Assault rifles have special allure with criminals
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
1/02/13 at 7:52 AM
As a homicide detective, Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker investigates all sorts of shooting calls, including drive-bys.
And although the Police Department doesn't track the guns used in crimes, Walker's anecdotal experience tells him plenty.
"We're seeing more semiautomatic pistols in the calibers of .380, 9 mm and .45 being used mostly," he said. "That's what we're recovering. We still do see some scenes where a revolver is used.
He added, "If it is an assault weapon, it will be the 7.62 x 39 (AK-47) or the .223 rounds."
The .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle, particularly the Bushmaster AR-15, has come under fire of late by gun-control advocates.
It has been the gun of choice for several mass killers in recent years, including Adam Lanza, who used the gun to kill 20 children and six adults Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., after killing his mother and before taking his own life.
Authorities said a semiautomatic rifle was one of the firearms James Holmes used to kill 12 people and injure 58 others last summer in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
The Bushmaster .223 also is similar to the gun used by John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo during the Beltway Sniper Shootings that claimed 10 lives in 2002.
Those shootings led to a $2.5 million judgment against Bushmaster and a Washington state gun dealer from whom the gun was stolen.
Freedom Group Inc., the nation's oldest and largest manufacturer of firearms and ammunition, sold more than 1.1 million long guns and 2 billion rounds of ammunition in 2011, according to its 2011 annual report. It markets such brands as Remington, Marlin, Bushmaster and DPMS.
Established in 1973, Bushmaster was one of the first companies to introduce modern sporting rifles to the consumer market, a market that is growing faster than the general firearms industry. It is the leading supplier of AR-15-type rifles in the United States, according to the company's website.
"It's a smoother shooting gun," said Walker, who has worked for the Tulsa Police Department for more than 30 years. "You can get more capacity. Your clips can hold more. That would be some things that would draw them (criminals) to that type of weapon.
"Plus, it's an intimidating-looking rifle. If you're looking for an intimidation factor, you pull that damn thing out and you kind of dwarf your 9 mm.
"It's an easy gun to shoot," he said of the assault rifle. "I'm not a guy who shoots a lot. My handgun scores are very marginal. But I can shoot a .223 round 100 percent at a qualifying course with that gun up to 100 yards."
Minimal recoil also is a factor, Walker said.
"A handgun is going to have some kick to it where you are going to have to come back on target," he said. "That's probably going to cause you a lot of misses.
"The .223 doesn't have much kick to it at all. ... Once you get on it, it's pretty much always on it."
Rick Amos of Seminole has been a firearms instructor for seven years for the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, which is based in Ada.
Part of his training is with the AR-15, which he calls a superior military, law enforcement weapon.
"They've become so popular that many companies are making clones of those type of weapons," Amos said, adding that the rifle can be purchased for $700 to $2,000, depending on the extras.
Pinpoint accuracy, large-capacity magazines and a low learning curve are factors that draw people to the guns, Amos said.
"They are just such easy weapons to shoot, even for the inexperienced shooter," he said. "They have generally almost no recoil whatsoever, so they don't hurt the shoulder. They don't kick. ... They are absolutely what I would call idiot-proof."
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker: He says ease of use and the "intimidation factor" make the AR-15 assault rifle a popular weapon