Assault Weapons Bans – Rhetoric versus Fact


The use of ‘appeal to emotion’ arguments works on a public that does not bother to evaluate the existing statistics that prove that legislation banning certain kinds of weapons from civilian possession doesn’t work, so lets talk facts and evidence.  In 1994, the Congress and the Clinton Administration passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which included a federal law in the United States that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, so called ‘assault weapons.’

The act expired in 2004, with firearm-related homicide decreasing for nearly every recorded year since the ban expired, according to the FBI. [1] So little argument for another ban there, if firearm-related homicides have been down for nearly every recorded year since the ban expired.

During the period the ‘assault weapons’ ban was active, no one stopped selling ‘assault weapons,’ instead these guns were altered slightly so that they no longer offended legislators or gun control advocates and lobbies, and it was fairly well business as usual. Firearm manufacturers stopped putting threaded barrels on their guns and stopped selling magazines that held more than the permissible 10 rounds. The manufacturers simply renamed these new versions of their firearms and kept selling them, so the firearm industry didn’t even lose a wink of sleep, let alone any business from the passing of the legislation.

Quite to the contrary of what gun-control advocates would have us believe, the 1994 law in theory banned AK-47s, MAC-10s, UZIs, AR-15s and other assault weapons; yet the gun industry easily found ways around the law and most of these weapons are now sold in post-ban models virtually identical to the guns Congress sought to ban in 1994.

If the industry already found legal ways around it once, they probably would again, and that would basically be a best case scenario, in consideration of the alternative, a black market industry building itself up to fill in the void that would be created, were legitimate businesses and firearm manufacturers unable to fill that demand themselves. I don’t believe that I would need to state, but would certainly like to assert that this scenario would result in what were considered to be the most dangerous weapons being more easily obtained by criminals, rather than law-abiding citizens.

The statistical data tells a different tale on another account, as well. According to an independent report by the University of Pennsylvania, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice(NIJ), assault weapons never accounted for more than 2-8% of all violent gun related crimes, before, during, or after the ban.  Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, used the consistently lower numbers in a decidedly deceptive statement when she said, “In my view, the assault weapons legislation was working, it was drying up supply and driving up prices. The number of those guns used in crimes dropped because they were less available.”

There are a few problems with her logic, in that the number of weapons identical to these assault weapons that were produced with slight modifications during the 10 years the assault weapons ban was active was 1.17 million, there were only 1.5 million in private hands before the ban.  I personally know three people who bought AR15’s in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and even having been in the Army, I don’t believe that I could tell you the difference between those and ones that were manufactured prior to or after the ban. I believe that the facts once again prove the rhetoric to be inaccurate about the fact that, first of all, that the legislation would be capable of slowing gun sales, second, that more guns equals more crime and firearm-related homicide, and lastly, that firearm prices actually were driven up by the ban.

According to the US Dept. of Justice, the prices rose sharply through 1993 and 1994, but dropped steadily after the legislation passed. The DOJ also determined that of the number of ‘assault weapons’ used in violent crimes before and after the assault weapons ban, assault weapons were used in 66% fewer crimes. Instead of constituting only 3% of the number of violent gun related crimes they accounted for only 1.6% of the same crimes during the ban, for an overall 1.4% reduction in gun related crimes.[2]

Most of the major gun control proponents in the legislative and executive branches of the US government have stated that they are looking to the 1994 ban as a model for new legislation, but factually and statistically, the evidence suggests, and all government agencies that have studied it have reported that it simply did not work in any quantifiable way. So why are we being asked to give up our rights once again, for legislation that is being modeled on legislation that has been determined to be ineffective on every conceivable level of consideration?

It apparently will not keep us any safer, as the numbers don’t lie, so I certainly don’t see the point, being that the rhetoric is that we need to pass the legislation in order to be safer. What was Einstein’s definition of insanity? Repeating the same action and expecting different results? Our government is insane, and do we really want to listen to what insane people have decided about something so important? I’d say that we would do better to have an overhaul of our mental health care procedures and policies, as I believe this interview with Dave Kopel, , the research director for the Independence Institute clearly demonstrates:

1. Murder Victims by Weapon 2006 – 2010; Murder Victims by Weapon 2011 – 2015
2. Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96