The 26 victims in the Connecticut school shooting were all shot with a semiautomatic rifle, and USA Today reports that the .223-caliber Bushmaster has a dark history: It was also used in the 2002 DC sniper killings. After those murders, a $2.5 million judgment was leveled against the gun company and a gun dealer after a civil lawsuit. Bushmaster settled for $550,000. "There is an allure to this weapon that makes it unusually attractive," says a police chief and gun expert. "The way it looks, the way it handles—it screams assault weapon." It is, hands down, "a combat weapon," he says.
It's known for being easy to handle, accurate, and quick to get off a lot of rounds. Police say Adam Lanza used multiple 30-round rifle magazines; though it's not clear whether the expired 2004 federal assault weapons ban would have prohibited the gun, it certainly would have banned the 30-round magazines, USA Today points out. "There's a reason why these types of weapons are useful for the military," says a gun control advocate. "They have the capacity to massacre large numbers of human beings in a short amount of time. There is little or no use for these weapons for people who want to use them for self-protection or sport." (Read more Newtown, Connecticut stories.)