Here's why it's easier to buy an AR-15 than a handgun
AR-15 (M4A1) (Shutterstock)

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 assault rifle to murder 17 of his former classmates — and it's likely he acquired the weapon with more ease than it would take to buy a handgun.

The New York Times reported Thursday that in the state of Florida, AR-15s are easier to purchase than handguns because they require a far less extensive background check, making the start-to-finish wait time to buy one a matter of minutes.

"While Florida has a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases, anyone without a felony record, domestic abuse conviction or a handful of other exceptions can walk into a gun store, wait a few minutes to clear a background check, and walk out with an AR-15-style rifle, magazines and ammunition," the report continued.

The age limits are different too — one must be 21 years old to buy a handgun, but the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle is 18.

The National Rifle Association, the Times noted, considers the AR-15 "the most popular rifle in America."

It remains unclear how Cruz purchased the rifle he used during yesterday's massacre, but a classmate said he'd bragged about having and using guns in the past.

The AR-15, as both the Times and "Newtown Congressman" Chris Murphy (D-CT) noted, has been used in a number of mass shootings in recent years, including the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas shootings last year.

"These are copycat killings,” Murphy told MSNBC's Chris Hayes last night. “It used to be there was a greater diversity of weapon used. Not anymore — it’s an AR-15 every single time. There’s a deadliness to the weapon that’s unique.”