The guns Oklahoma City residents fired in self-defense killings this year would still be legal if legislation supported by President Barack Obama and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers becomes law.
The guns used to slaughter 20 Connecticut first graders this month and rip through Oklahoma City police officer Katie Lawson's patrol car and body in 2010 would not.
Oklahoma City residents have used deadly force to defend themselves eight times in 2012. Six times they used pistols, with a small, ordinary rifle and a knife being the weapons in the other incidents, police records show.
Proposed national legislation that has the broadest preliminary support wouldn't touch those types of guns. So far, restrictions involving high-powered, military-style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines have graced headlines.
Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty was clear about where his officers typically find those kinds of guns in the local community: in the hands of gang members and drug dealers, not ordinary metro residents defending themselves from an armed attack.
“They're just popular (with criminals),” Citty explained with a shrug. “They're superior firepower for killing another human being. That's what they're for.”
Of the eight self-defense killings in Oklahoma City this year, only one involved a homeowner defending himself from an unknown intruder, police records show. The homeowner used a .380-caliber pistol to kill the intruder.
The other incidents typically involved arguments. Two were domestic disputes. Another involved two men fighting over a woman. Another — the sole incident involving a knife — was a woman defending herself against a man.
In general, whether it's in the hands of a criminal or someone who defended themselves with deadly force, officers most often encounter pistols in the field, Citty said.
“We'll find them (heavier weapons) in (drug and gang) houses,” Citty said. “You have drive-bys where you see evidence of assault rifles being used, based on the shell casings and those types of things.”
Lawson was in her patrol car in August 2010, helping to wrap up a driving under the influence stop, when a man now facing life in prison attempted to kill her with an AR-15. The .223-caliber, high-powered rifle is the same type used to kill 26 people in the Connecticut elementary school this month.
The rifle is a derivative of the M-16, an infantryman's primary weapon originally developed during the Cold War that is still in use today. The main difference in the civilian version is that it does not have a full automatic mode, and is not designed to hold a bayonet.
Lawson's attacker fired 20 rounds without reloading, ripping through her patrol car and wounding her all over her body and face. Lawson was able to fire six rounds from her service pistol.
The police department subsequently purchased about 80 military-style weapons to keep up with guns like the one used on Lawson, Citty said.
To illustrate the problem, Citty gave The Oklahoman unprecedented access to evidence in the Lawson case, allowing journalists to photograph the weapon used in her assault and her bullet-riddled patrol car at a far earlier stage in the legal process than is customary.
Police Lt. Stuart May, who supervises the department's gang intelligence unit and primarily investigates drive-by shootings, said there were at least seven such shootings last year and seven more this year that police suspect involved military-style, high-powered rifles.
Some are of the same caliber used in an AR-15. Some are of a larger caliber, typical of Soviet-era infantry weapons like the AK-47 and SKS, and their derivatives.
“That's alarming, just because of the power of that round is much more than a pistol round,” May said.
The guns' high rate of fire and deadly power of the ammunition are destructive byproducts of what makes the gun attractive to gang members, May added.
“It's more style points for them,” May said. “It's something they see on TV, it's something they see on video games and it's something they believe they need to have.”
The expensive and flashy guns are also highly prized in home burglaries and other thefts, police spokesman Master Sgt. Gary Knight said, making law-abiding local residents who buy the guns legally become unwitting suppliers to gangsters.
May added that once a gun like that becomes part of a gang's arsenal, it's typically used multiple times in different areas. And Citty said the guns are frighteningly easy to use.
“Anybody can learn how to shoot one. That's what's so troublesome,” Citty said. “People can become very accurate. It's not that difficult. And they shoot so many rounds anymore, that eventually you're going to hit something.”