Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Did the federal ban on assault weapons matter?

December 14th, 2012, 11:49pm by Sam Wang


After the mass shooting of 20 children and 7 adults in Connecticut, I asked: (1) Are such shootings on the rise? and (2) Would a gun control law make a difference in such events?

In a situation like this, it is common to hear that the weapons used were acquired legally (for instance, see Ezra Klein today). This raises the issue of what would happen if the law changed. There is some evidence.

From 1994 to 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was in place (CRS report here). Here is that period, shown on a graph of people killed or wounded in mass shootings since 1982.

The data came from an extensive tabulation by Mark Follman at Mother Jones. Except for 1999, a year of five shootings (including the Columbine massacre), the assault ban period was peaceful by US standards:

Years Shootings Per year People shot/year
1982-1994 19 1.5 25.5
1995-2004 16 1.6 20.9
2005-2012 27 3.4* 54.8*

*p<0.05 compared with 1995-2004.
Since the expiration of the gun ban in 2004, the number of shootings per year has doubled, and the number of victims per year has nearly tripled. Three of the bloodiest four years shown here occurred since the expiration.

However, the assault-weapon-ban hypothesis does not explain why victims and shootings were not as common before 1994. Has something new happened in the last decade? War? Economic disruption? Lax monitoring of the mentally ill? Whatever the case, renewing the assault weapon ban as a route to pre-2005 conditions seems like a rational response to today’s horrific events.

Update: Using the FBI’s lower threshold for what constitutes a “mass” killing, this analysis by James Alan Fox suggests no change since 2004 in the number of incidents in which four or more people were killed. However, for a view of larger killings (in the US and abroad) see this list, which is consistent with the trend I have described. In other words, these acts are always with us, but advanced weaponry creates an efficiency of scale to allow the possibility of large killings. James Fallows describes the other extreme of what a lunatic can do without any guns at all.

Tags: Politics

91 Comments so far ↓

  • jharp

    Again, a brilliant post by Sam Wang.

    Many thanks to you.

    • covbeckers

      Sam. The unsurprising statistics that you fail to mention are those that show a direct correlation between the percentage ownership of guns in individual states and the murder rates per capita of those states. The higher the percentage of gun ownership, the higher the per capita gun death rate. Unsurprising but very important and the starting point in deciding what to do

  • 538 Refugee

    Were assault weapons even used in this instance? 300+ million in the USofA. How do you control/identify the 3.4 per year that are going do something like this? The world was a far different place when our constitution was written and is changing rapidly. As a nation we need to come to grips with the fact that our constitution isn’t a sacred document and in sore need of some updates as we move into a new age.

    • Sam Wang

      This is a good point. So far it has come out that one of the three guns was a Bushmaster .223, which was regulated by the assault weapon ban. There are technical details like carbines and so on that I am sure will emerge or are available for someone who want them.

  • Jay Johnson

    Exactly, that is the reason for the provision allowing for the amendment of the constitution. 2012 is a way different world from 1789. And if the founding fathers were here today, they would have amended the 2nd amendment long ago!

  • Some Body

    Sorry for being a bit demagogic about it, but I think it’s time for you Americans to start asking the folks at the NRA and the politicians they pay to get elected this simple question: “How does it feel to have the blood of twenty children on your hands?”

    • Sam Wang

      I am under the impression that similar to the US Chamber of Commerce, the NRA’s official views are not necessarily shared by its members. See the Klein piece for examples of policies with widespread support once they are stated specifically.

    • Some Body

      And you’re most probably right on this, but I didn’t mean NRA members as a group; I meant NRA as an organisation, its leadership, the people deciding what and how to lobby for and where campaign contributions are going.

  • Dave Kliman

    using a line chart instead of a bar chart makes the 1999 figure seem to extend over 3 different years. why not see what that data looks like in a column chart…

  • Wheelers cat

    This is the brilliant use of statistical analysis. Not to forecast, but to reveal the underlying structure of the data…. Ie reality.
    Props to Dr. Wang.

  • Wheelers cat

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/in-public-conversation-on-guns-a-rhetorical-shift/#more-37904

    See what I mean by saying Nate has become a pundit? Talking about people talking about stuff.
    So first culture.
    :)

    • Sam Wang

      That post did not even cite the federal assault weapon ban expiration in 2004. I think it is good to bring something fresh to the conversation…but what about some baseline knowledge? Then again, I didn’t know what an AR-15 was.

    • Wheelers cat

      I did. My cousin has one.

      Do you see what chris mooney was saying about first culture intellectuals and CP Snow?
      Blogging about opinion instead of facts is so first culture.

