Why Banning Assault Weapons Is Futile

This is another really informative article on gun control and, specifically, on the futility of an assault weapons ban. Even though I’m generally well-informed on gun-control there were a lot of very surprising facts in here.

For example, the Virginia Tech shooter had nearly 20 magazines in his backpack, which is the reason he was able to reload so quickly. I’d always known that even 10-round magazines (the proposed limit in Senator Feinstein’s new version of the assault weapons ban) would provide ample bullets in theory, but I didn’t realize there was such a stark and tragic real-world example of this fact.

The article also includes two examples of assault weapons being used in actual home defense stories. In one, a 15-year old boy protected his 12-year old sister when 2 men broke into their home by firing at them with an AR-15 rifle. The story was actually well-publicized, but most journalists left out the fact that the rifle he used was an assault rifle.

In any case, read the entire thing and send it along to your friends.

10 thoughts on “Why Banning Assault Weapons Is Futile”

  1. The other problem is that the assault style rifles are not conducive to concealment and account for such a small portion of violent crimes/deaths overall that it’s a great deal of hoopla over an incredibly ineffectual use of banning something. It takes about 2 seconds to reload a semi-auto pistol if you’ve trained properly, only a second or two more if you haven’t.

    I’m not trying to diminish the sadness and loss of those this year in the mass shootings, it is indeed sad and definitively there do need to be some changes. Banning ‘anything’ that holds more than 10 rounds isn’t going to be effective either, since many semi-auto pistols are included in that category.

    My two questions are this:1 How is it you think a criminal will be dissuaded from killing with guns by a law? 2 What will you do when the criminal is holding the ‘assault’ rifle with a high capacity magazine and you only have a couple of rounds?

    The solution doesn’t lie in banning the weapons or magazines. Those aren’t the problem, they are simply the tool used to express the outcome of a problem. Address the problems causing these situations and provide people with an empowered way to respond and these types of things will decrease.

    They will still happen, nutjobs come from everywhere and there isn’t a way to be 100% foolproof on a solution. Removing self defense capabilities from law abiding citizens isn’t the solution.

  2. But I don’t think the position of Assault Weapons Ban proponents is that the ban would have made an impact on specific incidents of gun violence, but rather that it would make a statistical difference in the frequency and lethality of gun shootings overall.

    If we use specific incidents to manufacture an overall stance on gun control, then we would also have to concede that the plan to post armed guards in schools is futile when looking at the Columbine or Virginia Tech shootings.

  3. Matt-

    The idea that we shouldn’t base policy on specific instances is a good one, but there’s no evidence that the assault weapons ban will actually have any impact on the frequency and lethality of gun shootings overall. The rate of gun violence has actually been trending very steadily downwards over the past 10 years ago. Part of this is due to the fact that with increased medical care more people survive being shot (so this makes the homicide numbers look better), but even accounting for that the expiration of the last assault weapons ban did nothing to increase crime, so why do we think a new one will decrease crime?

    There’s just no logical reason to think the assault weapons ban will have any significant impact on anything except making some people feel like we’re “doing something”.

  4. “The solution doesn’t lie in banning the weapons or magazines. Those aren’t the problem, they are simply the tool used to express the outcome of a problem. Address the problems causing these situations and provide people with an empowered way to respond and these types of things will decrease.”

    That’s all well and good, but unless there’s specific legislation that accomplishes what you’re talking about, then we’re not really making any tangible progress towards a safer America.

    Increased gun legislation will not end gun violence. That isn’t in question. I think the question is considering how relatively lax gun legislation is in America, isn’t it possible that stricter laws might make ANY difference in the frequency and severity of mass shootings? And to answer this question, we should rely on more than just our opinions but rather documented statistics from states with more gun legislation and other 1st world countries with more more gun legislation.

  5. Matt-

    >>isn’t it possible that stricter laws might make ANY difference in the frequency and severity of mass shootings?< < I sincerely doubt it. The worst mass shooting in history was in Norway, and there are plenty of other terrible shootings in countries with much stricture gun laws than the US: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/timeline-worst-mass-shootings-globe-article-1.1220608 >>And to answer this question, we should rely on more than just our opinions but rather documented statistics from states with more gun legislation and other 1st world countries with more more gun legislation.<< It's a good idea, but the problem is twofold. First of all, mass-killings are so rare that you're not going to be able to find anything of statistical significance. Secondly, even if you move to regular gun homicide you still have so many cultural and measurement problems that it's hard to make any conclusions. After looking at many studies, the one thing I'm fairly confident of is that no gun control laws are likely to have a big impact in the short run for better or for worse. Gun control laws just aren't the biggest factor in determining crime rates.

