NPR

The Pistol That Looks Like A Rifle: The Dayton Shooter's Gun

The gun used in Dayton has the same core component as an AR-15-style rifle. It also had a 100-bullet magazine. But it's legally considered a pistol.
The gun used in the Dayton shooting (top) has a barrel that's shorter than the federal minimum for a rifle. Legally classified as a pistol, it was fed by a 100-round "double-drum" magazine (lower left). A closeup of the gun's lower receiver (bottom right) shows the only part of the gun that is legally considered a firearm. Source: Courtesy of Dayton Police Department

The gun that was used on Saturday to kill nine people and wound more than a dozen others in Dayton, Ohio, inflicted that damage in just 30 seconds. But while the weapon might look like a rifle to many people, under federal law, it's technically classified as a pistol.

The AR-15-style pistol used in Dayton is capable of pouring a stream of high-velocity bullets, thanks to its huge ammunition magazine. Before it was turned against civilians, the gun was built from easily obtained components — leading to questions about America's gun laws and a gray area that exists between traditional categories such as rifles and pistols.

"You're talking, really, a weapon of mass destruction that you're giving over the counter to anybody," said Joseph Vince, a former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who now works as a gun crime consultant.

Under U.S. law, the

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