Reality Check: Most Mass Shooters Use Handguns, Not AR-15s


Amid the feverish, knee-jerk push to ban AR-15s as a way of ending mass shootings, The Washington Post points out that most mass shooters use handguns, not AR-15s.

In other words, a ban on AR-15s would take away the gun that only a handful of mass shooters have used, thereby doing little to impact the number of mass shootings in the United States.

According to the WaPo:

Lost in the diatribes about banning assault weapons is this inconvenient fact: the vast majority of mass shooters use handguns, not assault rifles, in their attacks. That includes Seung-Hui Cho, who used two handguns, including a Glock 19, in 2007 to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech University, the previous worst mass shooting in American history.

The WaPo substantiates this assertion by pointing to a study by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which found that “assault weapons” were only used in 27 percent of mass shootings during the years 1999-2013. And if you look at figures from 1982 to 2013 the percentage of “assault weapons” used in mass shootings is 24 percent. Northeastern University’s James Alan Fox, an academic who studies mass shootings/mass murder, summed his findings up by saying, “Assault weapons are not as commonplace in mass shootings as some gun-control advocates believe.”

It was Fox who discovered that the number of mass shootings in America actually rose during 1995-2004–a time when the federal “assault weapons” ban was in place.

In addition to the practical futility of banning “assault weapons,” as well as the constitutional protections for people to possess firearms that are commonly owned, such a ban should also be opposed due to the way it leads to a slippery slope on gun control. In other words, if Democrats secured a ban on AR-15s, and mass shootings continued, they would immediately turn their attention to banning other categories of firearms–probably handguns.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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