  6. But “doing something” is actually a bigger deal than many would suspect. It’s a big deal for congress whose traditional position is “say a lot, do nothing”. It’s momentum. I agree that we should be hoping for effective legislation rather than just symbolic legislation, but I just hope the discussion moving forward includes the notion that SOME form of stricter gun laws is needed. That’s just my belief based on when I look at gun crime statistics in states with stricter gun laws (closing gun show loopholes, background checks, etc.)

  7. Matt-

    There is a problem, death due to injury by firearm could be anything from suicide to self defense to accidental discharge to homicide. Thankfully it is very clear about that part which I appreciated when I read it the first time. It doesn’t define just violent crime deaths (or even violent crimes where a gun was used) and it’s also only one year so you get no trending. Not to mention, statistically I think it’s something like only 3.5% (I can’t reference that technically but I’ve seen it referenced) of the total crimes committed with guns were with an assault style rifle.

    Also if you look at some of least restrictive states they have a statistical showing that’s similar to states with more restrictive laws. Secondly, the more populous states numbers skew because it’s a statistic, not a hard number. I would suggest instead to note the population of the country (as near as can be tallied), number of total deaths via guns in the country, then break down population by state with total deaths by state. That gives more definitive data to me (imho).

  8. Richard Florida’s study is certainly interesting and important to look at. I recently wrote a blog post on gun control (found here: http://theslowhunch.blogspot.com/2013/01/tickets-to-gun-show.html). As I said there, “Heated emotionalism takes place on both sides of the debate; a debate that remains largely unsettled in academia. In 2004, for example, “the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 253 journal articles, 99 books and 43 government publications evaluating 80 gun-control measures.” Legal scholar Robert Levy explains, “[NAS r]esearchers could not identify a single regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents. A year earlier, the Center for Disease Control reported on ammunition bans, restrictions on acquisition, waiting periods, registration, licensing, child access prevention and zero tolerance laws. CDC’s conclusion: There was no conclusive evidence that the laws reduced gun violence.” But as the CDC study noted, “insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness.””

    The following is merely a sample of the contradicting research regarding gun control and crime:

    John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

    John R. Lott, Jr., “The Facts About Assault Weapons and Crime,” The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 17, 2013).

    Richard Florida, “The Geography of Gun Deaths,” The Atlantic (Jan. 13, 2011).

    Ian Ayres, John J. Donohue III, “More Guns, Less Crime Fails Again: The Latest Evidence from 1977-2006,” Econ Journal Watch 6:2 (May 2009).

    Don B. Kates, Gary Mauser, “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?: A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence,” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 30:2 (Spring 2007).

    Ian Ayres, John J. Donohue III, “Shooting Down the “More Guns, Less Crime” Hypothesis,” Stanford Law Review 55:4 (2003).

    Carlisle E. Moody, John R. Lott, Jr., Thomas B. Marvell, Paul R. Zimmerman, “Trust But Verify: Lessons for Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy,” College of William & Mary Working Paper (2012).

    Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society (New York: Basic Books, 2009), Ch. 5-6.

    Gary A. Mauser, “The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales,” Public Policy Sources 71 (Fraser Institute, Nov. 2003).

    Harvard Injury Control Research Center on ‘Homicide’.

    I remember Nathaniel commenting about self-defense stories that are often overlooked in the media on a friend’s Facebook page. For self-defense, see

    Gary Kleck, Marc Gertz, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86:1 (1995).

    Clayton E. Cramer, David Burnett, “Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance From Citizens,” Cato Institute White Paper (February 2, 2012).

    The Cato Institute also has a useful map that tracks various incidents of armed self-defense: http://www.cato.org/guns-and-self-defense?state=reset

  9. Yeah, the gun-control debate leads to the epitome of “dueling studies” (pun intended). For almost every single claim you can find a couter-claim, leading me to more or less give up on trying to read them all and just decide that it’s a big ole black box. Thanks for his excellent list of studies, however. I also liked your own piece on the issue.

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