Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Now Aurora, Colo.

The names and places are linked by tragedy, death and the Glock semiautomatic handgun.

The young men who carried out these mass shootings — and analysis says such killers are almost always male and most often young — all counted at least one of these versatile, easy-to-fire pistols in their arsenals.

In Aurora, James Holmes carried a .40-caliber Glock along with a shotgun and an assault rifle into the movie theater where he killed 12 people and wounded dozens more, according to federal and Colorado authorities. A second .40-caliber Glock was discovered in his car outside the theater.

Federal authorities said Holmes purchased all four weapons legally in May at two Colorado stores.

When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a Tucson suburb on Jan. 8, 2011, he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Giffords (D), with a 9mm Glock 19. And Seung Hui Cho used a Glock 19 along with a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol to kill 32 people and wound 17 at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, before killing himself.

“Certain guns have a reputation of being especially deadly,” James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University and an expert in mass shootings, said in reference to the Glock semiautomatic. “They would be the weapons of choice. Contrary to popular belief that these are guys who go berserk, they tend to be well-planned executions. They plan what they are going to wear and what weapons to bring.”

Police said that Holmes was clad from head to toe in black body armor. Cho and Loughner also wore all black when they carried out their shootings.

Law enforcement sources said Holmes purchased his guns at two local branches of nationwide sporting goods chains — Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops.

Larry Whiteley, a spokesman for Bass Pro, said that Holmes bought one shotgun and one handgun legally from the company’s Denver outlet.

“Background checks, as required by federal law, were properly conducted, and he was approved,” Whiteley said.

A spokesman for Gander Mountain said it was “fully cooperating with this ongoing investigation.” A spokesman for Glock Inc., the Austrian company’s U.S. subsidiary, could not be reached.

Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said Glocks are popular because they are reliable and relatively easy to use. He said that the .40-caliber Glock is one of the largest-caliber handguns available. “The bullets it fires are larger,” he said. “They put bigger holes in things.”

Like other mass shootings, Friday’s attack sparked calls for more gun control.

“In America today, where virtually anyone with a credit card and a grudge can outfit their own personal army, mass shootings are as predictable as they are tragic,” the Violence Policy Center said in a statement.

Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the community.” He declined to further comment on the Colorado shooting “until all the facts are known.”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.