NBC News has the first (relatively) clear image of the rifle used by Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, in his not-quite-quite-a mass shooting at Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport yesterday. Ciancia walked into the terminal through a “secure” exit and began shooting, specifically targeting TSA employees. He was finally dropped by armed Airport Police with four shots and is in critical condition. Unfortunately, he was not stopped before killing TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. 

Three more TSA agents are recovering in area hospitals.

The rifle recovered at the scene (in the photo above) is indeed an AR-15 variant, which is not surprising considering the fact that the 50-year-old AR-15 is the most common rifle sold in the United States.


What is a bit more surprising is that the rifle and it’s apparently standard-capacity 30-round magazine do not appear on first glance to be California legal or New Jersey legal. Ciancia is originally from New Jersey, but recently moved to Los Angeles.

It’s difficult to tell for certain considering the quality of the photograph, but it does not appear that the rear back-up iron sight (BUIS) is deployed on the rifle, and appears to be laying flat on top of the upper receiver. This means that Ciancia could not have been using the rifle’s sights.

This bizarre mistake rather strongly suggests that he never fired the rifle before going on his shooting spree, and that he was unfamiliar with how the rifle operated.

How did a man relatively new to the state of California acquire a banned firearm and magazines, and what prompted him to go on a shooting spree with a firearm he apparently didn’t even know how to properly deploy?

Unfortunately, the photo showing Ciancia’s rifle creates more questions about his attack than it answers.