The primary weapon used in the Connecticut school massacre — a semiautomatic assault rifle — has a history in high-profile incidents of gun violence in the U.S.
The .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle also was the weapon of choice in the 2002 Washington-area sniper shootings, which left 10 dead and three wounded in a series of attacks that terrorized the capital region.
The gun, weapon analysts say, has a reputation for easy handling and deadly accuracy.
"There is an allure to this weapon that makes it unusually attractive," said Scott Knight, former chairman of the International Chiefs of Police Firearms Committee. "The way it looks, the way it handles — it screams assault weapon."
Knight, who also is police chief of Chaska, Minn., said the gun's practical application is little more than "a combat weapon."
"Simply put, it can get off a large number of rounds in a matter of seconds," Knight said. "That's what makes it attractive and also so dangerous."
In the school shooting, Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver said all 26 victims were hit multiple times, suffering "devastating" wounds, all apparently traced to the rifle.
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said Sunday that the shooter used "multiple" 30-round rifle magazines in the attack.
The weapon, Carver said, delivers bullets "designed in such a fashion (that) the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullets stay in."