Does the AR-15, America's favorite rifle, deserve the backlash?

DENVER — You could feel the fear as the sound of gunfire filled the halls of a Florida school. Students were racing to save their lives in the midst of a rampage.
 
“He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle. I don't know if he had a second one," said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
               
The AR-15 is a rifle that you, a family member or a friend may even own. It's a weapon that an 18-year-old can buy in Florida with no problem.
 
It's the most popular rifle in America, yet with the deadly distinction of being used in some of the worst shootings in our state and our nation.

"I really don't see a need for assault rifles to be truthful, and I grew up in a rural area," said one gun owner in an interview with Denver7.
 
It's a discussion that, for many Colorado families, is personal.
 
"I think the main thing I would say to people in Washington: have the discussion,” said Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel died in Columbine.
 
He says it's time to give regulation a second look.
 
"Definitely! It's a good time to look at the impact on society of this weapon. These are military-style weapons,” said Mauser.
 
The AR-15 was actually banned between 1994 and 2004. But it was only temporary as the effectiveness was questioned.
 
“We haven't done anything that's real since the assault weapons ban,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. "Let's try to do those things that can keep these powerful weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them."
               
However, some Coloradoans feel such restrictions are worthless.
 
"If this kid didn't have an AR-15, someone could have done the same damage with a handgun. Just switch out the magazines, it takes like a second," said one man on Denver’s 16th Street Mall.
               
Advocates point out the AR-15 is also used to protect us, hunt with, and SWAT teams count on it, using it to diffuse crises.
 
Restricting its use could threaten our safety and our rights.
               
“It's a really a slippery slope to start regulating firearms based on how they look or their function or whether they have a pistol grip or something to that effect," said Dudley Brown, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.  "Pretty soon they're banning every firearm."
 
It's an opinion that a lot of people in Colorado are grappling with: How do we balance the Constitution with community safety?   
 
"What kind of battle would we be having that would need an assault rifle at home? But then again, it's their right too," said another man on the 16th Street Mall.


Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.

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