the 1960s, except that it is not fully automatic.

When firing the "semi-automatic" civilian variant, the trigger has to be pulled for each shot, rather than held down to spray a burst.

Legal again

In 1994, Congress banned assault rifles and large ammunition clips that carry more than 10 rounds. But the measure expired in 2004 under a Republican-led Congress.

It now is entirely legal for Americans to own a semi-automatic assault rifle, though not the military version.

About 2.3 million assault rifles were produced in the United States in 2011, and another million imported, according to the US federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Bushmaster's corporate parent, Freedom Group, touts itself as America's largest manufacturer of semi-automatic weapons or so-called "modern sporting rifles".

A Bushmaster AR-15 can be purchased online for less than $1,000, and is advertised as suitable for "hunting, competition, home defence and tactical use."

The number of firearms owned by Americans has grown from 192 million in 1994 to 294 million in 2007, including 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles and 83 million shotguns, according to the National Institute of Justice.

The number of guns per capita for civilians has roughly doubled since 1968, from one gun for every two Americans to one gun per person.

  • giepievz - 2012-12-17 23:04

    Never knew Nasa was into rifles. They probably mean NATO. The Bushmaster is also not an M16. Several other factual and technical errors in the article. A bit of shoddy journalism.

      mornel.tonder - 2012-12-18 00:00

      Maybe NASA is arming it self in expectation of an alien invasion on the 21st...

      johan.mostert.967 - 2012-12-18 07:47

      What if the Martians attack!

      sheamus.drager - 2012-12-18 08:35

      @ gieppievz Couldn't agree more. I sometimes think they do it on purpose, to invite comments.

      Tim - 2012-12-18 09:42

      clearly they dont call it the m16, they do say COPY.

  • gary.landman - 2012-12-17 23:26

    More liberal rubbish. Where have the days gone when journalists were held to a higher standard. Absolute drivel.. by the way, there is no such thing as an "assault" just a rifle..that term was made up in 1991 by leftist media and political hacks to sensationalise the brady bill and help push it through.

      johan.mostert.967 - 2012-12-18 07:47

      294 million weapons for a population of 300 million!

      gordon.turner.37 - 2012-12-18 09:30

      Semamtics. AR15 is a M16 without the full auto setting. With the addition of a bump stock they are pushing near full auto capabilities. I have no issue with the weapon but being able to buy it at Walmart without a hassle is a concern.

      saintbruce.bruce - 2012-12-18 09:35

      So Johan, maybe it is American culture to add to the Baby Shower gifts a Backberry or iPhone and a firearm in the baby's colour of choice and calibre !! LOL Doesn't sound too far fetched does it? Boys get an AK 47 or Colt AR 15 in blue or camo Girls get a Vector .45 or H&K MP5 in pink or Swarovsky crystal Oh and the 5.56 round is not very good but give me a 7.62 and we can talk business.

  • garth.baldwin.96 - 2012-12-17 23:46

    this reminds me of a story where an assault rifle walked down the road and started shooting at people without it's owners permission.. because we all know guns kill people but people don't kill people!

      eric.viljoen - 2012-12-18 08:17

      And spoons and forks are to blame for people being fat

  • dewald.venter.9 - 2012-12-18 06:19

    The 5.56mm is design to maim not kill. Call of Duty is a tacktical shooter. Ignorance is bliss...

      johan.r.dewit - 2012-12-18 06:55

      Obviously this was just another stab at the 'Firearm' ...but when I read 'NASA' I knew this was just some ignorant author, BTW you get the AR-15 here in SA as well.

      kortbroek.duplessis - 2012-12-18 07:54

      All firearms are designed to kill, not to give you a good tickle

      francois.viljoen.731 - 2012-12-18 08:42

      A point .22 can kill. A bullet in the brain is going to kill you no matter the caliber.

  • lara.vanrooyen.1 - 2012-12-18 06:43

    Arm the teachers...until a crazy teachers shoots children. Then arm the children.

  • craig.s.pepper - 2012-12-18 07:34

    This a prime example of a poorly researched article.... NASA?.... body armour piercing? 600m? ... WTF The only reason why the Yanks went over from 7.62x51 to 5.56x45 was for more ammunition and better control. The original M16 - designed by Eugene Stoner- was not very successful initially. it was toted as a self cleaning rifle. this did not work as powder residue buildup caused the weapon to jam frequently. Its only as a result of continual modification that the weapon is still in use. You still have to treat the M4/bushmaster like an FHM Model i.e. High maintenance - if you want it to work well. The term "Assault rifle" was coined by Hitler when the Germans introduced the "Sturmgewehr 44" during the late stages of WW2. As for these scumbags that walk into schools and commit mass murder... It is not the weapon that is to blame. It is the mass and continual desentisation -apologies for spelling- that modern gaming and movies are "brainwashing" people of today.

