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:

assaultweaponbancomparison

“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

References:  

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)

Disclaimer:

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.

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.)