What some lifelong gun owners say about AR-15s
Paul Kemp is Co-Founder and President of Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership. A lifelong gun owner and hunter, he says he was impelled to start the organization after his brother-in-law Steven Forsyth was killed in the December 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting in Oregon.
The shooter in that case, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts, opened fire in the crowded mall with a Stag Arms AR-15 rifle he had stolen from a friend. In addition to Forsyth, Cindy Ann Yuille was also killed in the incident and 15-year-old Kristina Shevchenko was injured. The shooter died by suicide at the scene.
PHOTO: Police and paramedics work at the scene of multiple shootings at the Clackamas Town Center Mall on December 11, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. A gunman is dead after opening fire at the mall, killing two people and wounding another, a sheriff's deputy said. (Greg Wahl Stephens/AP, FILE)
The parade of mass shootings since that fateful day in 2012 has caused Kemp to feel a flood of emotions, he said, including the recent massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. And Kemp said his determination to take action to keep guns, particularly high-powered AR-15-style rifles, out of the hands of those he says shouldn't own them grows stronger with every nightmarish mass shooting.
PHOTO: People hug outside the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops supermarket on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Matt Rourke/AP, FILE)
Kemp is one of several longtime gun owners ABC News spoke to who say they want gun control laws and reform. Gun rights extremists, using what they say is the NRA as a bullhorn, no longer represent the majority of gun owners in the US.
MORE: Under gun control pressure, lawmakers hear from student who survived shooting at Texas school
But supporters of the rifles say that they are essentially no different from other hunting rifles, are used responsibly for sport, and are not the weapons of war that opponents portray them to be.
PHOTO: Flowers, toys and other items are on display at a memorial to the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in nearly a decade, which killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on March 29 (Veronika Cardenas/Reuters )
Definition of 'AR-15'
An AR-15 is a type of semi-automatic rifle that fires a bullet with each pull of the trigger - a contrast to illegal automatic rifles, which fire continuously as long as the trigger is pulled.
"AR-15 style rifles can be made for a wide variety of bullet calibers and accommodate a variety of different capacity ammo magazines," said Jake Charles, associate professor and executive director of the Center for Firearms Law at Duke University School of Law.
The weapons that have skyrocketed in popularity are often referred to as "assault rifles," but whether that's an apt description depends on who you ask.
"Assault weapon" is a legal artificial term. Under the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, it was defined as "semi-automatic rifles capable of accommodating a detachable ammunition magazine and at least two of the following features" - including a bayonet mount or a grenade launcher.
"It's not a simple yes or no" about whether an AR-15-style weapon is an assault rifle, Charles told ABC News.
“Often an assault rifle refers to an automatic rifle, such as the military's M4 or M16. In that sense, the AR-15 isn't one because it's not an automatic weapon," Charles said. "But sometimes an assault rifle is the description for a rifle that is classified as an 'assault weapon' under federal or state laws restricting these weapons and is a prohibited assault weapon."
According to Erik Longnecker, deputy chief of the office of public and governmental affairs for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” are not defined in the current federal gun statute.
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