Assault Weapons Ban

The recent expiration on the "1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban" has caused a political frenzy. It has been said that lifting the ban would "make the job of terrorists easier and make the job of American's police officers harder." With 23,000 gun control laws already on the books, what affect did the ban on assault weapons really have?

The ban was passed in 1994 after a series of shooting in US schools and fast food restaurants. The ban restricted the manufacture and sale of 19 different types of military assault weapon, which were selected by how they looked and not by how they operated. Also banned were high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Many of the weapons targeted had been banned from importation in 1989.

A recent survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that firearm-related crimes have declined 54 percent since 1993. Yet a study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice stated, "We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence." The most obvious factor attributable to the infrequent use of assault weapons in crimes is that most assault weapons are rifles and are harder to conceal, consequently, they are used less often than hand guns. Between 1985 and 2000, there was a decline in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, however, the decline was in the use of handguns. The use of other types of guns stayed about the same.

Under the 1994 law, assault weapons already in circulation could continue to be sold. Buying and selling such weapons built was legal, but as the supply decreased under the ban, the cost of these weapons skyrockted. As I see it, the primary affect of the ban was on the value of the estimated 1.5 million privately owned assault weapons.


Bryce Larkin said...

I can't wait until the assault weapon ban is removed. I have also looked up statistics and found out the weapon banned on assault weapons have not made a significant difference. Most of those weapons are rifles as stated in the article and are hard to conceal. The removal of the ban will drop the prices of those weapons but I do not believe the crime rate will go up. Even with the banned, anyone can buy the weapons. They are just more expensive.

Bruce Banner said...

It will be nice once the ban is lifted. Price of guns and assecories will come down in price. I went to a gun show, vendors were trying to sell these banned guns and assecories as much as possible (example larger clips that hold more than ten rounds) because they are making more money now but as soon as the ban is lifted their profits will drop. Clips will be cheaper to purchase. Also if you were trading these items to a vendor the consumer where not getting a good trade-in value because the vendors knew they would not be worth as much.

Placing this ban on assult weapons helped the vendors out because they could raise the price on these guns and could make more money but on the crime side; I do not think it helped much. If some one really want to cause harm, they would find ways to do it, whether there was a ban or not.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on Max's post for 1 spelling error, and 1 inconsistent spelling. I'll let Bruce Banner's spelling error slide since a comment is only worth 1 point anyway.

The assault gun ban is a classic example of a government measure that economists could (and probably did - I don't follow this issue so I don't know for sure) have predicted would have unusual consequences.

In this case, it is the fact that vendors now appear to be making more money, and the presumption that people who want assault weapons can still obtain them.

There probably isn't much evidence for the latter (because people wouldn't want that widely known). What is certain is that the high price has probably decreased the prevalence of these guns in low value crimes. Why rob a liquor store with a $2K assault rifle if a $20 pistol will do the trick? Unfortunately, my suspicion is that this didn't do much for crime because criminals were not buying assault rifles for this purpose anyway.

The prices that vendors get is another matter entirely. The skyrocketing prices of assault weapons at gun shows reflects inelastic demand for those weapons: people who want one have no substitutes, so they will pay the higher price. So, the prime beneficiary of the assault weapon ban appears to be vendors/dealers at gun shows. Who knew? Economists that's who ;)>

BTW: one of the two main explanations for the drop in crime over the last ten years is legalized abortion. Potential mothers of unwanted children aborted them in the 1970s, leading to less criminals in the 1990s. It sounds bizarre, but the data supporting that are very strong.