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What Is A Patrol Rifle? Alleged Gun Used in Boulder Shooting

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The mass shooting at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, that left 10 people dead, including a police officer, on Monday, has reignited debate surrounding gun control after the suspect was alleged to have used a patrol rifle during the attack.

About 2:30 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon officers responded to a call about “a possible person with a patrol rifle,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told reporters.

A shirtless man was captured by KMGH footage in handcuffs as he was led away by officers, with authorities later confirming a suspect had been taken into police custody.

Police have yet to release information about how the shooter acquired the gun or what the motives were behind the attack.

However, a law enforcement source told ABC News that responding officers arrived at the scene to find a suspect “carrying a long gun” who “opened fire on them.”

Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation said the suspect used an AR-style rifle in the attack, the Wall Street Journal reported. One senior law enforcement source further clarified to CNN that the weapon used was an AR-15 style rifle.

Rest In peace Officer Eric Talley. Your service will never be forgotten #BoulderShooting pic.twitter.com/FVximvhS2E

— Boulder Police Dept. (@boulderpolice) March 23, 2021

Patrol rifles are the firearms most commonly employed by tactical units and are often carried by police officers on patrol, according to a report in the International Journal of Police Science and Management.

The National Institute of Justice 2019 report on Patrol Rifles for Law Enforcement describes these weapons as “semiautomatic or have semiautomatic firing mode and magazine-fed” and are designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder using the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.

The AR-15 rifle cited by Boulder law enforcement officers to have been used in Monday’s shooting hit the market in the early 1960s as the first civilian version of the military’s M16 rifle.

The lightweight semiautomatic rifle became one of the “most beloved and most vilified rifles” in the nation in the 2010s and “was popularized by the rise of a video game culture,” according to The New York Times.

The weapon has since become synonymous with mass shootings throughout the U.S. and was reportedly used in several high-profile incidents including the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting and the slaughter of 20 children in an attack in the Sandy Hook elementary school in central Connecticut in the same year.

File photo: A Los Angeles Police Department officer displays recovered guns from residents turning in firearms across Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2020. Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation said the suspect used an AR-style rifle in the King Soopers attack in Boulder, Colorado.
Frederic J. BROWN/Getty Images

Update 3/23/21, 9:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include an infographic.

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