    • Some Body

      Alas, facts don’t change the law; opinions, through the electoral choices and/or bribery of their holders, do.

    • Wheelers cat

      Facts can change opinion.
      Frank Swain (@SciencePunk) suggests a war on guns.
      Visuals are facts. The ultimate in social propaganda .

  • Patrick Draut

    300 million people combined with a reasonably simple path to gun ownership or acquisition creates an environment where events are going to occur from time to time. Bottom line is that these events, even with tighter controls and laws, will generally not be preventable. The profile of mass shooters does not coincide with a person that will be turned away during the process (generally not a felon or clinically documented as psychologically unstable/dangerous).
    So what options are available? Sweeping changes in gun laws, similar to much of Europe, that makes it quite difficult to own and maintain any firearm. Not reasonable and not happening.
    Loosening gun laws so that everyone is strapped and ready to engage the bad guy? Seems counter intuitive and sounds more like a Western film than a practical solution.
    My guess is that we get some legislation that is hotly debated but does little in practical terms of future prevention, and then when it happens again… The argument will come full circle.

    • Wheelers cat

      If you read the post, it seems like the Assault Weapons Ban had a measureable quantitative effect.
      Like dr. Wang said, the economies of scale.

    • Some Body

      Actually, you already have some Pavlovian NRA types saying (at least in comment sections of various stories) that the solution to such school attacks should be arming the teachers (nobody’s suggested arming the grade school kids yet, but that’s the next stage, I guess).

      Now, I used to be a teacher for some years, and I can tell you one thing: you DON’T want teachers to carry firearms, because if they do, some of those firearms will end up being used against pupils on quite a regular basis.

    • Jay Bryant

      @Some Body: I also used to be a teacher (at a university). Violence and the potential for violence have no place in education. No one should have a weapon in a school, ever.

  • Wheelers cat

    Well the bushmaster was found with the shooter. So yah, Dr. Wang’shypoth has teeth. :)

  • Patrick Draut

    The ship has sailed… The guns are out there. Does a ban now possibly prevent a shooting in the future? Sure. Is there also a possibility that post ban these deranged shooters still find access to the appropriate weaponry to perform their heinous crimes. Highly likely.

    I’m in no way a gun advocate; however, this problem is not solved by new controls unless the controls are drastic…similar to much of Europe. This includes a maintenance provision that would attempt to remove guns from their current owners.

    • Wheelers cat

      Top down gun control won’t work in contemporary America I think. It has to come from a grassroots movement. It’s too easy for the right to demagogue the issue.

    • Joel

      You can restrict access to the bullets, which will eventually run out. It may take a while, however.

  • pechmerle

    @ WC and Sam and some others:

    I’m not a fan of Nate’s, and I’m strongly in favor of a renewed (and strengthened) ban on assault weapons in the hands of civilians (non-peace-officers). One of my senators (Feinstein) led the push for the 1994 ban, and she keeps trying for a renewal — much to her credit.

    But — Nate’s choosing to write about the rhetorical shift over a similar time span is also quite legitimate. We in the gun control movement long ago lost the battle to shape the terminology. As George Lakoff — and many others — point out, in political discourse description becomes reality. So if we are talking about ‘limiting gun rights’ we’re already behind. Nate properly emphasizes that. (And see yesterday’s piece in the NYT, “Why America Lets the Killings Continue,” by Gregory Gibson.)

    As an aside, I spent a year in Japan some years ago. Talk about feeling safe, pretty much anywhere anytime —-

    • Wheelers cat

      C’mon, pechemerle. FIGHT. The assault weapons ban had AN EFFECT. Nate is a pundit naow.
      No desu.

    • pechmerle

      WC, upper case doesn’t add any factual content, so apparently you agree that rhetoric also matters.

    • Wheelers cat

      Dude.
      Of course it has an effect. This is the Age of Social Propaganda.

    • pechmerle

      Well, it’s – an – age of social propaganda. I’m not sure that there was an age that wasn’t.

      See demagoguery, origin of.

  • 538 Refugee

    I firmly believe one of the things that has brought the human race the measure of success it has enjoyed is its love of our children. We generally raise them till the age of 18 and quite often beyond. We are left to ponder a mind that could murder 20 terrified innocents along with the adults. There will be attempts to study this and poke and prod it with sticks but I don’t think we will every truly understand a mind like this.

    Years ago I remember reading about a man that beat a murder charge because he had an undiagnosed brain tumor. We don’t get the package wrapped quite so neatly most of the time. I’m sure Dr. Wang would agree there is more we don’t know about the human brain/mind that what we do know. You know this man’s life will be inspected and dissected from every imaginable angle trying to find what led him down this dark path but he was one of the true outliers and understanding his path will probably not help us pick out the next 3 of 315,000,000 before it is too late.

