“The (1994-2004) ‘Assault Weapon’ ban worked”

We have recently seen the resurgence of the claim that mass shootings were down during the ten years the ban was in effect, then “Shot up dramatically” immediately after it was allowed to sunset, including by Fox News’ Martha MacCallum during a show the first week of September 2019. She did not cite her source and the guest she was interviewing did not call her out to support her claim any more than the show’s producers did.  But her source was very likely a 2016 book by Louis Klarevas called Rampage Nation, which has been quoted a great deal recently by those favoring ‘assault weapons’ bans as Klarevas’ findings do indeed support this claim.  But Klarevas’ conclusions are in the minority among studies done on the effects of the ban. More importantly, he has been unwilling to share his data and methods.  This goes against scientific protocol and is always a sign that someone has done something against scientific norms – often to get a result they desired from the outset.

The 1994-2004 ‘assault weapons’ ban contained a requirement that the U.S. Department of Justice study the effect of the ban.  Not one, but two studies were done, the first in 1996 when the ban had been in effect just 2 years and the second in 2003.  The first study found that “the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.” The 2003 study echoed those findings: “AWs were used in only a small fraction of gun crimes prior to the ban: about 2% according to most studies and no more than 8%,” with most of those “assault weapon” crime guns being pistols, rather than rifles.”

The authors also conceded that the ban had no effect on the criminal use of the most often-cited target of the ban, the AR-15. “There has not been a clear decline in the use of ARs.”

Likewise, the authors saw no drop in the use of banned magazines in crime and could not “clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”

Overall, the authors concluded that were the ban to be continued or repeated, “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Based on these two studies finding that the ban had little or no measurable effect, the ban was allowed to sunset by congress, in 2004.

Many more studies have been done in the 15 years since the 2003 report. What do they say? Perhaps a study which collects the findings of many studies into one report would be helpful. Rand corporation did just that in 2018, analyzing thousands of studies done in the last decades, grading the strength of the rigor used in the studies and describing any links found between policies and laws and several intended and unintended outcomes. With regard to ‘assault weapon’ bans, “We found no qualifying studies showing that bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines decreased any of the eight outcomes we investigated” – which included violent crime generally and mass shootings specifically.

Even recent articles in leftwing media outlets – including these in New York Times, the Washington Post, Mother Jones, and the Los Angeles Times, have found little reason to believe that ‘assault weapon’ bans have had or would have the desired effect.

In light of this massive, almost unanimous data and analysis that ‘assault weapon’ bans don’t work, how on earth does a reputable news outlet repeat this myth?