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Bushmaster assault rifle weapon of choice in several mass killings

Geoffrey Ingersoll, Business InsiderGlobalPost.com

Police are now reporting that the man who ambushed first responders in Webster, New York, armed himself with a Bushmaster AR-15 "assault style" rifle, according to Russell Goldman of ABC News.

William Spengler, 62, was already convicted of murder in 1981 for the beating death of his 92-year-old grandmother, and so was ineligible to own deadly weapons. Nonetheless, local police report that he also had a pump shotgun and a .38 caliber pistol.

The man left a note which stated that he wanted to "do what I like doing best, killing people" and that he wanted to see how much of the neighborhood he could burn down. Police say he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators also say they intend to find out how Spengler came to possess these weapons illegally. 

The Bushmaster .223 has been involved in a number of high-profile shootings in the US this year — 12 killed in Aurora, Colo., 2 in Portland, Ore., 27 in Newton, Conn. Now 2 firefighters in Webster.

The AR-15 "assault" style rifle was not designed with hunting in mind. The US Army initiated research into the rifle to replace the heavy M14 with a light-weight, high-capacity ground infantry weapon. The basis for the rifle's design was that the Army had concluded that most kills with small arms happen within a range of 300 yards, so planners wanted to maximize the ability for front-line soldiers to kill enemy combatants.

Since the string of shootings, Senator Diane Feinstein pledged to put forward a bill proposal which would renew a ban "assault style" rifles. The bill has a gaping loophole, though, as it grandfathers all assault weapons currently in circulation.

Bill Clinton's ban in '94 left approximately 1.5 million assault weapons in circulation.