Economist John Lott has a very interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal relating “The Facts About Assault Weapons and Crime.” He relates much useful information about the nature of “assault weapons” – those chimerical beasts whose ever-shifting identity depends almost entirely on what they look like.
Lott addresses Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her push for a renewed “assault weapons ban,” and very politely calls her a liar:
Ms. Feinstein points to two studies by criminology professors Chris Koper and Jeff Roth for the National Institute of Justice to back up her contention that the ban reduced crime. She claims that their first study in 1997 showed that the ban decreased “total gun murders.” In fact, the authors wrote: “the evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that there was any meaningful effect (i.e., that the effect was different from zero).”
Messrs. Koper and Roth suggested that after the ban had been in effect for more years it might be possible to find a benefit. Seven years later, in 2004, they published a follow-up study for the National Institute of Justice with fellow criminologist Dan Woods that concluded, “we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”
Moreover, none of the weapons banned under the 1994 legislation or the updated version are “military” weapons. The killer in Newtown used a Bushmaster .223. This weapon bears a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The call has frequently been made that there is “no reason” for such “military-style weapons” to be available to civilians.
Yes, the Bushmaster and the AK-47 are “military-style weapons.” But the key word is “style”???they are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, not in the way they operate. The guns covered by the original were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military, but semiautomatic versions of those guns.
Lott is willing to let Feinstein off the hook for merely “misunderstanding” this research, but that’s absurdly considerate of him. She’s lying, and she knows it. Like Barack Obama, she has a gigantic staff, and there is zero chance her researchers were unaware of what the original or follow-up studies by Koper and Roth actually said. The original study said it could find no evidence of a link between the “assault weapons ban” and reduced crime; the follow-up study, which is now over eight years old, confirmed there was no such link; but Feinstein asserts the studies proved such a link.
As with Barack Obama’s phony “40 percent of guns are sold without background checks” propaganda, this is not a minor slip of the tongue, or an understandable error made while processing complex data. It is the deliberate twisting and misrepresentation of research to advance a political agenda. The fact that gun-control zealots can’t advance their arguments without resorting to such deceptions is telling.
Lott lays out the real numbers, which should be highly relevant to anyone who still regards this as a reasoned debate:
Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report. By 2011, the murder rate fell to 4.7 per 100,000 people. One should also bear in mind that just 2.6% of all murders are committed using any type of rifle.
The large-capacity ammunition magazines used by some of these killers are also misunderstood. The common perception that so-called “assault weapons” can hold larger magazines than hunting rifles is simply wrong. Any gun that can hold a magazine can hold one of any size. That is true for handguns as well as rifles. A magazine, which is basically a metal box with a spring, is trivially easy to make and virtually impossible to stop criminals from obtaining. The 1994 legislation banned magazines holding more than 10 bullets yet had no effect on crime rates.
And he makes an interesting point about the superficially appealing reliance upon gun registration:
Guns are very rarely left behind at a crime scene. When they are, they’re usually stolen or unregistered. Criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind guns that are registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered guns are left at crime scenes, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved even without registration.
Canada recently got rid of its costly “long-gun” registry for rifles in part because the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Chiefs of Police could not provide a single example in which tracing was of more than peripheral importance in solving a gun murder.
There is one empirically demonstrable factor that links all but one of the mass shootings that have occurred in the past half-century. You can probably already guess what it is. If not, here’s a hint: it’s something that people who want to expand the power of the State do not want to talk about. Click here and scroll to the end of John Lott’s article if you really need the answer spelled out.