the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 5

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 5

One final nail in the coffin of “assault weapon” bans is that there is no single, universal definition of “assault weapons”, so what is it, exactly, that statists want to prohibit?

Wait, no actual definition of “assault weapon”?  What do you mean?

The Federal ban of 1994 did set something of a foundation for all of the future, state bans, but even those deviated enough from the template as to have almost no consistent classification.  Consider the below table for a comparison of all the various laws’ restrictions and regulations:


“Y” of course indicates that the law at the top of the column has a restriction on the feature to the left in the row, and “N” means there is no such restriction in that law.

“I” indicates that multiple laws have similar restrictions, but they are inconsistent on the details.  For example. the California “assault weapon” ban prohibits semi-automatic firearms with fixed magazines and capacities greater than 10 rounds, while New Jersey sets that bar at 15.  Likewise, the lists of specific makes/models are so wildly different – and frequently target firearms no longer even produced – that it would take a whole separate table to adequately compare them.

Finally, Hawaii can be largely disregarded for anything except pistols – their laws are largely silent on rifles and shotguns.

So let us look at rifles.  All relevant states seem to agree that semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines as well as folding or telescoping stocks, flash suppressors, and grenade launchers are evil, though they cannot agree on whether only one of those final three items is enough for the whole rifle to be evil, or if two are required.

If you examine the table, you will see that there are another nine features for rifles that may or may not be evil, but the states simply cannot seem to agree on the finer points.

Even more amusingly, grenade launchers are already heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act, and both they and their ammunition are impressively difficult and painfully expensive to procure.  Additionally, Connecticut goes to the point of classifying rifles capable of “fully-automatic” or “burst” fire as “assault weapons”, despite those already being massively regulated and functionally banned by the combination of the National Firearms Act and the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act.

“Double Secret Probation” was supposed to be a joke, not reality.

Moving on to pistols, Maryland is largely silent on them, aside from providing a list of makes/models that constitute “assault pistols” and then only permitting firearms on the “handgun roster” to be sold in the state, so we will disregard them for this section.  The remainder of the states seem to agree that semiautomatic pistols with detachable magazines as well as a magazine that inserts into the firearm somewhere other than the pistol grip, threaded barrels, and barrel shrouds are all evil, but, again, the “one feature” / “two feature” tests are inconsistent among the laws.

Seven other features are mentioned by various laws, including some positively bone-headed ones like pistols with folding or telescoping stocks, or pistols with thumbhole stocks.  I hate to break it to the fine legislators of the great state of New York, but there is no such thing as a “pistol” with a folding or telescoping stock – federally, a firearm with a pistol-length barrel and a shoulderable stock is a short-barreled rifle, and, again, is subject to the National Firearms Act.

It’s always comforting when legislators have no idea what they’re regulating.

Finally, when it comes to shotguns, the only thing the relevant laws can agree is evil is a semi-automatic shotgun with a folding or telescoping stock, or any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

The laws cannot seem to agree on any of the other four possible restrictions, including detachable magazines, oddly enough; those are a consistent point of contention for rifles and pistols, but apparently are less of a problem for shotguns.  Of course, handguns with revolving cylinders are perfectly acceptable in any of the jurisdictions that are or were limited by “assault weapon” bans, but revolving cylinders are apparently evil for shotguns.

Consistency has never been a strong point for “gun control” legislation, or supporters.

So what do “gun control” supporters mean when they say they want to ban “assault weapons”?  No one knows, not even them.  But that’s why the concept is so powerful – it can be redefined and re-engineered to demonize any firearm that the very few funders of the “gun control” movement care to target.  One wonders if those being blindly lead around by those few 1%ers realize how little they, or their supported politicians, know about the very things they are trying to restrict.

