Did the 1994 assault weapons ban lead to mass shootings? Here’s what the data tells us

L'interdiction des armes d'assaut sous l'ère Clinton a inauguré une période de moins de décès par balles de masse. <a href="https://newsroom.ap.org/detail/BillClintonwithJohnMagaw/b57abd54aafd4ab9a84d545e41181abf/photo?Query=assault%20weapons%20ban%201994&mediaType=photo&sortBy=arrivaldatetime:desc&dateRange=Anytime&totalCount=13&currentItemNo=6" rel="nofollow noopener" cible="_Vide" data-ylk="slk:AP Photo/Dennis Cook" classe="lien ">AP Photo/Dennis Cook</a>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OdhzRzjBxpy64GkHlQaY_w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ1Mg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/d6df6160bf983575frc75datae” “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OdhzRzjBxpy64GkHlQaY_w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ1Mg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/d6df6160bf982775b8573/”</div>
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The Clinton-era assault weapons ban ushered in a period of fewer mass shooting deaths. AP Photo/Dennis Cook

A series of high-profile mass shootings in the United States in 2022 sparked calls for Congress to consider imposing a ban on so-called assault weapons – covering the types of weapons used both during of the recent Buffalo grocery store attack and that of an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Such a ban has already existed. As President Joe Biden noted in his June 2, 2022 speech on gun violence, nearly three decades ago, bipartisan support in Congress helped pass a federal ban on assault weapons in 1994, under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

This ban was limited – it only covered certain categories of semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15s and only applied to a sales ban after the law was enacted, allowing people to keep purchased weapons before this date. And there was also a so-called “sunset provision” that allowed the ban to expire in 2004.

Nevertheless, the 10-year lifespan of this ban – with a clear start and end date – gives researchers the opportunity to compare what happened with mass shooting deaths before, during and after the prohibition. Our group of injury epidemiologists and trauma surgeons did just that. In 2019, we published a population-based study analyzing data to assess the effect of the federal assault weapons ban on mass shootings, defined by the FBI as a shooting with four deaths. or more, not counting the shooter. Here’s what the data shows:

Before the 1994 ban:

From 1981—the first year of our analysis—to the deployment of the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, the proportion of deaths in mass shootings in which an assault rifle was used was lower than she is today.

Yet during this earlier period, mass shooting deaths were steadily increasing. Indeed, high-profile mass shootings involving assault rifles – such as the 1989 murder of five children in Stockton, California, and the 1993 attack on a San Francisco office that left eight people dead – have provided the impetus behind a push for a ban on certain gun types.

During the 1994-2004 ban:

In the years since the assault weapons ban came into effect, the number of deaths from mass shootings has plummeted and the increase in the annual number of incidents has slowed. Even including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre – the deadliest mass shooting during the Prohibition era – the period from 1994 to 2004 saw lower average annual rates of mass shootings and deaths resulting from such incidents than before the ban came into effect.

From 2004:

The data shows an almost immediate — and steep — increase in mass shooting deaths in the years after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

Dividing the data into absolute numbers, between 2004 and 2017 – the last year of our analysis – the average number of annual deaths attributed to mass shootings was 25, compared to 5.3 during the 10-year ban and 7.2 in the years leading up to the banning of assault weapons.

Save hundreds of lives

We calculated that the risk of someone in the United States dying in a mass shooting was 70% lower during the time the assault weapons ban was active. The proportion of firearm homicides resulting from mass shootings also fell, with nine fewer mass shooting deaths per 10,000 shooting deaths.

Taking demographic trends into account, a model we created based on this data suggests that if the federal ban on assault weapons had been in place for the entire period of our study – i.e. from 1981 to 2017 – it could have prevented 314 of the 448 gunshot deaths that occurred during the years when there was no ban.

And that almost certainly underestimates the total number of lives that could be saved. For our study, we chose to include only mass shootings reported and endorsed by the three data sources we selected: the Los Angeles Times, Stanford University, and Mother Jones magazine.

Additionally, for the sake of uniformity, we have also chosen to use the strict federal definition of an assault weapon – which may not include the full spectrum of what many people may now consider to be firearms. assault.

Cause or correlation?

It is also important to note that our analysis cannot state with certainty that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban led to a decrease in mass shootings, nor that its expiration in 2004 led to an increase in lethal incidents in the years that followed.

Many additional factors may contribute to changes in the frequency of these shootings, such as changing rates of domestic violence, political extremism, psychiatric illnesses, the availability of firearms and an increase in sales, as well than the recent increase in hate groups.

Nonetheless, according to our study, President Biden’s assertion that the rate of mass shootings during the assault weapons ban period “decline” only to then rebound after the law expired in 2004 is true.

As the United States seeks a solution to the nation’s mass shooting epidemic, it is difficult to say with certainty that reinstating the ban on assault weapons would have a profound impact, especially given of sales growth over the 18 years that Americans have been allowed to buy and stockpile these weapons. But given that many of the most high-profile mass shooters of recent years bought their guns less than a year before committing their deeds, the evidence suggests it’s possible.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. If you found it interesting, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

It was written by: Michael J. Klein, New York University.

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Michael J. Klein does not work for, consult, own stock or receive funding from any company or organization that benefits from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his appointment. university.


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