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It took a newspaper columnist 7 minutes to buy an AR-15

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How long does it take to legally get your hands on an assault rifle similar to the one used in the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida — the deadliest in US history? According to Philadelphia Inquirer Daily News columnist Helen Ubinas, the answer is seven minutes.

Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the 29-year-old American-born shooter who killed 49 people and sent dozens more to the hospital, legally bought a handgun and assault rifle from a licensed Florida gun shop in the weeks prior to staging his attack. He passed the background check and had no criminal record; it was easy.

It was easy for Ubinas, too. "Seven minutes. From the moment I handed the salesperson my driver's license to the moment I passed my background check," Ubinas wrote.

She went to the store expecting to need an explanation, or at least to spend an extended amount of time filling out forms. Instead, the assault rifle she was about to buy — similar to the one Mateen used in Orlando — was "on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week." She filled out less paperwork than she does at a routine doctor’s appointment, and it cost less than $800.

"I told the guy I was on a budget, so I got an AR-15 for $759.99. God bless America," Ubinas wrote.

It shouldn’t be surprising given the United States' recent tragic history with mass shootings — there have been at least 1,000 mass shootings in the US since Sandy Hook in 2012. Ubinas wrote:

If it wasn't so easy to get a gun in this country, the 29-year-old gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a popular gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday wouldn't have been able to buy the weapon he used to kill 49 people and injure 53.

If it wasn't so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn't be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that's as much a part of this country as the American flag.

Ubinas decided to turn the gun in to the police: "Spoiler alert: It takes longer than it does to buy a gun."

Go deeper:

  • The United States has some of the most lax gun control laws in the world. Vox’s German Lopez compares the gun laws in the US with laws in four other rich countries.
  • America has a gun problem. Lopez explains.
  • Gun control is one way to address terrorism, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp argues: "The more we treat terrorism as something totally separate from, and scarier than, our gun problem, the more we help terrorists seem stronger than they are."

18 charts that explain gun violence in America