Original Excel File


Public Law 103-322 Title XI Subtitle A Section 110102 Subsection (b), also known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act

California Penal Code 30510-30515

Connecticut General Statute Title 53 Section 202a

Hawaii Code Division 1 Title 10 Section 134-1

Maryland Code Title 4 Subtitle 3 Section 4-301

Massachusetts General Law Part I Title XX Chapter 140 Section 121

New Jersey State Code Title 14 Chapter 54 Subchapter 1

New York Penal Law Part 3 Title P Article 265 Section 00 Subsection (22)


I am not a lawyer, I did not play one on television, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  It is entirely possible that I misread the miles of legalese I just waded through over the past few days, and either missed a pertinent detail, or misread one.  If you find or notice any errors in the above table and associated post, please feel free to let me know, and I’ll update it accordingly.

graphics matter, part three

graphics matter, part three

As previously demonstrated, the hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” not only is not true, but cannot be true historically in the United States.  Despite that simple fact, “gun control” supporters still bitterly cling to the irrational notion that firearms are naught but the tools of murder and mayhem.

So let us humor them for a second.  We know that the number of firearms in circulation in America has been steadily increasing for as long as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been tracking the relevant numbers.  Likewise, the raw murder count in the States has dropped to numbers unseen since the 1960s.

However, what about the percentage of those murders committed with the assistance of a firearm?  After all, if firearms’ only purpose is to murder other people, one would think that, even if the overall murder rate is going down, the percentage of murders that involved a firearm would be going up given the increased number of firearms in the country.


Well, as with many of the things “gun control” advocates purport to be “common sense”, the reality is a little more complicated:


The grey bars track the percentage of murders that were committed with the assistance of a firearm, and, as you can see, those bars do not come anywhere close to echoing the consistent climb of the number of firearms in the United States.

In fact, the trend line for the percentages is functionally level, with a slope of 0.0006, compared to the slope of 669.64 for the number of firearms in America.  Oh, and yes, that does mean that, averaged over the past 20 years, at least 6,696,400 firearms have been produced in or imported into the United States every year.

Despite the nearly level trend line of the percentages, there does exist a correlation of 0.14784 between the number of firearms in the United States and the percentage of murders committed with the assistance of firearms.  This is, however, a tremendously weak correlation, and given the very narrow range of percentages – a maximum of 64% and a minimum of 55% – it is certainly not enough to draw any kind of causal relationship.

So, could the increased number of firearms in public circulation lead to a higher percentage of murders involving those firearms?  Based on the available data, yes, it is possible… but it has not been happening consistently yet.

Source *.xls file.

Other Sources:

Small Arms Survey of 2003

Shooting Industry News

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 4

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 4

Now that we’ve covered a variety of ways in which “assault weapon bans” do not and cannot meet their purported goals, let’s hear from the experts with regards to the efficacy of the 1994 Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, otherwise known as the “federal ‘assault weapons ban'”.  Unfortunately, this post will be markedly lacking in the “pretty pictures” department, aside from the above photo of the author with his not-actually-an-“assault-weapon”, as captured by the inimitable Oleg Volk.

To start you off, we’ll do something simple.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report for 2003, 390 people were murdered by criminals using a rifle, accounting for approximately 2.71% of the total number of murders that year (see table 2.12 – it’s a downloadable *.xls).  2003 is significant because it is the last full year that the federal “assault weapons ban” was in place, and arguably the year wherein its greatest impact could be felt.  Likewise, the overwhelming majority of “assault weapons” are rifles, hence the focus thereon.

Said ban ended, as designed, in 2004, and according to those who support it, the flood of “assault weapons” that followed should have driven that number of murders through the roof.  According to the FBI’s UCR for 2014 – the most recent year available – criminals employing rifles killed 248 people, accounting for approximately 2.07% of the total number of murders.

Not only did the total number of murders go down from 2003 to 2014, but the total number of murders that involved rifles went down faster.

In fairness, though, prohibiting firearms with specific aesthetic features was only part of the ’94 ban; another significant portion was banning the production and sale of new magazines over a certain, arbitrary capacity limit.  So… how much of an impact did that have on things?

An unpublished research report submitted to the National Institute for Justice in 2004 had this to say on the matter:

Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.

“LCM” is, of course, shorthand for “large capacity magazine”, a wholly incorrect way of describing the standard-capacity magazines that came, as a standard accessory, with “assault weapons” before the ineffective ban.

