READ: It Took This Writer Just 7 Minutes to Buy the Rifle Used in the Pulse Shooting

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 14, 2016

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) confirmed that Omar Mateen used a legally purchased semiautomatic pistol and AR-type rifle to kill 49 people in an Orlando gay nightclub on June 12.

On June 13, writer Helen Ubiñas walked into a gun shop in Philadelphia to see just how hard it would be to buy her own AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Then she wrote about the experience for

Seven minutes.

That’s how long it took me to buy an AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Seven minutes. From the moment I handed the salesperson my driver’s license to the moment I passed my background check. It likely will take more time than that during the forthcoming round of vigils to respectfully read the names of the more than 100 people who were killed or injured.

It’s obscene.


Maybe surprising to some—though it shouldn’t be, not at this point in our bloody, hate-filled history.

She writes about trying to concoct a story to explain why she was buying the gun, only to find that she didn’t need one:

The gunman was apparently enraged over seeing a same-sex couple kiss. Think about that. Love enraged him. Love made him kill.

But I try not to think about any of that as I drive over to the gun shop in Philadelphia. I need to come up with some plausible story, I think. What if I’m asked why, a day after this massacre, I want to buy the very type of gun used to slaughter people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

I consider my options:

I’m a woman who wants a rifle for safety reasons?

I’m a gun enthusiast with a soft spot for military-style rifles?

I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA who is afraid the government will be coming for my guns?

Turns out I don’t need a story. The AR-15 is on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week.

What will it take to buy one, I ask the sales guy.

Did I have identification? Yes.

Was I a U.S. citizen? Yes.

“Bingo” the friendly gun shop sales guy said. “All we have to do is fill paperwork out.” I’ve filled out more paperwork at the doctor’s office for a routine checkup than I did Monday afternoon.

After telling the story of her interaction with another patron who said the Orlando shooting was about “Islamic terrorism,” not about access to guns, she writes:

So pick whatever reason or narrative matches your politics or agenda. Have at it, because the truth is that while they all play a part, what’s really destroying this country is fear and hate. A festering fear and hate that we better think about when it’s time to vote for our next president, because the fear and hate is not all coming from the outside. It’s not all from some unnamed foreign bogeyman. Increasingly it’s from within, from down the street, the next state over, the next potential leader of this country.

Read Ubiñas’ entire essay here.