Data on the Effectiveness of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban

Did the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines work? Data shows overwhelming support for the 1994 ban.123

Last Friday’s horrific shooting in Colorado was a shocking reminder of the tremendous damage that can be done when military-style guns get into the wrong hands. The accessibility of assault weapons, in conjunction with large capacity ammunition magazines, enables lethality on a scale that is simply devastating. Today, only a small number of states regulate assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Because our porous borders allow guns to easily travel between states, even states that take steps to protect their communities from these weapons are vulnerable to them without a comprehensive federal law.

Weapons with military features that enable rapid and accurate spray firing are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. Similarly dangerous large capacity ammunition magazines, some of which can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition, enable a shooter to injure and kill many people without needing to reload. These magazines are frequently used in mass shootings, including those which occurred in Aurora, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and 101 California Street in San Francisco.

We know that banning military style weapons and ammunition does in fact work. The studies cited here show a significant decrease in the use of these weapons in crimes during the period they were federally banned from 1994 to 2004. There is simply no reasonable need for these weapons in a civilized society. As long as we continue to allow them to be legally and easily available in America, they will continue to get into the wrong hands and kill a frightening number of people.

Download graphics here: the effectiveness of the federal assault weapons ban, assault rifle gun laws, or large capacity ammunition magazine laws.

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  1. Christopher S. Koper, An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on GunMarkets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003, Report to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice (June 2004) 49. ⤴︎
  2. About the Project: The Hidden Life of Guns, Wash. Post, Jan. 22, 2011; David S. Fallis & James V. Grimaldi, Virginia data show drop in criminal firepower during assault gun ban, Wash. Post, Jan. 23, 2011. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