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Studies: Gun Massacre Deaths Dropped During Assault Weapons Ban, Increased After Expiration

Gun massacres fell 37 percent while ban was in place, rose by 183 percent after ban expired

Washington—As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold a hearing on federal Assault Weapons Ban legislation on September 25, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on misinformation spread by the National Rifle Association:

            “The NRA likes to say the 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban didn’t work, but it did work. The data is clear: there were fewer mass shootings while the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect and significantly more after it expired,” Feinstein said.

            Feinstein continued: “Gun massacres of six or more killed decreased by 37 percent for the decade the ban was active, then shot up 183 percent during the decade following its expiration. There’s no disputing those numbers.

            “The goal of the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 was the same as it is today: to prevent mass shootings by beginning to dry up the supply of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. There are roughly 15 million assault weapons in the United States today, so no law will be immediately effective. But by banning the manufacture and importation of new guns and implementing voluntary buy-back programs, we can again start to get these weapons of war off our streets. That’s how we’ll save lives, and we need to act now.”

NRA myth: The NRA says the 1994-2004 federal Assault Weapons Ban didn’t work.

Fact: The ban did work, and a number of studies lay that out.

  • University of Massachusetts researcher Louis Klarevas, author of the book “Rampage Nation,” found that the number of gun massacres dropped by 37 percent and the number of gun massacre deaths feel by 43 percent while the ban was in effect compared to the previous decade. After the ban lapsed in 2004, those numbers dramatically rose – a 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths.
  • A 2017 study in the Journal of Urban Health observed that law enforcement recovery of assault weapons fell nationwide while the ban was in base, indicating that they were used in fewer crimes, but increased after the ban expired.
  • A 2004 University of Pennsylvania study conducted for the Justice Department explained that the use of assault weapons in crime declined by 70 percent nine years after the Assault Weapons Ban took effect.

Feinstein gun safety bills

            Senator Feinstein has introduced several pieces of legislation during the 116th Congress related to gun safety reform.

Assault Weapons Ban Act

  • Senator Feinstein in January 2019 introduced the Assault Weapons Ban, an updated bill to ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
  • The bill, which currently has 34 Senate cosponsors, bans 205 military-style assault weapons by name. It also bans any weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock.
  • The bill also bans magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload.
  • One update to the bill would allow, though not mandate, federal funds from the Justice Department’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program to be used to buy back assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The funds provide an incentive to retire weapons and accessories already in circulation.

Extreme Risk Protection Order Act

  • Senator Feinstein in February 2019 introduced a bill to help states develop court processes that allow family members to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
  • The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act would allow states to use funds from the Justice Department’s COPS program to develop court processes that would allow family members to petition a court for a gun violence prevention order to temporarily block dangerous individuals from purchasing weapons from federally licensed dealers. If a prevention order were granted, the individual would be designated a prohibited purchaser in the NICS background check system.
  • States could also develop court processes that would allow family members to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order that would grant law enforcement the authority to temporarily take weapons from dangerous individuals who present a threat to themselves or others. The bill contains significant due process protections by ensuring confidentiality and the opportunity to be heard by a judge.

Age 21 Act

  • Senator Feinstein in May 2019 introduced the Age 21 Act, a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines from 18 to 21.
  • Under current federal law, an individual is required to be at least 21 years old in order to legally purchase a handgun but only 18 years of age to legally purchase an assault rifle like the AR-15 used in the Poway shooting.
  • The bill, which Senator Feinstein initially introduced in 2018 with Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), creates parity in federal firearms law by prohibiting the sale of assault weapons to individuals under 21.