Legal weaponry is abundant
Published: Monday, January 31, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.
Jared Lee Loughner needed only a few seconds to kill six people and wound another 14 last month, police say.
On Jan. 8, the 22-year-old mentally disturbed Arizona man pushed a high-capacity, 33-round magazine into the stock of his Glock 19 pistol and pulled the trigger, unleashing the firearm's horrific power on innocents at a Tucson Safeway grocery store.
The gun and magazine Loughner used to wound U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was legal. The high-capacity 33-round magazine he used to kill Arizona Chief Federal Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor sell over-the-counter at most gun shops for about $30.
But as devastating as Loughner's arsenal was, there are far more powerful firearms legally available — not just in Arizona, but also Florida and through the Internet.
“That's nothing,” said Michelle Pickett of Loughner's weaponry, citing the rifles hanging from the wall of her Micanopy gun shop.
In Florida, military-style, semi-automatic rifles and pistols that can hold high-capacity magazines are legal, and the rifles dwarf the power and capacity of what Loughner took to the Tucson parking lot. Many of those guns are available at area gun and pawn shops.
Harry Beckwith Gun Dealer has been in business since 1955. Pickett and her husband, Jack, bought the store and pistol range almost five years ago.
At the store, 25 miles north of Ocala, civilian versions of the U.S. military M-16 hang on the wall for sale. Civilian versions of the AK-47 rifle, the weapon the Soviet Union issued to its military for decades, lean against gun racks for customers to inspect. The only difference from their military cousins is that both rifles are semi-automatic, meaning only one bullet is fired each time the trigger is pulled.
The rifles' firepower are devastating and dwarf what Loughner unleashed toward his victims.
Gun owners can attach drum-shaped magazines, holding 90 rounds or more, onto their AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles. The magazines are available at gun shops or on the Internet for about $100. Both are legal in Florida as long as the buyer is 21.
In Florida, it doesn't take much to buy a firearm. The law requires a three-day wait and criminal background check for handguns. For rifles, such as the AK-47-style rifle and the AR-15, there is no three-day wait required, only a criminal background check. Background checks are done at gun shops and take about five minutes.
For people buying on the Internet, online gun stores send handguns and rifles only to Federal Firearms License holders. Florida gun shops are FFL holders and charge about $20 to receive firearms through the mail for you.
“What is available? Anything you can pay for,” said Millie Arent, part owner of The Ocala Armory. “There is no limit.”
Guns available to Floridians run the gamut.
For many, a .22-caliber rifle is preferable. The relatively small bullet offers little recoil and is a comparatively inexpensive round.
For just under $500, Beckwith sells a Smith & Wesson pre-owned M&P 15-22 assault-style riffle, which shoots the smaller .22-caliber bullet. A 25-round magazine is included with the purchase.
Although the caliber of the bullet is small, its size shouldn't be underestimated. The Virginia Tech shooter used a Glock 9 mm handgun and a .22-caliber pistol to kill 32 people in 2007. A box of 100 rounds of .22-caliber ammo costs less than $10.
Looking for something with a little more oomph? For $539, Beckwith offers a Ruger Mini-14. The assault-style rifle also mimics the U.S. military M-16, and fires .223-caliber bullets.
The ammunition is a step up from the 0.22-caliber bullet and is the civilian version of the ammunition U.S. military forces use in their M-16 rifles. The bullet leaves the barrel at 3,100 feet per second.
U.S. military-style rifles aren't the only firearms on the market for Florida buyers.
The civilian version of the Russian AK-47 is a popular firearm.
Costing $479, Beckwith sells them with 30-round magazines. Ammunition is available at most gun shops. The cartridge, about two-thirds of an inch long, is powerful enough to pierce car doors. Walmart sells a box of 20 rounds for $4.97.
Customers wanting the complete AK-47-style package and willing to wait a few days can buy the rifle online from Atlantic Firearms LLC. The online gun shop is one of dozens that sell guns through the Internet.
The company sells its Romanian-manufactured AK-47-style rifle combo package for $449, which includes two 30-round magazines, a barrel flash hider, a bayonet and a one-year warranty.
The D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, used an AR-15 to kill at least 10 people. The North Hollywood bank robbers used AK-47s, firing nearly 2,000 rounds and wounding 11 police officers and seven civilians in 1997.
In Florida, customers also have high-capacity pistols to choose from.
The Ocala Armory has a civilian version of the MAC 10 assault pistol for $399. A 30-round magazine comes with the purchase. The pistol, which resembles a miniature machine gun, shoots 9 mm ammunition and that is available at Walmart for less than $10 for a box of 50 rounds.
Still used today, the Israeli-made Uzi weighs in at 7.7 pounds and is 18 inches long when the foldable stock is retracted. At Ocala Armory, a civilian version semi-automatic Uzi costs $699 and comes with a 32-round magazine.
For high rollers, .50-caliber rifles are also available. Although most gun stores only occasionally have them in stock, they are readily available on the Internet, starting at about $3,500.
Originally designed to shoot down enemy aircraft during World War I, the powerful, nearly 5.5 inch-long shell is also a popular sniper round. Until recently, the bullet held the record of having the longest confirmed sniper kill at 2,657 yards.
The bullet can penetrate almost an inch of armor plate at 100 yards and is available at most gun shops for about $30 for a box of 10 rounds.
Gun sellers are quick to defend the availability of the guns they sell.
“You have the ability to do just as much damage with a hunting rifle,” said Sandy Brygider, owner of Ocala Armory.
The vast majority of his customers are law-abiding citizens who enjoy the sport and hobby of collecting and shooting various firearms, including military-style rifles, he said.
Ocala Realtor Steven Whitaker has no qualms about owning his AR-15 and AR-10, both civilian versions of military assault rifles.
“I like them because it's my hobby,” Whitaker said. “In America you also have the right to buy a car that can go over 200 mph.”
Contact Fred Hiers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 352-867-4157.
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