    Sadly this is a function of population and as it increases we inevitably have more such instances. Sam is correct in looking for ways to limit their potential for destruction though. Perhaps what we need is a campaign to keep “weapons of mass destruction” out of the hands of the ordinary citizenry. Maybe that should be our phrase in an attempt to battle back in the terminology war? Back when the constitution was written ‘arms’ consisted of muzzle loaders. If we want to go by the strict interpretation of the constitution that is what the framers had in mind.

    Advocating a much stricter term for allowable ‘arms’ carries considerable political risk though. Even people favoring gun control will balk at too strict an interpretation but I see that as a viable starting point. Damned, this isn’t the post I started. ;) I just looked back to see how I got here. I ‘think’ it may be about timing. There is a sensibility threshold that has not only been crossed but smashed to smithereens.

    • Wheelers cat

      Well the Brits ended their school room massacres in 1996. How did they do it?

  • GetReal

    I wish people would stop calling AR-15′s assault rifles. They are semi-auto, not capable of multiple round bursts. Liberals love using words that make things sound worse than they are. Please use this term correctly.

    • March

      Still shoots 5 bullets per second. I’m sure the fact it is not offficially “assualt” will be a major comfort to these families this holiday.

    • Vicente

      It has a large magazine and, as a semi auto, it can fire roughly as fast as your trigger finger (which is really fast). You are technically correct – it’s not the military version that fires three round bursts. But the point is it lets people kill extremely quickly and on a mass scale.

      A crazed gunman with a double barreled shotgun that he’s got to reload after every shot would have a very hard time doing the sort of damage the present murderers have done. If you consider that ten murders are worse than one (I do), then the technicality of an “assault rifle” vs a “semi automatic rifle that can efficiently kill a mass of people” is irrelevant.

    • Joel

      The M16 *assault rifle* was standard issue in the US Army until very recently. The civilian version of the M16, using different cartridges, and without full burst, is the AR-15.

      In terms of killing prowess, it is basically the same gun.

  • GetReal

    Also, the original assault “weap0ns” ban only limited AR-15 to certain gun features such as an extendable stock and muzzle flash suppressor. The gun itself was still able to be purchased throughout the entire ban which would not correlate to the data Dr. Wong gave.

  • GetReal

    It’s called, lock up your guns up! The shootings this last week were both stolen. It is our society that has raised these twisted individuals and it should start there. I am a law abiding citizen and have the right to defend myself if need be

    • Wheelers cat

      Obvi the same problem the quants have with global warming deniers. The data is right there in the post.
      His mother bought the guns. He used the bushmaster to shoot down a door. All the dead children had bushmaster bullets in them.
      If you must have a home defensive weapon, I recommend a shotgun and a semi automatic handgun. Hard to miss with a shotgun.
      There is a reason those weps are called ASSAULT weapons and not defense weapons.
      I have a shotgun and a ruger semi.
      Quant. Suf.

    • Froggy

      I’m not a gun person, but from what I see a lot of the criteria for what constituted an “assault weapon” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban#Criteria_of_an_assault_weapon) had only a remote relationship to whether a gun was suitable for mass shootings.

      It seems to me that one good step from where we are now is enacting some serious limits on magazine capacity. Limiting magazine capacity to six rounds (or some other single-digit number) would have a real effect in curtailing these mass shooting incidents.

  • GetReal

    You can do far more damage with a semi-auto shotgun than the equivalent to a .22 which a AR-15 is. The AR-15 is not the high power rifle that the media makes it out to be but actually the opposite is the case. You can fire bullets and shells in handguns and shotguns at the same rate in a AR-15. The only argument that can be made on AR-15′s is that they can have large quantity magazines of up to 30 rounds. How many bullets can your ruger hold and what caliber is it? My guess would be that it is larger than a .22 and around 12-18 rounds.

    • Wheelers cat

      A 20 year old guy just blew away a door and slaughtered 28 humans with an AR-15. One body had eleven bullets in it. I don’t know wat his magazine held.
      I repeat, there is no need for assault weapons in home defense.

      It’s 9mm w/ a 16 shot clip.
      I practice at the range.

    • GetReal

      What is the difference between your 9mm 16 round clip when you can easily change the clip out in 2-4 seconds and it has a higher caliber bullet? Is it worse because it could be considered a “assault weapon?”

