Uvalde School Shooting Is Just the Latest Involving an AR-Style Rifle

Authorities believe an "AR-style" rifle was used to kill students and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The shooter who killed at least 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school used a type of gun that has previously been used in several high-profile mass shootings in recent history.

Authorities believe the 18-year-old shooter fired an AR-style rifle at students and teachers in a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety mentioned the weapon while discussing the shooting on MSNBC.

The type of gun used in the Texas shooting is what made the attack so deadly

AR-15s or other AR-style rifles have been used in a number of mass shootings, including the ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

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.

Mass shootings have become tragically common in the U.S. But authorities and experts still struggle to pinpoint exactly how common they are. That is because there is no universal standard for what constitutes a mass shooting. We explain the differing definitions, and why they make the problem of gun crime harder to solve, in this installment of LXplanation.

Trauma center employees who have cared for victims shot by AR-style rifles say the wounds these guns leave are far more damaging than those from a handgun.

"Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem," a Florida radiologist wrote in The Atlantic after treating victims of the Parkland shooting.

"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.

Gun laws in Texas meant the shooter could buy assault rifles the moment he turned 18

A former consultant for the Department of Homeland Security, Mustafa Tameez talks about gun laws and how the suspect in the Texas school shooting might have obtained the weapons that were used in the shooting that killed 18 children. 

The shooter bought two guns on his 18th birthday this month, according to NBC News, citing a Texas state senator who had received a law enforcement briefing on the shooting.

It was not immediately clear if either of those purchased guns were the ones used at Robb Elementary.

"He can't buy alcohol, but he can walk in and buy a gun. He can buy at a brick-and-mortar location," said Mustafa Tameez, a former consultant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "He doesn't have to have a background check, there doesn't have to be a waiting period, he can just walk in and buy a gun."

In 2021, Texas passed a package of loosened gun laws. One authorized "constitutional carry" for handguns, which allows law-abiding Texans 21 or older to carry a handgun in public without a license. According to the Texas Tribune, it was already legal to openly carry a rifle in public in Texas.

Another law made the state a "Second Amendment sanctuary state," meaning Texas would not commit budget dollars toward enforcing federal gun and ammo restrictions.

What does the AR in AR-15 stand for?

The "AR" in the gun's name stands for "ArmaLite rifle," named after the company that designed the AR-15 in the 1950s.