The AR-15, a popular semi automatic rifle and target for gun con - FOX 35 News Orlando

The AR-15, a popular semi automatic rifle and target for gun control groups

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Assault rifles fall squarely in the sights of those who want to strengthen gun control laws. The AR-15, which is similar in look to the U.S. military's famous M-16 rifle, is at the top of most lists.

But it's also one of the top selling rifles in the country especially for those who want a weapon for home defense, and for what they can't predict.
    
It is at the same time the most popular and controversial gun in America. The AR-15 a civilian rifle based on the military M-16. The major difference an M-16 is fully automatic, the AR-15 is semi-automatic and only fires one round with each pull of the trigger.

They are rarely used to commit crimes, rifle's of any kind account for only a fraction of murders in America about 3 percent. There are more people killed with clubs and hammers than all rifles combined.
    
Still, AR-15's have been used in recent mass shootings including Sandy Hook Elementary, and the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Putting the rifle at the center of the debate over gun control.

"You don't need an AR-15, it's harder to aim, it's harder to use, and in fact you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself," said Vice President Joe Biden.

That of course, depends on who you ask.

There are some 5 million AR-15's in America with new ones selling as fast as manufacturers can make them. The vast majority in the hands of law abiding citizens who use them for target practice, and for some self defense.

Jeff Schillinger is a former Marine Corps weapons instructor and police officer, now he teaches the practical operation of the AR-15.

"In a few hours, they're up and running they're shooting just as fast and just as effectively as the guy that's been doing it for years," he said.

As the AR's popularity grows, more gun owners like these are training to use them in a worst case scenario.

"I remember back when I was a kid, we were told the reason Hitler never invaded Switzerland is because every man and woman knew how to operate weapons. I'm a sixth generation Texan, and I've had ancestors that fought in every war going back to the revolutionary war, it's sort of continuing their legacy," said Tom Solomon.

Ann Solomon just bought her gun and admits she was a little intimidated at first, not anymore. "Oh, I love it, it's awesome," she said.

Commercial gun sales were up 16 percent last year nationwide and according to the national shooting sports foundation, semiautomatics like the AR-15 account for a significant share of that growth.

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