Images of the Dayton shooter’s weapon have been released. When he opened fire, the shooter managed to kill nine people and wound over a dozen more in approximately 30 seconds. While the weapon might resemble an AR-15-style rifle due to its lower receiver, under federal law, it is classified as a pistol.
The weapon used by the Dayton shooter had the ability to fire dozens of rounds without having to reload due to the large drum magazine used by the shooter. The gun, according to a report by NPR, was built from a set of parts that can be obtained with relative ease.
Under US law, the gun’s lower receiver is the only component that is technically classified as a firearm and can only be obtained legally through a licensed dealer.
The remaining pieces can be purchased directly – either online or in a store – without much trouble as they aren’t regulated.
“You’re talking, really, a weapon of mass destruction that you’re giving over the counter to anybody,” said former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent and current gun crime consultant Joseph Vince.
“This is a perfect example of how our federal gun laws now have been so convoluted and weakened that we can’t determine basic components and what’s what in firearms anymore.”
The lower receiver of the shooter’s weapon was created by Anderson Manufacturing, a Hebron, Kentucky-based company. It can be used as part of a rifle or a pistol.
“They’ll sell this firearm as a pistol, and then people can go and buy accessories to use the firearm more as a rifle,” allowing it to have a shorter barrel, said Vince.
While Anderson expressed “sympathy and condolences to all affected” by the shooting, the company said that the lower receiver manufactured by the company was “in full compliance with its federal license” and that it followed all laws and regulations regarding its production and sale.
The Dayton shooter did use a shorter barrel. The ATF argues that this makes the firearm easier to conceal. The firearm would also be easier to handle in close quarters situations due to its more compact size according to the ATF’s stance.
Without the traditional shoulder stock, the gun owner can keep the firearm classified as a pistol, allowing them to bypass the minimum barrel length requirement – 16 inches – for a rifle.
“An AR pistol is not a short-barreled ‘rifle’ under the statutory definition in the National Firearms Act … because it does not have a shoulder stock, and is not designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder,” said the ATF. The firearm used by the Dayton shooter was equipped with a forearm brace, a device that is used to strap the firearm to the forearm, allowing for more single handed control. However, some shooters will use the brace to fire from other positions, including the shoulder. Based on current laws and ATF interpretations, this is also perfectly legal.
The tragedies in Dayton and El Paso have reignited debates regarding firearms. Some politicians are pursuing possible bans on some of the components used to construct the Dayton shooter’s gun or, at least, additional laws to better regulate the sale of individual parts.