The modern age has seen some of humanity’s greatest achievements: The internet, space exploration and a massive reduction in country versus country wars. With progress comes change, which can sometimes result in tragedy. One of these tragedies is the rise of mass shootings across the United States.

Despite the publicity and wide coverage of these events, knowledge of what causes the destruction is fairly limited. Both sides of the political spectrum frequently mention firearm terms that remain unexplained to the public. With so many candidates entering the election with a platform for gun reform, it’s important for voters to understand the realities of gun legislation, including the weapons used in mass shootings.

Perhaps the most commonly mentioned weapon in both pro and anti-gun media is the AR-15. The AR stands for “Armalite Rifle,” referring to the company that first produced the rifle for the United States Air Force. AR does not actually mean “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.” The AR-15 as it is known today is a civilian version of the military M4 rifle. Unlike the military version, the AR only fires in semi-automatic. This means that each time the user pulls the trigger, a bullet is fired. Conversely, only military versions have the capability to Magazine for weapon variety, but depending on state law, consumers can purchase ten rounds to one hundred and twenty rounds. One of the reasons the AR-15 is so popular is its modularity. Almost every part of the weapon can be customized or changed to include the barrel, stock, sights, trigger and virtually every other piece of equipment.

Regardless of your perspective on the gun control debate, it is important to know the facts behind your belief. Keep in mind a few basic facts before you engage in debate with someone: Firearms of any kind are dangerous and should be treated as such; AR-15’s and other military style weapons are not inherently more or less dangerous than other guns, but they were originally designed with the implicit purpose of serving on a battlefield. Remember that millions of these rifles exist in the United States, along with tens of millions of other types of firearms – important to remember if you plan to discuss regulations on a federal level. Finally, don’t forget the Second Amendment is a Constitutional right, brought about by the founding fathers to protect future generations of Americans.

Should more restrictions be brought on what kinds of firearms are available to the public? That’s up to you, the voter. But before you sign your name next to a ballet, be sure to look up the facts behind the belief you support.