The 2013 Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies published by the National Institute of Justice followed up to this report with:

With an exemption the impact of the restrictions would only be felt when the magazines degrade or when they no longer are compatible with guns in circulation. This would take decades to realize.

In other words, a magazine ban would only work if the government were able to convince every American citizen to give up their prohibited magazines, and given that New York has had maybe 4% compliance with their ill-named SAFE Act… well, good luck with that.

Circling back to that 2004 report, its opinion of the ban as a whole was not… encouraging for its supporters:

However, the decline in AW use was offset throughout at least the late 1990s by steady or rising use of other guns equipped with LCMs in jurisdictions studied (Baltimore, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Anchorage). The failure to reduce LCM use has likely been due to the immense stock of exempted pre-ban magazines, which has been enhanced by recent imports.


Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.

In other words, whatever marginal impact the “assault weapon ban” had on crime was already offset by criminals employing other tools – including ones grandfathered into the ban – to perpetrate their crimes.

The 2013 Summary dashes the hopes of “assault weapon ban” supporters even harder:

Assault weapons are not a major contributor to gun crime. The existing stock of assault weapons is large, undercutting the effectiveness of bans with exemptions.


Prior to the 1994 ban, assault weapons were used in 2-8% of crimes. Therefore a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides.

A National Academy study of firearms and violence concluded that the weaknesses of the ban and the scientific literature suggest that the assault weapon ban did not have an effect on firearm homicides.


Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.

Firearms are, to put it mildly, a durable good.  Current estimates have the lowest conceivable number of “assault weapons” in the United States as somewhere around 5,000,000, with the actual numbers potentially being twice or even thrice that.  Any ban like the ’94 ban would leave every last one of those still in circulation and still functional, completely destroying any utility of the ban.

A ban that attempted to retroactively prohibit ownership of already-owned “assault weapons” and confiscate them from their owners would not go well.  The oft-vaunted Australian “buy back”* had a compliance rate of a whopping 19%, and there’s little reason to believe America would achieve higher numbers.

Looking further afield, an article published by Blau, Gorry, and Wade in the Applied Economics journal earlier this year concluded:

In addition, common state and federal gun laws that outlaw assault weapons are unrelated to the likelihood of an assault weapon being used during a public shooting event. Moreover, results show that the use of assault weapons is not related to more victims or fatalities than other types of guns.

They did find that the use of “high capacity” magazines correlated with an increased number of victims, but also found that the use of shotguns – almost completely unrestricted by bans – correlated with an even greater increase in the number of victims.

Another letter published by Gius in 2013 in the Applied Economics Letters journal stated:

It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level.

On a related note, states with restrictive concealed carry laws were found to have higher firearm-related murder rates.

The most salutary thing a government agency can say about the “assault weapon ban” seems to have come from the Centers for Disease Control in their initial evaluation of the efficacy of various firearm laws:

Results of studies of firearms and ammunition bans were inconsistent: certain studies indicated decreases in violence associated with bans, and others indicated increases.


In summary, the Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.

It’s worth noting that the “laws reviewed” also included waiting periods, firearm registration, licensing of owners, restrictions on concealed carry, and other such “gun control” favorites.

“Assault weapon bans” can’t work mechanically, haven’t worked historically, and won’t work analytically.  Given that record of abject failure – or, at the very best, a record devoid of any successes – why do “gun control” advocates continue to call for these pointless and ineffective bans at almost every opportunity?

Perhaps your safety is not actually their priority?

(* – Like “assault weapon”, “buy back” is a 1984-worthy example of rectifying the language to engender support of a cause.  Firstly, how does a government buy something back when they never owned the “something” to begin with?  Secondly, employing the word “buy” implies that the exchange was voluntary, while the Australian “buy back”, and some American ones, are little more than mandatory confiscation with the arguable benefit of some limited compensation.)

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 3

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 3

Once again, I will have some pictures for you to consider, but first a little backstory.

One of the favorite arguments of those who support “assault weapon bans” is that a purpose/goal of the prohibitions is to keep “military” or “military-style” firearms out of the hands of private citizens.

