MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
That weapon that David just mentioned, the AR-15, was not only used in last Friday's school shooting. It was also used this month by a gunman who killed shoppers at a mall in Oregon. And it was used back in July in the attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The semiautomatic AR-15 is essentially a civilian version of the military's M-16. And it is, according to the NRA, the country's best-selling firearm.
To better understand its appeal to gun owners, we turn to Malcolm Brady. He's a retired assistant director with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And he used to carry an AR-15 in the military.
MALCOLM BRADY: It probably is the best-selling weapon and it's probably because it's a very well-made weapon. They can fashion that weapon to pretty much be whatever you want it. You know, it can come in different colors. It can come with different magazines. It can come with different stocks. And it carries a very popular round that's easy to buy and it's not that expensive. The weapon has a, shall we say, a Rambo effect, just cool to carry.
BLOCK: You said not that expensive, what would the price range be?
BRADY: You can get a real knocked down model for probably for around 500. I mean, that is really a scaled-back model. Anything with good sights and good target pooling and magazines and stocks, it's going to run near a thousand dollars or more.
BLOCK: I have to ask you, Mr. Brady, you're talking about the coolness of a weapon that was just used to mow down 20 children.
BRADY: When I say cool, it's cool because a lot of dedicated people that are entitled to carry that weapon, and carried it in the military, would like to shoot it. They see it from the aspect of reliving their days in the military. That's when I say cool.
BLOCK: Do you think, Mr. Brady, that a shooting like we've seen will tarnish the reputation of this weapon, will make gun owners less likely to want to buy it?
BRADY: I think you'll see a very large increase in the people that want to buy it.
BRADY: And it may be for protection. It may be for the coolness. And it may be for the fact that people will be in fear that the weapon will be put back on a banned level, and they want to obtain it before it is banned again. But I think you will see the popularity of it and the purchase of them increase drastically, in between now and the holidays, near Christmas.
BLOCK: But let me go back to this notion that in the aftermath of this horrific shooting, where we have seen the faces of these children who were killed by this weapon, how can you say that that will actually increase sales?
BRADY: Because the people that will be buying them are buying them in the premise that: I can prevent that same thing happening at my house or my business or my location. Well, you know, I don't necessarily agree with it, but that's the perspective. And that's why I say you'll see an increase in the sale of these type weapons between now and the holidays.
BLOCK: In terms of the lethality of the AR-15, Mr. Brady, would this weapon be considered any more deadly, say, than the handguns that the shooter in Newtown was carrying, the Glock and the Sig Sauer?
BRADY: At the range that he shot this weapon and the amount, as I understand it, the amount of rounds that he used on each individual child, it would have made no difference if it were the Glock or the Sig Sauer.
BLOCK: I wonder, Mr. Brady, if this shooting at the school in Connecticut has made you rethink anything about this weapon; that you said as you yourself carried this in the military.
BRADY: Personally, I don't own one. I don't intend to ever own one. If I were a target shooter, maybe. But with all weapons - and I do have my own - I keep them under lock and key, as I did growing up. And I've taught safety to my children, which is paramount. And even to this day, if my son and I are looking at weapons, the first thing he does, and the first thing I do if it's put into my hand, is check it for safety factors. It's just hard to say, you know, if it will change or not. Myself, I would never own one of them. But I can understand why people would.
BLOCK: Malcolm Brady is a retired assistant director with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Mr. Brady, thank you.
BRADY: Thank you very much. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.