  • marie.delarey - 2012-12-18 08:28

    This is very sad - why would normal citizens need assault rifles? Change the law - only handguns for self-protection max 6 bullets - because by then someone - hopefully the police would have turned up. If these "shooters" snap then at least they wont kill more than 6 people -?? If my theory is correct?

      michael.i.wright - 2012-12-18 12:35

      Incorrect on so many levels. There is an old saying, "when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away." Check out the response times in places like Detroit and you'll be shocked to discover 911 is not as magic as the TV would have you believe. Moving on, a six round clip is replaced just as fast as a fifteen shot clip in a wonder nine. When all else fails, dynamite is great for mass kill. Leave the means and concentrate on the motives for these killings. Incidentally, in the 20's in the USA, one could purchase by mail order nogal, a full auto .45 cal Thompson sub-machine gun with a 100 round drum mag. Guys I know from there would go to school in their pickup with a rifle in the rack. Consider what has changed.

  • flysouth - 2012-12-18 09:00

    The lawmakers and liberal leftist anti-gunners persist in looking in the wrong places for solutions - and of course there can be no solution in that methodology! Before the time of strict gun-control being introduced almost everywhere in the early 20th century, anyone could buy any weapon manufactured - up to and including heavy machine guns - without any licence or permission from anyone! During that time, there were no such mass shootings anywhere, ever! What does this tell us? - it tells us there are other reasons today for the behaviour of people who do this and those reasons are nothing to do with the gun itself but everything to do with the kind of society that has been created over the past 60+ years and the kind of human being which has been developed as a result of numerous governmental and societal influences over that time. A major related factor is the use of drugs - legal and illegal which has burgeoned in recent years amongst many social groups. These psychotropic drugs, widely used to treat 'depression', Attention Deficit Disorder in kids, and any other mental ailment one can think of, are very often involved in mass killings - but this is disregarded almost universally by the media and no spotlight is directed at this aspect - it certainly should be in my opinion and the psychiatric and medical professions have many questions to answer.

  • jean.rossouwsa - 2012-12-18 09:19

    Kos maak VET.... So BAN KOS!!! idiots! Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE DO!!

  • Eduannn - 2012-12-18 09:34

    This tragic shooting has now purely become another liberal lobby for gun control - as could be predicted. Someone on another forum mentioned the LOW GUN MURDER RATE in Japan and linked it to strict gun control. What he forgot to mention is that in Japan murderers are still executed to this day. Please read up 'capital punishment in Japan'. I refuse to be politically correct on this issue. Firstly re-introduce the death penalty by UN declaration for all nations with a secular democracy (Islamic countries have it anyway!) Then and only then ALSO IMPLEMENT BETTER GUN CONTROL. I believe that most of these mass killings are pre-meditated over a very long period. If murderers knew that the death penalty is inevitable they MAY think twice. Those murderers that pre-meditate suicide after killing MAY also stop sooner to avoid capture and in that way some lives may be spared. WHY is the Batman shooter and Anders Breivik still alive? What more can we learn from them? What more proof do we need that they are guilty? Terminate them - period - no fanfare, no media coverage, no pity. Just a simple statement - "if you choose to kill you will be terminated" - end of story. Btw in Japan it seems as if the lobby for the death penalty has been increasing. There are even cases where murderers were initially given life sentences which were afterwards changed to the death penalty. And please do not tell me Japanese people are not highly civilized.

      Eduannn - 2012-12-18 10:18

      Link: Just to add: The FOCUS is wrong - it should be on the death penalty first and then on gun control! And a question: Here in good old SA our government refuses to call a referendum on the the death penalty, but in Japan (extract from Wiki): "Although the public has generally supported the death penalty, capital punishment is a contentious issue in Japan nonetheless. A 1999 government survey found that 79.3 percent of the public supported it. In 34 polls taken between 1953 and 1999, support for the death penalty has varied, although never having dropped below 50 percent." My question: would it be illegal in SA for a reputable News company to conduct a yearly poll on the death penalty and publish it ??????? If not - why has it never been done ?????

  • werner.spreeuwenberg - 2012-12-18 15:46

    Not saying that a ban on guns would have stopped this killing spree, as both Norway and Sweden have seen these types of thing happening there as well, but at least it would then be one in a hundred and not one in a few thousand deaths. A lesson for South Africans? Yes, criminals uses illegal guns, but who would they steal these from if the rest didn't have guns? The statistics are clear. With guns being permitted the number of shootings is approximately 1000 times as high as in countries where it is not allowed.

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