The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was responsible for a 6.7% decrease in total gun murders.

Posted on February 8, 2013

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) claims1 that the congressionally mandated study of her 1994 “assault weapon” ban concluded that the ban was responsible for a 6.7 percent decrease in gun murders.” However, what the study2 said was:

  • “At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders. Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995, beyond what would have been expected in view of ongoing crime, demographic, and economic trends. However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.  Nor can we rule out effects of other features of the 1994 Crime Act or a host of state and local initiatives that took place simultaneously.” (Emphasis added.)

  • “We were unable to detect any reduction to date in two types of gun murders that are thought to be closely associated with assault weapons, those with multiple victims in a single incident and those producing multiple bullet wounds per victim.”

  • “[W]e found no statistical evidence of post-ban decreases in either the number of victims per gun homicide incident, the number of gunshot wounds per victim, or the proportion of gunshot victims with multiple wounds. Nor did we find assault weapons to be overrepresented in a sample of mass murders involving guns.”

Feinstein also claims3 that a follow-up study found “the use of assault weapons in crime declined by more than two-thirds by about nine years after 1994 Assault Weapons Ban took effect.” However, what that study4 said, was:

  • “AWs [assault weapons] declined from 5.4% of crime gun traces in 1992-1993 to 1.6% in 2001-2002, a decline of 70%.” (Emphasis added.) Traces are not synonymous with crimes, however. 

  •  “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 and LCMs [large-capacity magazines] were used in only a minority of gun crimes prior to the 1994 federal ban, and AWs were used in a particularly small percentage of gun crimes.”
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