When Omar Mateen entered an Orlando, Florida, nightclub on Sunday to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in US history, he wielded a weapon that has been used in massacres from California to Connecticut: a military-inspired semi-automatic rifle.
Though so-called assault rifles account for a small fraction of the United States' 30,000 annual gun deaths, they have been used in at least 10 mass shootings since 2011, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine.
The prevalence of these firearms has made them a focal point in the debate over US gun laws as opponents say civilians should not own what they describe as "weapons of war." Backers say they are simply modern rifles enjoyed by millions of law-abiding Americans.
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