AR-15s Are Getting All of the Attention, But Handguns Are Far More Deadly

The debate over guns and gun control rages once more in the wake of the Parkland shooting. While agendas and goals vary among those in favor of increased firearm regulation, much of the conversation seems to inevitably involve the AR-15 assault-style rifle.

While Parkland wasn’t the first time an AR-15 was used in a mass shooting — the Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub and San Bernardino shootings all involved the same type of gun — it certainly seems to be the weapon of choice for those looking to unleash as much carnage as possible.

Although the legality and nature of assault-style weapons like the AR-15 is worth discussing, those engaged in the current gun policy debate should remember this: Handguns are used in far more homicides and assaults than any other type of firearm.

In 2016, approximately 17,250 homicides were committed in the United States. Of those, a mere 968 involved a rifle. By comparison, 7,105 involved the use of a handgun. That means that more than two-fifths of all homicides were carried out with a handgun, whereas rifles accounted for only 0.06 percent of all murders.

Similarly, when it came to the 70,707 assaults in 2016, handguns were used 58 percent of the time; rifles comprised just 0.04 percent.

The difference between the two types of firearms and how they’re used couldn’t be more stark — but why?

Put simply, handguns are far more accessible. Though the costs of an AR-15 rifle can vary wildly — because they’re highly customizable – the bare bones version tends to cost around $600. With add-ons, they can surpass $2,000.

Handguns — semiautomatic-style — by comparison, are substantially cheaper. Brand new, they can be purchased for less than $250. And pistols can be obtained for far less if they were previously owned.

Handguns also tend to be much more user-friendly; whereas handling and shooting a rifle for the first time might require instruction, pistols are comparatively straightforward. Though rifles are more accurate than handguns — due to a longer barrel and recoil reduction thanks to a shoulder stock and/or foregrip — this distinction becomes largely irrelevant in certain conditions, especially at close range.

Compared to a rifle, handguns are also far easier to transport and conceal. These are firearms that can fit in a glove compartment, a purse or a pocket. To try to discreetly carry around something like an AR-15 is a bit more involved.

Comparing rifles to handguns illustrates that attempts to ban assault-style firearms would ultimately miss the mark — and, practically speaking, provide at most a marginal decline in homicides and assaults.

No, in order for any meaningful gun policy reform to materialize, lawmakers must instead focus on three key aspects of gun control: who is buying these weapons, how they’re buying them and how the guns are being stored/used.

The first two points can be addressed with a rigorous and federally mandated background check process, in addition to barring certain high-risk individuals — domestic abusers, for example — from purchasing at all.

The third issue can be addressed with the creation of mandatory firearm owner’s insurance, which could be modeled like car insurance. Owners could also be required to have their weapons in secure lockup when not in active use.

A mass shooting at a school, a church or a movie theater which claims a number of victims is certainly a shocking and traumatic event that can easily stick in the memory. But smaller-scale shootings don’t generally elicit such a reaction, at least not outside of the immediate area. That said, it’s this second scenario that is far more common in the U.S. And as gun control advocates fight the uphill battle for sensible firearm regulation, it’s a crucial reality to keep in mind.

Photo Credit: mike/Flickr


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees8 months ago

Once again the weapon is not the root cause. It's whom is wielding it.

Exhibit A:
"UPDATE: Maryland School Shooting Ended, Assailant Shot Dead By Armed, Trained Guard"

Chad A
Chad Anderson9 months ago

Thank you for making the point.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers9 months ago

Joseph V. All guns are dangerous in the hands of anyone. Angry husbands, Robbers, Suicidal people, children under 8. Many people believe people kill people and guns have nothing to do with gun violence. ..then why would anyone give them guns? The gun apologists argument is too circular. The truth is the NRA is a terrorist organisation masquerading as freedom fighters. History was peppered with weapon nuts, a similar thing happened 200 years ago when Europe were banning open carry of swords.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers9 months ago

The NRA is a terrorist organisation. Ban all guns. Cut down the military by 90% and then you can join the rest of the world in the 21st century.

Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

ALL guns are deadly...
#81510 petition signed...

thank you Llowell...

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld9 months ago

Joe V.
Handguns kill more, because there are more of them. Simple math.

Joseph V
Joseph V9 months ago

Thanks for sharing but an AR-15 is a semi-automatic weapon and functions the same as a handgun. As for a handgun being more deadly, that is a bit of a stretch. All firearms can be deadly if in the hands of a mentally incapacitated person.

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O9 months ago

In any dispute, argument or heated argument all guns are just to easy to grab and too final!

Janis K
Janis K9 months ago

Thanks for sharing.