For a 10 year period, there was a federal ban on assault weapons. Between 1994-2004, the gun ban was enacted to protect people from the mass shootings that were happening in American society. Did this perceived restriction on Second Amendment rights have any effect?
Since the expiration of the federal assault weapons band, the number of shootings per year has doubled and the number of victims per year has tripled.
Federal Assault Weapons Ban
Some might point to 1999 as a year where the ban didn’t have any effect and with school shootings and other tragic events that year, there was a definite, pronounced spike in both areas. Yet with the exception of 2010, targets have been nearly equal to the 1999 high during the ban. If the purpose was to stop violence, however, the federal gun ban didn’t accomplish this.
- In 1994 when the federal assault weapons ban was approved, there were 1.5 million privately owned assault weapons that were responsible for 2% of total gun crime.
- Every assault weapon and large capacity magazine that was owned at the time of the ban was grandfathered into the law and allowed to be transferred.
- Americans are estimated to have owned 25 million guns that had large capacity magazines that were also affected by the ban.
- The large capacity magazines were more likely to be used in a crime, accounting for more than 1 in 4 gun incidents according to some studies.
- Although some communities saw a decrease of crime using banned weapons by up to 17%, there was an equal rise in the use of other guns to commit crime.
- There aren’t many studies that show statistics and behaviors when shooters have a large capacity magazine and an assault weapon, but the few that do exist suggest that this combination lends to more shots fired, more people injured, and more injuries per victim.
The whole purpose of the federal assault weapon ban was a social experiment. That’s the only way to really describe the issue since part of the law’s passage was to commission a study about the effects of the law 30 months after it was enacted. Some might point to accomplishments, such as lower overall crime rates, but crime has been trending consistently lower for the last 20 years, including the period after the assault weapon ban was allowed to expire. What was discovered in this ban was that most people don’t use assault weapons to commit a crime and those that do will either still use one or just go get a different gun to accomplish their goals.
What Has Happened After The Expiration Of The Ban?
- There has been no comprehensive study conducted on a national level to determine what has happened after the expiration of the assault weapons ban.
- In a national survey that was privately conducted, 37% of police agencies in the US have noted an increase in the amount of assault weapons being noticed on criminals that they contact.
- 53% of police agencies stated that they’ve seen an increase in the amount of large-caliber handguns.
- 38% of police agencies have stated that weapons holding 10 or more rounds have become more noticeable in their jurisdiction.
- Many weapons could be slightly modified, such as removing a bayonet lug from an AR-15, and qualify for a sale under the weapons ban so the weapons were still being sold during this 10 year period anyway.
- Only 3.7% of murders are committed with the use of guns.
When looking at the crime data, it shows that the downward trend in crime in the US began in 1992, a full two years before the assault weapons ban took place. That trend has continued since the ban was allowed to expire, even when the news is flooded with seemingly more instances of a mass shooting. This is good news, but the simple fact is that nearly 20 people are killed every day in the United States through the use of a gun, whether it is classified as a murder or not. The trends are good news, but families are still devastated by gun violence every day.
Could The Assault Weapons Ban Have Had a Reverse Effect?
- In 2003, which was the last year before the end of the weapons ban, the murder rate in the US was 5.7 per 100k people. By 2011, it fell to 4.7 per 100k people.
- The ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition had no measurable effect on crime rates.
- Long gun registry was even eliminated in Canada because not a single instance of tracing the ownership of a gun was an important component of solving a murder caused by a gun.
- In the US, nearly every mass shooting that has occurred has happened in a location where the average citizen was not allowed to legally carry a firearm.
- Police response, which is the recommended response when encountering someone with a gun, can take too long to be effective. At Sandy Hook Elementary, it took 20 minutes for police to arrive on site.
Will arming US citizens prevent crime? Maybe… or maybe not. What we do know is that the federal assault weapons ban had no discernible effect on the crime that occurred in this country. In reality, all it did was change the way people owned their weapons and how they were sold. Although it is problematic to see increases in larger weapons being used by police forces, there is something to be said of allowing the average person to be armed if they wish to be armed. Most people have no ill intent and the result is a criminal who doesn’t know which person has a gun. Would that be a detriment? As with the ban that was enacted, perhaps the only way to tell would be to just do it and then commission a 30 month study afterward.