Ban on assault weapons didn’t reduce violenceBy The Washington Times Monday, August 16, 2004
The federal assault-weapons ban, scheduled to expire in September, is not responsible for the nation’s steady decline in gun-related violence and its renewal likely will achieve little, according to an independent study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
"We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence,” said the unreleased NIJ report, written by Christopher Koper, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
"It is thus premature to make definitive assessments of the ban’s impact on gun violence. 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,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The report also noted that assault weapons were "rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.”
NIJ is the Justice Department’s research, development and evaluation agency — assigned the job of providing objective, independent, evidence-based information to the department through independent studies and other data collection activities.
The 102-page NIJ report said the assault-weapons ban was intended to "reduce gunshot victimizations by limiting the national stock of semiautomatic firearms with large ammunition capacities,” although it said the automatic-weapons provision of the bill targeted a "relatively small number of weapons” based on features that had little to do with the weapons’ operation.
The report said the removal of those features, such as detachable high-capacity magazines, was "sufficient to make the weapons legal.”
In 1994, when the ban was approved by Congress, 1.5 million privately owned assault weapons were thought to be in the United States. The report said assault weapons were used in 2 percent of gun crimes reported nationwide before enactment of the 1994 ban. It also said assault weapons and other guns equipped with large-capacity magazines accounted for a higher share of the guns used to kill police officers and in mass public shootings, although such incidents were "very rare.”
The report said the relatively rare use of assault weapons in crimes was attributable to a number of factors: Most assault weapons are rifles, which are used much less often than handguns, a number of the weapons were barred from importation before the ban was enacted, and the weapons are expensive and difficult to conceal.
"The ban’s success in reducing criminal use of the banned guns and magazines has been mixed,” the report said, noting that because the ban had not yet reduced the use of large-capacity magazines in crime, researchers could not "clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”
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