AR-15 Rifles Have Killed at Least 36 People in Mass Shootings This Year

Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and now Colorado Springs, Colorado: these cities, hundreds of miles apart, share the tragedy of having suffered some of the deadliest mass shootings of the year.

But there's another thing: these cities—and the mass shootings that happened there—have in common: the gunmen, all young men wearing body armor, used AR-15-style rifles.

Colorado Springs shooting, vigil
People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near the Club Q nightclub on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On Saturday, a 22-year-old gunman entered the LGBTQ+ nightclub and opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others before being stopped by club patrons. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just before midnight on Saturday, November 19, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich opened fire at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing at least five people and injuring 25 more. The gunman reportedly entered the club wearing a body armor and started firing an AR-15-style rifle before being subdued by two people inside the establishment.

AR-15-style rifles, which cover a range of semiautomatic firearms inspired by military weapons, have become a recurring feature of mass shootings in the U.S.

Banned by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994, AR-15-style rifles returned on the market for civilians in 2004, when the federal ban expired. The weapons have since then surged to become the most-popular sporting rifle in the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

On May 24, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde unobstructed, wearing a body armor and carrying am AR-15-style rifle. The gunman, a local high student, killed 19 students and two teachers before being shot dead by police.

On May 14, 10 people were killed and three more injured by 18-year-old gunman Payton S. Gendron in the Buffalo mass shooting in New York, which authorities identified as a racially motivated hate crime. The gunman was wearing a body armor and a military helmet, and carrying a modified Bushmaster XM-15 rifle.

AR-15 style rifle
In this photo, an attendee holds a Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15-style rifle displayed during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center, in Houston, Texas, on May 28, 2022. At least 54 people have been killed in mass shootings where such a rifle was used by gunmen in 2022. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

After the Uvalde shooting, calls for stricter gun laws resurfaced across the country, including calls to ban the sales of AR-15-style rifles. A bill raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 at which people can legally buy them, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was passed by the House in early June. In October, President Joe Biden called for a restoration of the blanket federal ban on these rifles.

The three atrocities in Buffalo, Uvalde and Colorado Springs alone put the number of 2022's victims of mass killings conducted with AR-15-style rifles at 36. But a look at the list of mass shootings that have occurred across the U.S. in 2022, compiled by the Gun Violence Archive—a nonprofit research group that monitors gun violence in the country—could set the death toll even higher.

There's no exact definition of a mass shooting. The Congressional Research Service defines it as a multiple-homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms within one event at one or more locations close to one another. The Gun Violence Archive, on the other hand, terms it as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which include mass shootings where victims were injured but survived the attacks, there have been 603 mass shootings in 2022 so far in the U.S. Last year there were 690 in total.

Handguns have been used in about 75 percent of mass shootings since 1982, research by Statista shows. However, the ones where AR-15-style rifles were used were typically the ones with the highest number of victims. In half of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, AR-15-style rifles were the primary weapon.

On Sunday, August 28, 20-year-old Ethan Blair Miller opened fire at a Bend's Eastside Safeway in Oregon, killing two people and injuring two more. The gunman shot himself before police arrived, but next to his body officers found a shotgun and an AR-15-style rifle.

On the same day in Phoenix, Arizona, 24-year-old Isaiah Steven Williams used an AR-15 style rifle to kill three people—including himself—and injure five more.

On July 31, 36-year-old Winston Kirtley Jr. shot and killed two people and injured six more in Detroit, Michigan, using two AR-15-style rifles.

On July 29, an AR-15 style rifle was used by a gunman in Baltimore, Maryland, to kill two and injure two more.

On July 17, two AR-15 style rifles were among four weapons used in the shooting at Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana, which killed four people and injured three more.

The same type of AR-15-style rifle, together with a handgun, was used by a gunman in a shooting in Haltom City, Texas, on July 2 which killed two people and injured four, including three police officers.

On June 2, five people—including three minors—were killed in Centerville, Texas, by a prison escapee using an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun. A day before, four people were killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a gunman using an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun.

In April, an AR-15-style rifle, together with two handguns, was also used in the mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which killed two teenagers and injured several more.

Including these shootings, the death toll of victims of mass shootings using AR-15-style guns would go up to 54 in 2022.

The total death toll could be higher: most of the mass shootings listed by the Gun Violence Archive do not specify the type of weapon used in the killings.

On November 13, three University of Virginia students were shot and killed by a fellow student, 22-year-old Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, who was later apprehended.

According to a police search-warrant inventory mentioned by The New York Times, the suspect had an AR-15 style rifle, a Ruger AR-556, a pistol and ammunition in his dorm room. Information about the gun used in the shooting has not yet been disclosed to the public.

Updated 11/21/22, 8:25 a.m. ET: This article and its headline were updated with additional information.

Update 11/22/22, 2:50 a.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.