Ignore, for a moment, that at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification, every long arm, short arm, or other firearm-like device was both “military” and in the hands of private citizens.  Likewise, ignore that the Second Amendment was written to preserve exactly that kind of arrangement.

And, finally, ignore the entire concept of “military-style” – after all, how does the physical appearance of a device affect its actual performance?  After all, this looks a lot like this, but I guarantee you they are radically different (the first is an airsoft device, to begin with).

So, the remaining question is “Do ‘assault weapon bans’ actually keep military hardware out of the hands of American citizens?”

Well, here are your three firearms for consideration:







And your first question: which of these are “military firearms”?

If you answered anything but “B”, I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong.

A is not legally considered a firearm, considering that it is a first-generation Mosin-Nagant Model 1891, and was thus produced before 1899.  Even if the firearm-looking device is an exact duplicate of a firearm still currently being made and using still-available ammunition, if that specific firearm-looking device left an assembly line before 1899, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms considers it to be an “antique”.

Granted, Mosins are not still being produced, but the Model 1891 featured above does chamber still-commercially-produced 7.62x54r ammunition.  However, thanks to its “antique” designation, it can be mail-ordered without involving a Federal Firearm Licensee – after all, it is not a firearm.

Firearm or not, it is almost a guarantee that the entirety of the first generation of Mosins saw service in the Soviet Union at some point, simply because between 1891 and now that country has been involved in almost non-stop conflicts, both external and internal.

B is a Finnish M91 produced between 1926 and 1927, and it almost unquestionably was a military firearm, courtesy of that country’s incessant border disputes with Russia, and that whole unpleasantness in the 1940s.

C is an AR-15 I purchased a few years back as a bare receiver and built up, and has never seen a day of military service in its short life.  Further, the AR-15 platform is used by basically no military, simply because those militaries can and do avail themselves of the significantly more capable M-16 and M4 platforms.

Now, the fun question: which of those firearms is subject to “assault weapon bans”?

If you have read the first two posts of this series, you probably already know the answer; the only firearm above subject to “assault weapon bans” is C.

The other two are actual military weapons that very likely were used by military personnel to kill other human beings, but it is the firearm that was never used by a military, from a model of firearm that was basically never used by the military, that people are so very concerned with.  If one wants to get truly specific, the combination of the National Firearms Act and the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act already make it functionally impossible for American citizens to procure most of even the types of firearms being used by militaries today, much less the actual, specific hardware.  But old military hardware?  90% of it, or more, is available for the purchasing, and some of it does not even require background checks, per the BATFE themselves.

So, no, “assault weapon bans” have absolutely nothing to do with the military heritage – or lack thereof, in almost all cases – of the firearms being banned.  Unfortunately, like so many of these talking points, that particular one is not likely to be dissuaded by facts.

(Mosin-Nagant images borrowed from’s outstanding Mosin Identification page.)

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 2

This time, I will go ahead and be forthright about the two firearms I want you to consider.

This is a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II that I purchased a number of years ago.  You will have to forgive the lacking quality of the photo – it turns out I sold it before I took any good pictures of it.


And this is an AR-15 that I half-built, half-bought.  Again, you will have to forgive the truly derp-tastic stock that is on it presently – it did not last long, and it has a much better stock presently, I am just bad about taking pictures apparently.


Now here is the important part:

Both firearms are semi-automatic, magazine-fed rifles; i.e. both will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger, and both can accept magazines up to 100 rounds (though I cannot imagine carrying the M1A at that point).  However, the M1A shoots a larger, heavier bullet that has, on average, double the muzzle energy of the bullet shot by the AR-15 and somewhere around double the maximum range.

So here is this post’s test: one of these firearms is currently banned by the California Assault Weapon Control Act, and one of them is not.  Which is banned?

If you answered “the more powerful rifle”, you would be wrong.

That M1A was, ironically, purchased in California – I even still have a picture of the receipt –  after I discovered that coming by AR-15s there would be… challenging.  At that point, I figured I might as well go with the more-powerful, more-capable rifle, simply to drive home the point that the state’s “assault weapon ban” was precisely useless.

