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Effects of the 1994-2004 Ban on Assault Weapons Part 4 of 6 Parts

2013 “Was the last assault weapons ban effective?” By Polly DeFrank, Researcher, NBC News, Jan. 16, 2013

The Law Enforcement Act of 1994 required a study by the U.S. Attorney General to determine the effects of the ban, to be conducted within 30 months after it was enacted. The National Institute of Justice awarded a grant to The Urban Institute for an evaluation, which was titled “Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994.” That evaluation was updated in 2004 by one of the original authors. According to the 2004 assessment:

· By most estimates, assault weapons were used in less than 6 percent of gun crimes before the ban (about 2 percent in most studies and up to 8 percent in others). The relatively small number can be attributed to the higher cost of Assault Weapons (AWs) and the fact that longer AW’s are difficult to conceal. Most of the AWs used in crime were assault pistols rather than assault rifles.

· Guns equipped with Large Capacity Magazines — of which AWs are a subset — were used in roughly 14 percent to 26 percent of most gun crimes. Although this range was based on a small number of studies, it is generally consistent with national survey estimates stating that approximately 18 percent of all civilian-owned guns and 21 percent of civilian-owned handguns were equipped with LCMs as of 1994.

· The share of gun crimes involving AWs declined by 17 percent to 72 percent for the locations observed in this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage) during all or some of the 1995-2003 post-ban period. This is consistent with patterns found in national data on guns recovered by police and reported to ATF.

· However, in the jurisdictions studied, the decline in AW use was offset throughout at least the late 1990s by steady or rising use of other guns equipped with LCMs. The failure to reduce LCM use has likely been due to the immense stock that was in place prior to the ban as well as imports, the report found.


“Did the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban Work?” By Robert Farley, February 1, 2013

Both sides in the gun debate are selectively citing from a series of studies that concluded with a 2004 study led by Christopher S. Koper, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003.” That report was the final of three studies of the ban, which was enacted in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

Ultimately, the research concluded that it was “premature to make definitive assessments of the ban’s impact on gun crime,” largely because the law’s grandfathering of millions of pre-ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines “ensured that the effects of the law would occur only gradually” and were “still unfolding” when the ban expired in 2004.

The 1997 study said its analysis “failed to produce evidence of a post-ban reduction in the average number of gunshot wounds per case or in the proportion of cases involving multiple wounds.” But that’s not the same as saying the ban had “no impact.” The authors noted that the study was “constrained” to findings of short-term effects, which are not necessarily a reliable guide to long-term effects.”

And most fundamentally, the authors wrote, “because the banned guns and magazines were never used in more than a fraction of all gun murders, even the maximum theoretically achievable preventive effect of the ban on gun murders is almost certainly too small to detect statistically with only one year of post-ban crime data.” The two later major studies of the ban included more years of analysis and concluded with an “updated assessment” that was published in 2004.

Koper, Jan 14 2013: In general we found, really, very, very little evidence, almost none, that gun violence was becoming any less lethal or any less injurious during this time frame. So on balance, we concluded that the ban had not had a discernible impact on gun crime during the years it was in effect.

Koper, Jan. 14, 2013: So, using that as a very tentative guide, that’s high enough to suggest that eliminating or greatly reducing crimes with these magazines could produce a small reduction in shootings, likely something less than 5 percent. Now we should note that effects of this magnitude could be hard to ever measure in any very definitive way, but they nonetheless could have nontrivial, notable benefits for society. Consider, for example, at our current level of our gun violence, achieving a 1 percent reduction in fatal and non-fatal criminal shootings would prevent approximately 650 shootings annually … And, of course having these sorts of guns, and particularly magazines, less accessible to offenders could make it more difficult for them to commit the sorts of mass shootings that we’ve seen in recent years.”


"Philip J. Cook; Kristin A. Goss (2014). "The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know". Oxford University Press.

A 2014 book published by Oxford University Press noted that "There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives," but added that "a more stringent or longer-lasting ban might well have been more effective.


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