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An unpublished research report submitted to the National Institute for Justice in 2004 had this to say on the matter: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

A:  

1891

B:

1926

C:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 7.62x54r.net’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.

DSCF3248

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

RugerMini14

… and this rifle:

RugerMini14Tac

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.

MuzzleEnergyByCaliber

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.)

graphics matter, international edition

graphics matter, international edition

Now that we have shown that the hypothesis “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” cannot be true in America, what about on an international scale?

Well, this is where things get really complicated.

Not all countries keep good records of their respective murders, much less their respective firearm ownership, so we are going to have to do a massive amount of estimating.

For the number of firearms in civilian ownership, we will refer to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, Chapter 2, Annexe 3 (*.pdf warning) and their documentation of 178 different countries.  We will consider the numbers from every possible country in North, South, and Central America; North, South, Eastern, and Western Europe; Oceania; and a few other odds and ends to round out the data set to a good sample body of 100.  I used the average of the “Low Total from Outside Sources” and “High Total from Outside Sources” where available, and “Registered” if not, to generate the ownership numbers for the individual countries.  It is worth noting that some useful countries – like Denmark, India, and Luxembourg – are omitted from the survey; for these countries, the only numbers available are “Total from Regional Correlation” – i.e. they were making a guess based on the guesses they made around that country.

Likewise, the population numbers for the countries considered came from the same Small Arms Survey.

I hate to admit this, simply because I hate using Wikipedia as a primary source for anything, but the numbers of murders per country, from which I calculated their murder rates, is from the List of countries by intentional homicide rates.  As always, these numbers are subject to the inherent flaws in various countries’ recording methods, as well as the flaws intrinsic to Wikipedia itself.

It is worth noting that we are considering total murders this time around, rather than simply “gun deaths”.  If you think recording methods are inconsistent among various nations, just imagine how messy trying to track means of death would be.

Here is the end result:

GunsAndMurdersInternationally

You almost certainly will want to click on it to make it larger.

The line slanting down from left to right is the trendline of the datapoints; basically it shows that the correlation between firearm ownership rates and murder rates in the 100 countries sampled is negative, at a coefficient of -0.1832.  Note that this is a weak correlation, and thus cannot be considered binding.

In other words, as with the trend here in America, the hypothesis that “more guns = more deaths” cannot be true on an international scale.  I am not a betting man, but I am starting to see a trend here…

If you want to see what the other 100 countries were, since a goodly number are stacked on top of each other, the source data is available for your consideration.

graphics matter, part two

graphics matter, part two

Now that we have dispensed with the myth that “more guns = more gun deaths”, what about the second-most-favorite talking point of the “gun control” movement: “more guns = more ‘gun violence’“?

Well, the first problem is what, exactly, is “gun violence”?  For simplicity’s sake, and for the sake of actually finding relevant data, I am going to define “gun violence” as “any crime committed with the assistance of a firearm”, or “CCwF” for short.  Specifically, after consulting the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s Uniform Crime Reports for 2013, we are going to consider murders, robberies, and assaults where the perpetrators employed a firearm.

As with the previous post, the Centers for Disease Control will be providing the population of the United States (though we will not be using WISQARS, since we are not interested exclusively in fatalities or injuries), the Small Arms Survey of 2003 will provide the starting point of our firearm count estimation, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Shooting Industry News providing the production numbers, and Radical Gun Nuttery did the counting for the number of “shall-issue” / “Constitutional carry” states out there.

So, given all of those wonderful numbers, do more guns really mean more “gun violence”?

PopulationFirearmsCrimes

Nope.

For the numerically inclined, the rate of firearm ownership correlates with the rate of crimes committed with firearms with a coefficient of -0.58535, indicating a negative correlation between the two data sets.

Even when we consider raw numbers, the number of firearms in America versus the number of crimes committed with firearms correlates with a coefficient of -0.46199, still indicating a negative correlation.

In other words, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence'” cannot be true.

Again, feel free to check my work (*.xlsx file); folks have pointed out mistakes I have made in the past, and I am always seeking greater accuracy.

Also, it is worth noting that somewhere in the 2012 to 2013 range, assuming the Small Arms Survey of 2003 is even close to accurate, America reached parity between its population and the number of firearms in its borders; there are enough firearms for every single American to own one.  I dare say our Founding Fathers would approve.