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Feelings over facts: No, Gilroy shooter did not use an AK-47

Feelings over facts: No, Gilroy shooter did not use an AK-47
Reports that the 19-year-old shooter used an “AK-47 style assault rifle” to kill three people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California led to anguished calls for gun control. There was just one problem: no such weapon exists.

The suspect identified as Santino William Legan opened fire at the popular food festival venue on Sunday, fatally striking three people and injuring 15 others. In a press conference on Monday, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said Legan had used an SKS, which he described as an “AK-47 type assault rifle.” 

READ MORE: 3 dead in 'nightmare' California festival shooting, suspect shot and killed

Smithee said his officers were “outgunned” but managed to quickly stop the suspect by fatally shooting him.

Between Smithee’s description of the weapon and witness statements to the media that called it an “assault rifle” and even a “machine gun,” that was enough to start an AK-47 trend on social media – mainly with outspoken liberal activists calling for more gun control.

“An AK47 assault rifle. Again,” tweeted actress Mia Farrow. It wasn’t clear to which previous incident involving an AK she was referring.

“Every nation is home to unstable teens. Only America gives them easy access to an AK-47 and bulk ammo,” said gun control activist Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action.

“A NFL player can’t protest in America, but a nineteen year old can buy an AK-47,” tweeted activist Michael Skolnik.

Eugene Gu, a doctor who somehow finds time to respond to every tweet by President Donald Trump, actually argued that the incident showed California’s gun control laws worked perfectly, since the shooter “had to go all the way to Nevada to legally purchase an AK-47.”

Every single one of these arguments was moot, however, since the SKS is not an assault rifle, or in any way related to an AK-47. 

The SKS stands for the Self-loading Simonov Carbine, a semi-automatic rifle developed in the Soviet Union during the Second World War, years before the AK. It does not use the AK’s iconic curved magazine, either, but relies on disposable clips that hold up to 10 rounds. If the shooter fired 30 or 40 bullets, as the witnesses said, he would have had to reload three or four times.

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The only similarities between the weapons are the original muzzle break of the SKS that was copied by the AK and the 7.62 caliber ammunition used by both. Conflating the two is akin to the infamous “chainsaw bayonet” speculation by the press following the Texas church shooting in 2017 – in which both the shooter and the civilian who stopped him used ArmaLite AR-15 rifles. 

Millions of SKS rifles were produced by the Soviet Union, several Eastern European countries, China, North Korea and Vietnam. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) regulators classify the Soviet- and European-made SKS carbines as curios & relics, allowing them to be legally sold in the US.

Also on rt.com California garlic festival shooting suspect identified as Santino William Legan – reports

Legan reportedly cut his way through a security fence to bypass the checkpoints at the festival entrance. His social media posts suggest anger issues and racial or ethnic grievances, but so far his motive remains unknown.

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