Highland Park, Illinois: Another Mass Shooting With an AR-Style Rifle

AR-style rifles have been used in a series of high-profile mass shootings in recent U.S. history, and officials believe it was this type of rifle used to kill 7 people and wound 30 at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, this week

The shooter who killed 7 people and wounded 30 at a Chicago-area Fourth of July parade used a high-powered rifle that a law enforcement official said "could be similar to an AR-15."

Police in Highland Park, Illinois, a city about 25 miles north of downtown Chicago, say a shooter opened fire from a rooftop during the Independence Day parade Monday. A second rifle — of a different unspecified make and model — was found in the shooter's vehicle, and police say guns were found in a home where he was living. The shooter purchased all those weapons legally, Christopher Covelli, deputy chief of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Other than his comment that the rifle was "similar" to an AR-15, Covelli did not specify the exact make and model of the rifle used in the shooting.

But if it was an AR-style rifle, as is believed, the Highland Park shooting will join a long line of American mass shootings committed with the rifle.

Shooters in recent deadly mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, both used AR-style rifles. This type of gun has also been used in other high-profile mass shootings in recent years, including in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, (where a Bushmaster XM-15 was used) and in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, (where the shooter used a Smith & Wesson M&P15).

What is the history of the AR-15 and AR-style rifles?

The term AR-15 is a trademark owned by Colt. "AR" stands for "ArmaLite rifle," not for "assault rifle" as is commonly believed. ArmaLite was the company that made the first AR-15s in the 1950s, before selling the design to Colt. Colt then adapted the design into the M16, which the U.S. military used as a service weapon during the end of the Vietnam War.

Today, several other manufacturers make gun models similar to the AR-15, which are often referred to as "AR-style rifles."

Between 1.5 million and 2.5 million AR-style rifles are manufactured each year, and they make up about 5% of the more than 393 million civilian-owned guns in the U.S., The Trace reports. Sales and manufacturing of AR-style weapons spiked after the assault weapons ban of 1994 expired without being renewed, according to the Washington Post.

High-powered rifles have high fatality rates

AR-style rifles fire bullets at a higher velocity than a typical handgun, with the bullet leaving the rifle's barrel nearly three times faster than a typical 9-millimeter handgun bullet.

"Wounds like this, as one sees in school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland where AR-15s were used, have high fatality rates," trauma surgeon Dr. Ernest E. Moore wrote in a piece published soon after the Parkland shooting.

A witness at the Chicago shooting scene, Dr. David Baum, told NBC Chicago there were "horrific injuries" at the scene.

"The kind of injuries you probably see in wartime. The kind of injuries that only probably happen when bullets blow bodies up," he said.