Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Did the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban work? Actually…yes

Alex Seitz-Wald has done an excellent job in Salon of organizing and evaluating statistics that relate to the success of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  Having expired in 2004, the question was whether or not it had helped reduce gun violence while in effect.  The answer is that it did, especially when you consider the main obstacle the results were up against.  In 1996 Congress passed a law limiting the use of gun violence data collected that could be used to analyze this issue.  Naturally, this was backed and promoted by the National Rifle Assn. (NRA). 

Although Obama has issued a memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies to conduct more gun violence research in the future, fortunately one group did not wait for this to happen and compiled their own data on the success of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  In the Salonarticle, it accuses the National Rifle Assn. (NRA) of misleading the American public on assault weapons.  It’s full of loopholes, Seitz-Wald says, and there are studies confirming that the ban was effective. 

Congress required an assessment of the law in 1999 which was paid for by the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Department of Justice.  Conducting the investigation were two criminologists, Christopher Koper and Jeffrey Roth.  The report was updated in 2004, evaluating everything from homicides to gun prices.  To start, it was found that banned guns and magazines were used in up to 25% of gun crimes before the ban.  Assault pistols were used more than assault rifles also finding large-capacity magazines were the biggest problem.

Comments on 2013 assault weapons ban:

I did a blog back in January, “NRAafraid of gun violence statistics,” that examined this issue of the missing gun violence data.  I came to the conclusion that, although the NRA made sure we can’t use the numbers, we still know that the gun violence is caused by guns.  No matter who is doing it or where they got the weapon, it was a gun that caused the injury or death.  Without the “death data” the gun manufacturers continue to sell more firearms and pour more money into the coffers of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA.  It is truly a vicious circle.

Not in the defense of assault weapons but more facing the reality of just what kind of gun control legislation might pass a much prejudiced Congress, my blog, “Would banning highcapacity magazines and requiring universal background checks be a good start tostricter gun control?” asks whether limiting these magazines to no more than ten rounds would at least be a start.  The Salon article reported that assault weapons accounted for only a fraction of the total gun deaths overall.  It was the high-capacity magazines that really caused the mayhem.
The infamous AR-15

As an example, Seitz-Wald says, “the same .223 Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle was used  in the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, the shooting at the Clackamas Mall in Oregon, the Newtown elementary school shooting, and, just a few days ago, the killing of two firefighters in upstate New York.”  Jared Loughner in Tucson used a 33-round high-capacity magazine, Seung-Hui Cho used a 15-round magazine at Virginia Tech.  The big question here is whether curbing the size of the magazine would limit the effectiveness of the assault weapon?

Following are additional factors found in the recent independent gun violence research:

· An October 2012 study from Johns Hopkins concluded that “easy access to firearms with large-capacity magazines facilitates higher casualties in mass shootings.”

· Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also shows a significant drop (66%) in assault weapon usage in gun crimes following the 1994 ban.

· The 10-year ban was also complicated by the fact that millions of pre-ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines meant that any progress in stopping the violence would be gradual. The real results of the ban may not be known for years.

Seitz-Wald concludes with a comparison between American gun violence and our lack of gun control and Australia’s enactment of an assault weapons ban following a 1996 massacre killing 36 people.  Gun-related homicide plummeted by 59 percent.  In my 2012 blog, “Australia: Another gun control successstory,” I wrote about this carnage where the shooter also used an AR-15 assault rifle.  Are the citizens of Australia and some European countries with tough gun control laws more intelligent than the U.S. or do they just love life more?

I urge you to read the Salonarticle.

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