Assault weapons bans in other states

Assault Weapons

In addition to New York (see above), Massachusetts and New Jersey, have enacted similar bans. Cook County of Illinois has also enacted a similar, but more restrictive ban. California enacted one of the first bans on semi-automatic rifles in 1989, adding stricter measures to the law several times since. Connecticut has enacted a partial ban.

Lack of Effect on crime

It was also noted that should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence would likely be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement due to assault weapons rarely being used in gun crimes even before the ban. It should also be noted that the United States Department of Justice has not clarified as to whether or not the “assault weapons” used in violent crime were semi-automatic or automatic weapons, and what percentage of semi-automatic (“assault weapons” under legal definition) were used in violent crimes.

A 1999 preliminary study commissioned by the Department of Justice on the Assault Weapons Ban found that gun murders dropped 11% from 1994 to 1995, though the “limited study time frame weakens the ability of statistical tests to discern effects that may be meaningful from a policy perspective,” therefore the ban’s “short-term influence on gun violence has been uncertain, due perhaps to the continuing availability of grandfathered assault weapons, close substitute guns and large capacity magazines, and the relative rarity with which the banned weapons were used in gun violence even before the ban.”

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) blamed the gun industry: “Soon after its passage in 1994, the gun industry made a mockery of the federal assault weapons ban, manufacturing ‘post-ban’ assault weapons with only slight, cosmetic differences from their banned counterparts. The VPC estimates that more than one million “assault weapons” have been manufactured since the ban’s passage in 1994.”

In 2001, Koper and Roth of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, published a peer-reviewed paper called The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban on Gun Violence Outcomes: An Assessment of Multiple Outcome Measures and Some Lessons for Policy Evaluation. They found that: “The ban may have contributed to a reduction in gun homicides, but a statistical power analysis of our model indicated that any likely effects from the ban will be very difficult to detect statistically for several more years. We found no evidence of reductions in multiple-victim gun homicides or multiple-gunshot wound victimizations. The findings should be treated cautiously due to the methodological difficulties of making a short-term assessment of the ban and because the ban’s long-term effects could differ from the short-term influences revealed by this study.”

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence examined the impact of the Assault Weapons Ban in a 2004 report entitled On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act. The report looked at 1.4 million guns involved in crime and determined that “since the law’s enactment … assault weapons have made up only 1.61% of the guns ATF has traced to crime — a drop of 66% from the pre-ban rate” and that the Act prevented 60,000 assault weapon crimes over its 10-year period.

Other views of the ban’s effectiveness at reducing crime have been more critical; indeed, many authorities have questioned as to whether crime reduction was the principal intent of the Assault Weapons Ban. According to Dave Workman, the senior editor of GunWeek, a publication of the Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation:

“The Clinton-era ‘assault weapons ban’ was more symbolic than anything else. The reason it was so overwhelmingly supported by the gun control movement was because it represented a federal ban on firearms based on cosmetic circumstances – what they looked like – not on their lethality. It was to condition the public to accept a piecemeal destruction of the Second Amendment.”


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