    • Wheelers cat

      Sure. But let’s just take one bite.
      Dr Wangs graph shows the assault weapons ban had an effect on the number of dead per massacre.
      Economies of scale.
      I think there is a hidden variable …. Lets call it the Rambo factor…that makes the AR-15 especially appealing to the sanity challenged white American
      male.
      Much more macho to blow out a glass schoolroom door with a bushmaster.
      Then if we get a rash of school slaughters with semi-automatic handguns we can look at regulating them.
      I object to your conservative reasoning. Fixing a part of the problem is still worthwhile.

    • Joel

      At some point, these types of arguments become monstrous. Gaze into the abyss, indeed.

  • GetReal

    Check out where the term “Assault Weapon” came from. It is a term that liberals gave it in legislation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_weapon

    The only reason that the AR-15 has been labeled “Assault Weapon” is because it has a clip that can be ejected much like a pistol. Something also worth noting is that not all AR-15′s are considered assault weapons. They must have 2 of 5 features in order to be coined this liberal term to scare people into thinking they are bad. I have not heard the news state that any of these features were on the guns used yet they are not afraid to use the term “assault weapon.”

    1) a folding or telescopic stock
    2) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
    3) a bayonet mount
    4) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel (a barrel that can accommodate a flash suppressor)
    5) or a grenade launcher.

    • Wheelers cat

      Well I would use a 30 round magazine as a definition of an assault weapon.

    • Wheelers cat

      One of the surviving kindergartners said they heard “about a hundred shots”.
      Anything that can fire a hundred rounds before the police get there is my definition of an assault weapon.

    • GetReal

      You’re definition does not matter. You are not part of Webster’s dictionary, are you? 100 rounds does not take long in any semi-auto weapon, as quick as your finger can squeeze them out. Why is your ruger any different? How long does it take you to shoot 6 clips as fast as you can? Not long, maybe two minutes at most. My argument is that politicians and liberals want to scare the public away from a rifle that is not as bad as they make it out to be.

    • Wheelers cat

      I give up.
      You win.
      This is the global warming argument….we can’t fix the whole thing, so why even try?

    • Michael

      Every AR-15 I’ve ever seen (not many) had a pistol grip. Every photograph of an AR-15 I’ve ever seen (tons available on google) shows a rifle with a pistol grip. But the real problem is the 30 round clip. The only reason to want one of those is to kill lots of people very quickly. And since we can’t hope to stop every deranged would-be mass shooter before s/he starts shooting, I vote for at least making them re-load more often.

    • Michael

      And yeah, by the way, those 30-round magazines were banned from 1994-2004.

    • Some Body

      @GetReal – You can’t win an argument about the actual policy, and you understand that it would look very bad if you just say outright that you’re against any kind of restrictions on gun trade, and no matter how many little children’s, and others’, lives can be saved by them.

      So what do you do? Start arguing about the semantics of the phrase “assault weapon”. At another discussion thread elsewhere, one conservative type made an issue of principle out of the fact that the author of an article used the term “clip” to refer to a magazine.

      That’s just pathetic.

  • Eric Walker

    One problem is that it is between difficult and imposible to find credible studies, or even basic statistics, for these matters: there are studies aplenty, but almost all seem heavily slanted one way or the other.

    The one most often adduced by the gun nuts (a term I use advisedly, based on what I think a reasonable definition of sanity and reasonable interpretations of the data) is the famous, or infamous, one by Kleck (http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/kleckandgertz1.htm), though in fact he has produced many like it; the counterpoise usually offered is the work of Hemenway (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-threats-and-self-defense-gun-use/index.html). Since Hemenway tends to attack Kleck’s findings on the basis of poor statistical-analysis methodology, it is a matter on which Dr Wang’s expertise might fruitfully be brought into play.

    The deep-sunk barrier to progress is that the “me have my gunz!” school’s resistance is not rooted in logic or reason, and–as has been famously noted–one cannot use reason to get a man out of a position he did not use reason to get into in the first place.

    • Wheelers cat

      I think we should have to SEE. Show the bloody classrooms and the small still bodies. Show them on tv, show them to the 31 pro-gun senators.
      Make them own it.

    • Olav Grinde

      Good point, Wheeler’s Cat.
      It was the rawness and relentlessness of the imagery that turned Americans against the Vietnam war. If images from these school shootings were widely published — and the gun lobby systematically confronted, then that might have an effect.

    • Wheelers cat

      Well I think we should have to have our faces rubbed in Gharani as well. That’s why I am an Assangian.

  • Jay Bryant

    Sam: Thanks for the analysis. Whatever else it does, it indicates that we have seen a big jump in these incidents in recent years, a fact that we can hopefully use to fuel the discussion about reversing that trend.

    On a web design note, if you throw width=”100%” into that table, the headings won’t crush together. I literally had to look at the page source to see which words were in which columns.

