The 9mm is the most used weapon in US mass shootings, not AR-15
To the left, 9mm semi-automatic handgun. To the right, AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Images sources via: https://www.impactguns.com/data/default/images/catalog/535/ati_cs9.jpg
A line of men of various ages stand in front of Collector Rifle & Ammo gun store in Hopewell Junction, New York at 9:10 am on a weekday waiting for it to open its doors for the day. The store is small and dark and every inch is covered with guns. Even the ceiling has longguns dangling from it. The first man in the line gets a handgun out of his jacket, telling the clerk that it needs to be fixed while he shops for another one.
Although this store’s owner and many other gun-store owners declined to be interviewed, one talked sparsely about the reason for the enormous number of gun buyers in the area. This area is about one and a half hours from New York City. New York City has more restrictive gun laws.
“People come from New York City to buy guns from Upstate New York without a permit. No restriction on the number of the handguns that you want to buy. If you have a drivers license, you can buy a shotgun or a rifle,” said the Civil Armory owner. In response to how he felt whenever he learned about a mass shooting, he said, “It doesn’t really matter.”
The people standing in-line before the opening hours of a gun store are part of a much bigger gun-owners’ population who purchase millions of guns monthly, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). At least half of them buy handguns. While much talk is about bump-fire stocks to prevent mass shootings, the 9mm handgun is the gun that is used to kill the most people.
It does not require any permit and is the cheapest weapon.
The types of weapons used in the US mass shootings since 1987. To download the spreadsheet, click here.
The Congressional Research Service report, prepared for members and committees of the Congress, defined mass shootings as, “These are incidents occurring in relatively public places, involving four or more deaths—not including the shooter(s)—and gunmen who select victims somewhat indiscriminately.”
Handguns are ubiquitous
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) report, handguns represent the largest percentage of manufactured and imported weaponds.
There is not exact information on the sales of the 9mm handgun in the US according to Mathew Myerson at the ATF Acting Public Information Center of New York.
Myerson, said, “There is a law that prohibits us from publishing data sales of a particular model of firearms.”
He said the number of checks on the NICS gave aggregate statistical data to the general weapon type. The weapon types in these statistics are categorized as handguns, longguns, and other.
The NICS statistics shows that more than a million checks happen on a monthly basis. Moreover, the checks have been increasing annually since 2002. The NICS system checks if the gun buyer is a criminal, fugitive, mentally-ill, or a substance-addict.
The NICS system rejects those buyers; nevertheless, they can buy guns at a plethora of gun shows where no checks whatsoever are performed, said Nathan Gershon, a public affairs officer for La Vernia Police Department, SWAT sniper, and NRA firearm instructor.
9mm handgun versus Ar-15 rifle
Another contributing factor to the popularity of the 9mm is its cost. It is sold as cheap as $25 at Walmart while the cheapest rifle is sold at $290.
“What all gun crimes have in common is cost, not caliber,” said Gershon.
The fully automatic weapons are expensive, and few people can afford them; hence, some use the bump-fire stocks to emulate the effect of fully automatic weapons as demonstrated in the Las Vegas shooting, he said.
After the Las Vegas massacre, some US lawmakers filed a new ban bill to the Congress which would include the bump-fire stock weapons based on the shooter’s changes to the AR-15 firearms.
“Rifles like AR-15 are used in relatively few crimes including mass shootings,” said Dave Workman, Second Amendment Foundation representative. “The recent incidents which included rifles are the exceptions to the rule rather than the rule.”
Workman said the AR-15 bill would not prevent any further mass shootings because people who were determined to cause a great deal of mayhem and suffering did not need a gun to do that, and he cited the recent example from France, where someone hijacked a truck, killing more than 80 people without a gun.
“True and accurate that the most used weapon in crime according to the FBI is handguns. So, laws that aim to regulate or restrict rifles are not going to have any impact or improve any of these incidents,” Workman said.
But according to research published by the Library of Congress, in other countries such as Japan, where guns are entirely prohibited, the crime rate including gun violence has tremendously decreased since possessing swords and firearms was banned.
Commenting on the mass shootings, Workman said, “The government can do nothing.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) Media Manger, Andrew Patrik, said he would prefer to reply to questions communicated via email. However, he did not reply back to any emails or phone calls. T. Christian Heyne, the legislative director of CSGV, did not return the calls nor reply to the emails. Similarly, Lori Hass, an anti-gun activist in Virginia, and Camiella Williams, an anti-gun advocate in Chicago, were unreachable through their emails. After contacting the National Rifle Association several times through Jennifer Baker, the public affairs director, and Andrew Arulanandam, the public affairs managing director, they said they would not be able to receive a clearance to answer the questions in time.
This essay was originally submitted to investigative reporting class with Jenifer Mckim