It’s always remarkable to me that assault-weapons bans dominate the gun-control conversation after mass shootings. Yes, I understand that AR-15s or similar weapons have been used in a number of recent attacks, but when we slow down, take a breath, and look at actual gun crime, the logic for banning the kind of weapon that millions of Americans use for entirely lawful purposes (including self-defense) starts to disappear.
Let’s break this down by three broad categories of gun deaths.
First, an assault-weapons ban is irrelevant to suicide deaths. The large majority of gun deaths are suicides, and there is no credible argument that an assault-weapons ban will have the slightest effect on suicide. I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard anyone make the argument.
Second, an assault-weapons ban is statistically meaningless to homicide deaths. Rifles of all kinds kill fewer people annually than knives or even feet or fists. An assault-weapons ban (really a ban on future sales; proposed laws would not take a single so-called assault weapon off the streets) would be aimed at a firearm that is rarely used to kill.
Third, there’s no evidence that banning assault weapons would prevent mass shootings. This is a key point. The post-shooting debate is often conducted as if folks think that if a mass shooter can’t get an assault weapon, he won’t shoot at all. Blocking access to a new AR-15 is not remotely the same thing as stopping a mass shooting.
by David French