More Guidance On Describing The Weapon Used In Florida

We can say it was an “AR-15 style” rifle. Or “a version of the AR-15.” But it was, specifically, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223. Referring to it simply as an AR-15 is kind of like calling a Pontiac Firebird a Camaro because it looks so much like that Chevy. We can certainly also say he had a semi-automatic, assault-style rifle. Or just a semi-automatic rifle. Or just an assault-style rifle.

It’s problematic to refer to the weapon as “high-powered.” The cartridge used is too small to clearly fit that definition, which is generally applied to larger (.30 and above) ammunition. The AR-15-style weapon does so much damage because of the “high velocity” the bullets it fires can reach. That’s a label that can be useful.

It’s also problematic to refer to the magazines he was carrying as “high-capacity.” It’s unclear what size magazines he had, but referring to the standard 30-round magazine for an AR-15 as “high capacity” could be seen as taking a position on a debatable issue.

(“Memmos;” March 1, 2018)

March 1, 2018

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