Argument: The 1994 assault weapons ban did not decrease crime

Issue Report: Assault weapons ban in the United States


  • Rachel Alexander, Columnist and Legal Analyst. “Will Lapse of the Assault Weapons Ban Lead to More Columbines?”. The American Partisan. October 29, 2004 – “The real reason the ban is not being renewed is because statistics revealed that it did not affect the crime rate nor the frequency guns are used in crimes. Only 19 guns and their similar counterparts were banned; bad people simply bought other types of guns or continued to obtain them illegally. The 19 banned weapons were not the type that criminals typically use; handguns – pistols and revolvers – have consistently been the firearm of choice in violent crime. There is a reason why around half of all police officers across the nation carry Glock pistols, not assault weapons – they are easy to conceal, carry, and highly effective. Furthermore, a .45 pistol or a hunting shotgun can be quite lethal; and most hunting rifles are equally as powerful or more powerful than the 19 banned assault weapons.
Proponents of the ban argue that it was responsible for a decrease in crimes involving guns. However, although incidents of violence in general greatly decreased from 1993 to 2001, incidents of firearm violence only slightly decreased, according to statistics from the Department of Justice. The violent crime rate has been steadily going down since 1973, and there was little difference in this decrease after the 1994 ban was passed. The homicide rate had already begun declining prior to the ban, peaking in 1991. According to statistics collected by the FBI, the murder rate began increasing again beginning in 2000. Noted scholar John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute has observed that there has not been a single academic study indicating that the ban has had an effect on gun violence, and notes that the Department of Justice acknowledged in a recent study that the ban’s effect on gun violence has been negligible. An older Department of Justice study found that from 1979 to 1992, there was an overall increase from 9.2 percent to 12.7 percent of violent offenses committed with a handgun. Only a small percentage of crimes committed with guns before the ban went into effect involved assault weapons.”
  • The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban on Gun Violence Outcomes: An Assessment of Multiple Outcome Measures and Some Lessons for Policy Evaluation. by Koper and Roth at the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerry Lee Center of Criminology; one of the few (only?) peer-reviewed studies regarding the AWB
“We found no evidence of reductions in multiple-victim gun homicides or multiple-gunshot wound victimizations.”
  • Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003 by Koper for the Department of Justice; its not peer-reviewed, but it is in fact pro-banning & still found in its conclusion:
“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. AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.”