Civil Liberties

New York Times Acknowledges "Assault Weapon" Bans Are Bogus Nonsense


The New York Times on Sunday gets around to admitting at length what readers of Reason (or anyone who actually knew much about the topic) have known for years: so-called "assault weapon" bans are a load of useless nonsense.

As the op-ed's author Lois Beckett of ProPublica explains:

OVER the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration's plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don't kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do….

The continuing focus on assault weapons stems from the media's obsessive focus on mass shootings, which disproportionately involve weapons like the AR-15, a civilian version of the military M16 rifle. This, in turn, obscures some grim truths about who is really dying from gunshots.

Annually, 5,000 to 6,000 black men are murdered with guns. Black men amount to only 6 percent of the population. Yet of the 30 Americans on average shot to death each day, half are black males.

So in 1994 the Democratic Party decided to wage war on the non-existent "assault weapon" and managed to pass a ban on a set of rifles based almost entirely on cosmetic features that had nothing to do with whatever inherent danger to the public they were supposed to present.

This politically defined category of guns — a selection of rifles, shotguns and handguns with "military-style" features — only figured in about 2 percent of gun crimes nationwide before the ban……

Crime fell, but when the ban expired, a detailed study found no proof that it had contributed to the decline…..

Most Americans do not know that gun homicides have decreased by 49 percent since 1993 as violent crime also fell….A Pew survey conducted after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., found that 56 percent of Americans believed wrongly that the rate of gun crime was higher than it was 20 years ago.

Maybe now that they read it in the Times, legislators will start believing it? Or continue to harp on this "assault weapon" canard every time they have to pretend they can or ought to "do something" about gun violence?