It is my assertion, and time will tell, that the most common sporting firearm in the world caused the most death and damage in Aurora, CO. That firearm is not the AR-15, it is the venerable 12 gauge shotgun, loaded with buckshot loads.
Those who have never operated a firearm have little understanding of how firearms function. Such fundamentals as bolt action, lever action, pump action, single action, double action, breach load, gas impingement, gas piston are alien concepts to the ignorant. People who do not have any understanding of these BASIC concepts are in a poor position to preach ideas about firearms. (This is common sense in any topic and non experts and novices need to understand their place)
To the issues at hand, regarding Aurora, CO:
Due to gag orders by judges, we do not have important data. What we know is that Holmes had three firearms, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot ammunition, a Glock .40 caliber pistol, and a Smith & Wesson “M&P” AR-15 in .223/5.56 NATO chambered semiautomatic rifle – equipped with a 100 round magazine.
Several media reports within TV, print and internet, indicate that Holmes first employed the Remington shotgun (we do not know what type of action or model) with buckshot loads, proceeded to employ the S&W AR-15, which jammed, and he had to abandon that firearm for the Glock handgun.
Experienced hunters and sportsmen understand how shotguns work. In the case of Buckshot loads, with each trigger pull, at minimum 8 pellet projectiles are discharged down range towards the target. The 12 gauge shotgun is one of the most effective firearms in “close quarter” situations, like this indoor cinema. It is my contention that this is the firearm that did the most damage and caused the most death and injuries. The 12 gauge shotgun is arguably the most common sporting firearm on the planet.
The 100 round capacity magazine Holmes employed on the AR-15 are notoriously unreliable. These magazines are “hokey” and ineffective. They have a many documented issues, primarily in spring pressure, and are temperamental in regards to the types of casings used when loading. These magazines are notoriously dangerous for a novice operator and to any operator in general. Ironically, had Holmes employed a magazine system with less capacity he would have caused even more harm. Additionally, the AR-15 is not well suited for this type of environment. The .223/5.56 round is a small projectile high velocity round. It’s a very popular round in varmit hunting and very popular in target shooting/range sports. It’s small size does not destroy small game and it’s ballistics characteristics are very “flat” making it highly accurate without a lot of pounds at delivery. Short range scenarios are not the best situations for .223/5.56 caliber firearms.
The basic mechanics of an AR-15 are similar to a myriad of other semiautomatic sporting rifles. The AR-15 is simply a lightweight weapon, easy to clean and maintain, durable, reliable, accurate, and inexpensive to fire on a per round basis. These elements make it popular for all kinds of sporting uses. Since fully automatic firearms are only legal by obtaining an expensive and difficult license, “Assault Weapons” are nominally defined by cosmetics, including the type of stock, the presence of a pistol grip, bayonet mount, muzzle break/flash suppressor, and detachable magazine. The basic functionality does not differ in any manner whatsoever from traditional semiautomatic hunting firearms. Yes it is scary looking, and yes magazine capacity is an important factor.
Editorial note: The basic issue rifle of the US Army in World War II was the M1 Garand, chambered in .30-06, in semi automatic with an 8 round internal box clip loaded from the top. This weapon is much more powerful, accurate, and deadly compared to an AR-15. The M1 Garand is very much akin to millions of semiautomatic deer hunting rifles in common use throughout the United States and world today.