Why AR-15 Rifles Are Easier To Get Than Handguns In Texas

The age requirement differs between the types of firearms

This photo posted on the Instagram account of Nikolas Cruz shows weapons lying on a bed. Cruz was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, the day after opening fire with a semi-automatic weapon in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Instagram via AP)

AR-15s are the semi-automatic version of the M-16 assault rifle.

Its bullets can cause devastating wounds and have been the weapon of choice for mass shooters from the Pulse nightclub to Sutherland Springs, Texas, and, most recently, Parkland, Florida.

In Texas and many other states, it's easier to buy an AR-15 than a 9 millimeter handgun.

That’s because you have to be at least 21 to buy a handgun, while AR-15s can be sold to people 18 and up. And before Texas’ open carry law went into effect in January 2016, handguns could not be carried openly, while AR-15s and other rifles could.

Melissa Hamilton, who teaches criminal law at the University of Surrey in England, said that's because they're grouped with other long arms that are used for hunting.

"So one of the reasons that there had been historically very few regulations is because of those legitimate purposes," she said.

Lawmakers put restrictions on handguns in the 20th century, Hamilton said, because they were often used in crimes.

AR-15s are actually not practical for hunting, she said, because they would essentially "blow up" the animal.

Some of our listeners took issue with that idea. There has been previous reporting reflecting that the rifle was actually first marketed as "superb" for hunting.

Federally licensed arms dealers have to conduct a background check before selling any firearm to someone, but private sellers – including those at certain gun shows – are exempted from that requirement.

This article has been edited to correct some misinformation and clear up confusion.

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