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.”