Effectiveness of Assault Weapons Ban

Published 7:04 pm Sunday, February 25, 2018

In America, there have been 23 mass shootings involving 10 or more dead in its history. Did most of them occur before, during or after the Assault Weapons Ban? Data is used to examine these cases, looking also at the effectiveness of statewide assault weapons bans.

The Assault Weapons Ban was part of a 1994 anti-crime bill. It went into effect later that year, and lasted until the same time in 2004. Critics often claim that the Assault Weapons Ban didn’t work because of the Columbine shooting. Rather than list one case and claim it invalidates everything, I examine how many shootings too place before the bill went into effect, during the Assault Weapons Ban, and after it took place.

In addition to looking at the national Assault Weapons Ban, I make it tougher on such gun bans.  That’s because several states have similar bans, before, during and after the Assault Weapons Ban. If a shooting took place in that state or city or district during their Assault Weapons Ban, it counts against those gun bans.

Of the 23 shootings with ten or more deaths, two took place during the national government’s Assault Weapons Ban: Columbine and the shooting spree by an Atlanta day trader, both in 1999.  Connecticut had an Assault Weapons Ban in place during the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012.  The San Bernardino shooters conducted their terror attack on an office party in 2015, long after California passed an Assault Weapons Ban (back in 1989).  And Washington D.C. had an Assault Weapons Ban as the Washington Naval Yard shooter went on his killing rampage in 2013.

That’s five cases. In the other 18 cases where ten or more people were killed in rampage shootings, there was no Assault Weapons Ban in that state, city, or across the country.  These include (1) the Las Vegas hotel and Country Western concert massacre, (2) the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, (3) the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, (4) the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017, (5) the 1991 Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Texas, (6) the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre of 1984 in California, (7) the University of Texas tower shooting, (8) the Douglas High School killing spree in Florida, (9) the Edmond Post Office shooting in Oklahoma in 1986, (10) the Binghamton shooting in 2009 in New York, (11) the Camden shootings of 1949, (12) the Wilkes-Barre shootings of 1982 in Pennsylvania, (13) the Ft. Hood shooting in Texas in 2009, (14) the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012 in Colorado, (15) the Geneva County massacre in Alabama in 2009, (16) the GMAC shooting in Jacksonville, Florida in 1990, (17) the Red Lake rampage in 2005 in Minnesota, and finally, (18) the Umpqua Community College shooting of 2015 in Oregon.  That’s also 371 deaths from these 18 cases of no Assault Weapons Ban, and 82 deaths from the other five cases with an Assault Weapons Ban.

There’s also a push to have signs posted at schools in the wake of the Florida shooting, announcing that those inside will kill any shooter. But that wouldn’t necessarily deter a killer any more than the threat of death stops an ISIS bomber. That’s because in 18 of the cases, the shooter took his life. The killer’s own is part of the evil plan. 

It is important to note that while we had far fewer massacres under assault weapons bans than when we didn’t have one, these gun bans can be improved. First of all, states and districts that have them may find that shooters come to those areas after getting guns from states with few laws at all on weapons.  Second, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban grandfathered in more than 1.5 million of these guns. Third, we need stiffer penalties for those who illegally buy guns for others who are too young or have a restriction on purchases, or sell them illegally. Such punishment should be consistent with the crimes that are committed, with 10+ counts of assisting murders.