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For Immediate Release

Press Release

New VPC Report Details Marketing and Production History of Assault Rifle Used in Aurora, CO, the Smith & Wesson M&P15

Describes How It and Other Assault Rifles Differ from Sporting Semiautomatic Rifles

Colorado mass shooter James Holmes’ alleged use of a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle "demonstrates the clear and present danger of a gun designed for war and ruthlessly marketed for profit to civilians" according to a new report, Understanding the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Used in the Aurora, Colorado Mass Murder (, released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).

The report details Smith & Wesson's 2006 introduction of the M&P15 (M&P stands for Military & Police) semiautomatic assault rifle, its marketing, production numbers, and role in the company’s profits. A case study in the value of the assault weapons market to the overall gun industry, the M&P15 assault rifle is the first rifle produced by Smith & Wesson in the modern era. The study also details the military history of assault rifles and the specific anti-personnel design features designed for "spray fire" and "hosing down" an area that make assault rifles a distinct class of firearm separate from traditional sporting semiautomatic weapons. It also details the gun industry's ongoing, multi-year campaign to attempt to "rebrand" semiautomatic assault rifles as "modern sporting rifles."

From 2006 through 2010, Smith & Wesson manufactured 277,806 M&P15 assault rifles. Production for 2009 and 2010 topped 100,000 for each year. Upon the assault rifle's introduction in 2006, Smith & Wesson told Shooting Industry magazine, “We believe the features of these tactical rifles make them strong contenders in the military and law enforcement markets...We also believe that our M&P rifle series fills a tremendous gap in the marketplace by delivering high-quality, feature-rich tactical rifles that will be readily available in commercial channels.” By 2012, the company's chief executive called the Military & Police line of products “both a brand and product platform,” adding, “It’s really about modern polymer pistols and Modern Sporting Rifles, also known as tactical rifles.”

The study concludes, " James Holmes demonstrated once again in Colorado, call them what you will--'black rifles,' 'tactical rifles,' or 'modern sporting rifles'-- military-style semiautomatic assault weapons are plain and simply killing machines."


The Violence Policy Center (VPC) works to stop gun death and injury through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration. Founded in 1988 by Executive Director Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, the VPC informs the public about the impact of gun violence on their daily lives, exposes the profit-driven marketing and lobbying activities of the firearms industry and gun lobby, offers unique technical expertise to policymakers, organizations, and advocates on the federal, state, and local levels, and works for policy changes that save lives.

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