When it comes to AR-15’s, the gun notoriously favored by mass shooters, Jim Hathcock has sold his share.
The owner of St. Pete Gun Store Inc., Hathcock says more people are buying them because they’re considered “cool,” easy to use and relatively cheap.
“The guys just like them. They’re easy to take care of,” he said.
Its versatility is part of what makes the AR-15 appealing. With the capability of shooting 30 rounds in a matter of seconds, the semi-automatic rifle is marketed by several gun groups as a “modern sporting rifle.” Some people use it for hunting.
Hathcock says most of his AR-15 buyers are former military.
“I wondered it myself. I was like, 'You’re using an AR-15 for hunting?' And they’re like, 'Well, this is what I trained on my whole time in the military, so this is the gun I know.'”
Hathcock says those using it for hunting have to adhere to a different set of rules, and can’t use a 30-round magazine.
“Typically, once you’re in a hunting scenario, especially being in the woods, you are required to have a five-round magazine in that firearm.”
"AR" stands for ArmaLite, after the company who developed it in the 1950s, not for "assault rifle" or "automatic rifle."
Hathcock believes mass shooters generally don’t know much about the gun but use it after seeing other shooters use it in the past.
In the light of recent mass shootings, Hathcock says people are rushing to buy them because they’re afraid they’re going to get taken away. He says it’s also because AR-15’s customizable, accurate and fairly inexpensive.
“They can go from $500 up into $2,000s,” he said.
When we asked why you can buy an AR-15 at the age of 18 but have to be 21 to buy a handgun, Hathcock put it back on federal officials.
“They make the rules," he said. "I just abide by them,”
As a gun shop owner, he uses a bit of intuition and says even if someone passes the mandatory FBI background check, he won’t sell to people he feels are up to no good.
In a society where shootings happen way too often, Hathcock reiterates, it’s not the gun, it’s people.
“Anything you point at me is an assault rifle. I don’t care. It’s just a term,” he said.
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