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Banning Assault Weapons: The Facts


The Brady Group, the leading advocate for gun-control, found that assault weapons were only involved in approximately 1.61% of gun-crimes from 1995-2004. [1]

Even before the misguided Clinton-era assault weapon ban they were only involved in 4.82% of gun-crimes. [1]  This estimate is probably inflated since it includes both rifles used in crimes and those merely suspected of being used in a crime. The ban itself is unlikely to be the cause of the decreased use of assault weapons either. For the duration of the ban, arms manufacturers produced modified versions of their semi- and fully automatic arms that bypassed the ban, basically making the same sort of firepower just as readily available. [2] In all likelihood this decrease was simply part of the currently unexplained larger trend in violent crime, which has been steadily decreasing since 1992. [3] In fact, violent-crime reached a 35-year low in 2008. [4]

Despite the continued decreases in gun-violence and violent-crime in general, President Obama has picked up gun-control as a major part of his political platform. [5]

While the Brady Group has not since provided any updated statistics, according to the FBI from 2006-2010 handguns accounted for about 48% of all homicides. [6] In contrast, rifles (both “assault” and otherwise) accounted for only 2.7% of all homicides. [6]

As for those who argue police-officers need the assault ban to protect their personnel, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) handguns accounted for 67% of all feloniously killed officers while other firearms accounted for only 24%. [7]

Out of that 24%, we can reasonably assume that assault rifles in specific account for a tiny portion of these deaths, based on the Brady estimate and the fact that shotguns and rifles usually bearing preference in such crimes due to their affordability in comparison with assault weapons. Looking at crime trends from 1976-2005 gathered by the BJS, it seems obvious that historically it has always been handguns and not assault weapons that play the biggest role in violent crimes:  [8]

(Graphic taken from the BJS)

So, if assault weapons are involved in only a tiny portion of homicides, an even tinier portion of gun-crimes in general and a probably just as tiny portion of officer fatalities, why exactly is it the ‘hot-button’ topic in gun-control debates? Should banning assault weapons really be a “top priority” for Obama in comparison with some of the other major issues that currently plague our nation? [9]

According to their own Liberal logic, if Obama and the Democrats were genuinely interested in reducing gun-violence or saving human lives they would be attempting to ban handguns or other more popular firearms, which account for the overwhelming majority of gun-violence and homicides.

What’s really going on is basically a political debate that is only political. Attempts at banning handguns or other more popular firearms would be extraordinarily unpopular among the American people, a 2013 Gallop poll indicating that only 24% of Americans, a record low, would support a handgun-ban. [10]

This is part of a historic trend opposing hand-gun bans that dates all the way
back to 1968. [10]

Such a ban would also be politically untenable given the current composition of Congress. If even the minimal gun-control plan that Obama has presented would require a congressional supermajority to be passed in its entirety then we can safely assume a much more controversial handgun ban would be just as difficult to obtain. [11]

However, an assault weapon ban gives the Obama administration the ability to say “look we did something!”, thereby scoring Democrats a few supporters from amongst the American people and pushing gun-control off the political landscape (as a significant topic) for another few years. The same thing happened during the Clinton administration, an assault weapon ban was passed and gun-control consequently fell off of the congressional docket of major issues for at least a decade. I don’t even support gun-control and I realize how counterproductive an assault weapon ban would be for those who do; if somehow passed it effectively means that that Democrats are buying a few measly concessions from Republicans in exchange for pushing off serious discussion of gun-control for another few years, possibly another decade. At the same time they will be alienating voters who believe in gun-rights, by no means a small portion of the populace. Now that’s just not smart.

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