March 8, 2013
The columns and multimedia presented here explain how the AR-15 military-style assault rifle — the main gun used by the killer in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — reached the pinnacle of the firearms world through decades of twists and turns, with events that support arguments on both sides of the debate about whether to ban it.
Sources: The Black Rifle (Collector Grade Publications, 1987); Black Rifle II (Collector Grade Publications, 2004);
NRA Institute for Legislative Action; National Sport Shooting Association; Wire serivces; Courant reporting
Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corp. forms ArmaLite Division, a California business dedicated to using lightweight aluminum alloys, plastic and other aviation materials to make firearms.
First AR-15 models are delivered for testing to Fort Benning.
Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. of Hartford buys rights to the AR-15.
U.S. Air Force buys 8,500 AR-15s from Colt.
U.S. Army agrees to buy 85,000 AR-15s.
Colt Firearms introduces the Original First Issue Model R6000 Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter rifle for civilians, modified so they cannot have automatic firing setting.
Colt Firearms delivers the first AR-15's, designated as the M-16, to the Army in a ceremony in Hartford.
Colt makes M-16 rifles in Hartford for the Army at a rate of as many as 50,000 a month.
Saigon falls, Vietnam war ends.
At least 300 Colt workers lose jobs as AR-15/M-16 sales decline. Layoffs will continue for 4 years.
Dick Dyke buys Bushmaster Firearms in Maine, starts making Bushmaster AR-15 rifles.
Rambo makes his first big-screen appearance in First Blood, raising the profile of assault weapons.
Colt completes M-16 A2 version, a redesign of the rifle.
Assailant kills 21, wounds 19, with a 9mm semiautomatic Uzi in San Ysidro, Calif.
Ad by Colt with a rugged rancher holding an AR-15 cited by Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence as an example of aggressive marketing.
Congress outlaws manufacture and possession of most fully-automatic firearms.
Army awards $112 million contract for M16 A2 to FN Mfg. Inc. of South Carolina, a Belgian-owned firm, in a blow to Colt still suffering through a lengthy strike.
Assailant using an AK-47 kills five children and injures six others in Stockton, Cal., setting off a national debate about military-style weapons.
President George H.W. Bush orders a partial ban on imports of military-style weapons. Ban is broadened in July, includes AK-47's and Uzi's.
Colt agrees to stop selling AR-15's to civilians, inciting anger among gun-rights advocates; Bushmaster and other manufacturers do not follow suit.
Connecticut General Assembly adopts mandatory waiting period for all firearms.
Ending a 4-year strike, Colt's parent company sells firearms division to a partnership of workers, managers, outside investors and the state, which kicks in $25 million from the state pension fund. Colt quickly reintroduces the Sporter civilian model AR-15.
In Operation Desert Storm, U.S. troops liberate Kuwait from Iraq, highlighting the M-16 (the military version of the AR-15).
U.S. Supreme Court refuses final appeal by National Rifle Association seeking reversal of 1986 machine gun ban.
Colt's produces the M-4, a shorter version of the M-16 which will become wildly popular after use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Partial federal ban on assault weapons begins and lasts 10 years. A ban continues in Connecticut and a few other states.
Production of AR-15-type rifles not for export or military use passes 100,000. Bushmaster is leader with 64,374; Colt makes 25,533.
World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
U.S. invades Iraq.
Stag Arms is formed in New Britain by Mark Malkowski, a local native whose family is in machine business.
Cerberus Capital buys Bushmaster as part of its roll-up of at twelve firearms and related companies, including Remington Arms and Marlin Firearms. Cerberus forms Freedom Group and closes several factories in New England.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released, highlighting the M4.
Obama election pushes military-style rifle sales up sharply on fears of greater gun control.
Remington, Smith & Wesson, Sturm, Ruger all start manufacturing AR-15s.
Mossberg & Sons in North Haven, 90-year-old maker of hunting rifles, introduces AR-15 models.
Assailant kills 20 children, six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown with an AR-15. Earlier he had killed his mother and, later, himself with different guns.
Stephen Feinberg, who controls Cerberus and Freedom Group, announces Cerberus will quit the firearms business. Feinberg's father, Martin, is a Newtown resident.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs strict gun-control legislation that was adopted after rapid, secret negotiations.
Obama and Vice President Biden announce sweeping gun control measures.
Lawmakers and Governor Dannel P. Malloy negotiate a stricter gun control bill for Connecticut.
Copyright © 2015, The Hartford Courant