As the previous post indicated, the entire notion of “assault weapon bans” is flawed to begin with since it literally prohibits one configuration of a rifle, but allows another configuration of the exact same rifle.  Once you realize that those bans allow firearms that work in almost the same way* but are significantly more powerful than their banned brethren?

Well, then it becomes painfully apparent that the purpose of the bans is not “safety”.

(* – Both firearms are gas-operated; the AR-15 uses direct impingement while the M1A uses a short-stroke piston system.  Both are still semi-automatic, but the two operating systems are just different ways of employing the gasses from the discharging round to cycle the actions.)

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 1

Do you what the difference is between this rifle:


… and this rifle:


I will give you a few hints to make it easier:

Both are made by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

Both will happily shoot either .223 Remington or 5.56x45mm NATO.

Both are semi-automatic and gas-operated with locking breech bolts and a self-cleaning gas cylinder.

Both will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger, one round at a time.

Both accept removable magazines ranging from five rounds to 100 rounds.

Both have cold hammer-forged barrels for increased accuracy and longevity.

Both are configured to accept magnifying optics and have ghost-ring sights if you choose to stick with iron sights.

Both are set up to accept slings.

In other words, I have a confession to make:  there is no functional difference between the two rifles.  

Yes, one is configured to be more ergonomic for the end user, what with the adjustable butt stock and the flash hider to mitigate the flash of the round being fired beneath the sights/optic.  However, the top rifle can almost entirely be transformed into the bottom rifle so long as you have a small screwdriver and the “tactical” stock (even the flash hider can be added without having to thread the barrel).

That is all you need.

But the top rifle would have been legal under the failed Federal Assault Weapon Ban, and under the current California Assault Weapons Control Act, while the bottom rifle was not and is not.

Even better?  The top rifle’s barrel is about two inches longer, giving it about 50-100 feet-per-second more velocity at the muzzle.  So, arguably, it is the more-powerful of the two rifle… but it is the AWB-approved one.

When the features that were banned under the “Assault Weapon Ban” have no actual impact on the operation of the firearm, and when that ban can be circumvented by a single screwdriver, just what was its point?

Assault Weapon

(For reference, the top rifle is a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, and the bottom is a Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle.  Both images were borrowed from Ruger.)

what is “high-powered”?

what is “high-powered”?

One of the favorite tactics of “gun control” organizations when demonizing AR-15s, AK-47-pattern rifles, and other “assault weapons”* is to decry them as being “high-powered” rifles unsuitable for civilian use.

As with so many things those organizations proclaim, that is simply not true.

The following graphic was built with numbers provided by the respective calibers’ Wikipedia pages, with the exception of 12 gauge, where the numbers came from Winchester Ammunition‘s line of 1 ounce slugs.  These numbers should be considered approximate averages, given the differences generated by barrel lengths, powder loading, bullet weight, and so forth, but the data will be sufficient for the point I am making.


It is worth noting that the .223 / 5.56 were developed in 1963, the 7.62×39 in 1944, the .30-06 in 1906, the 7mm Remington Magnum in 1962, and the .300 Winchester Magnum in 1963.  It is difficult to truly date the 12 gauge caliber, but the concept of a shotgun has been around since at least 1728.

It is also worth noting that the AR-15, by dint of its modular nature, can support a wide variety of other calibers; however, even the most energetic (.50 Beowulf, I believe) still falls a few hundred foot-pounds short of the venerable .30-06.  Additionally, it is the niche product of a niche market; in other words, you are unlikely to see one, ever.

So, no, neither AR-15s nor AK-pattern rifles nor pretty much any other form of “assault weapons” could be considered “high-powered” rifles when compared against the rifles that millions of American hunters take into the forests every year, many of which are chambered in calibers developed decades before the AR/AK’s.

As usual, if the “gun control” organizations did not lie, they would have nothing to say.

(* – The arbitrary, capricious, and ultimately meaningless definition of “assault weapon” will be addressed in a later post.)