  • C. Van Carter

    The AWB didn’t make it illegal to own “assault” weapons, or to buy and sell pre-ban weapons. A perverse side effect of the AWB was that the market was flooded with imported AK-47′s and SKS’s.

  • MAT

    I like the insurance angle. To purchase or own a gun, you have to carry liability insurance on it, just like a car. Purchases are registered. If that weapon is used in a crime, the owner (thru the insurance and deductibles) pays – a lot. From a practical standpoint, insurance could probably not be obtained without proof of a gun vault to store and protect the guns. There would be a strong financial incentive to keep potential weapons locked up. That way your twenty year old doesn’t grab your guns out of the closet.

    The lack of insurance on a gun used in a crime could carry mandatory incarceration for the registered owner. I know this doesn’t handle existing guns,but it’s a route for moving forward.

    I’m sure this idea has major flaws, but it’s a starting point. We require insurance on vehicles, which are a lot more valuable to society than a gun in a non-military or police usage.

    • MAT

      Proof of insurance would be required prior to the purchase of a gun. This is a free market solution – the insurance industry would make an actuarial judgement on your risk as a gun owner – something they are quite good at in other fields. Somehow, I don’t think James Holmes winds up loaded for bear in Aurora under this scenario.

    • Wheelers cat

      Never happen MAT. Did you read my link? The anti-government right can just kabuki that as ‘they are coming for your guns.’ Fear based argument are highly effective on right wing base.
      It has to be bottom up, a grassroots revolution against american gun culture.

    • MAT

      Oh, I know exactly what the reaction will be like, I live in the heart of the Appalachians, where more than one nearby neighbor ran out in 2008 and added greatly to already sizable arsenals with thousands upon thousands of rounds. This area is a Waco waiting to happen.

      But I also think Krugman in your link below is right, and that the ‘all guns all the time’ voting block is outsized in their influence to their numbers. I’m interested in what effective reform could look like, hence my ideas above. Figure out the policy goal, then the politics.

  • Olav Grinde

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between Canada and the USA. On numerous occasions I have asserted (only half-jokingly) that gun ownership beyond hunting rifles and firearms used for target competition should only be allowed north of the border.

    • Wheelers cat

      You have to wonder about the progression. Colombine was high schoolers, Aurora was a movie theater, and now first graders.
      What’s next, a pre-school? A hospital full of newborns? When does it get bad enough for us to act?

    • Wheelers cat

      Virginia tech was college students, I forgot that one. I suppose you could say the Aurora movie theater was families. Are we moving down the scale of age or up the scale of defenselessness ?

  • counsellorben

    I remember when the right used to excoriate the left for advocating “rights without responsibilities.” Now, the gun advocates use “gun rights” as a bludgeon to assert their position, but you never hear a word from gun advocates about “gun responsibility.”

    I did target shooting when growing up, and I remember there were NRA courses on responsible firearm usage and ownership. Nowadays, there are never any discussions of responsible firearm ownership.

    I will agree in part with Wheelers cat that we need a grassroots effort to move the discussion to gun responsibility, in order to pave the way for eventual legislation to make “gun responsibility” a required part of firearm ownership. This could take the form of insurance, as suggested by MAT, it could take the form of a federal license for a firearm owner, acquired by passing some basic firearm safety courses, or some other means to make gun responsibility mandatory.

    Once we change the conversation to “gun responsibility,” and say that firearm owners have a responsibility to keep their weapons secure, in order to prevent the murders of innocent children, the NRA loses its “gun rights” high ground.

    There should never be a right without a corresponding responsibility, especially where the right can result in so much death and horror.

  • Schmendric

    Much talk, little action. The core of the problem is that firearms of almost every description are readily available. Private parties should not have anything more than a single shot hunting rifle, a 38 caliber six-shot pistol, an automatic with a clip holding no more than 8 rounds, a shotgun. No weapon should be equipped to kill a massive number of anything, especially people! The amount of such weapons any one person may own should be very limited.
    I’m sure this will irk many people, but I am more irked — and grieved — at the slaughters we are experiencing.

  • Schmendric

    P.S. I, too, like the insurance idea. It has a great deal of merit.

  • JamesInCA

    Let’s look at the numbers Sam presents a little differently:

    Period / Shootings per year / Deaths per incident
    1982-94 / 1.5 / 17
    1995-04 / 1.6 / 13
    2005-12 / 3.4 / 16

    The “assault weapons ban” (which did little to limit the availability of fast-firing, semiautomatic rifles in military calibers) clearly did not reduce the *number* of mass-casualty shootings per year. They’re equal or slightly higher during the ban period.

    What did happen during the ban period is that deaths per shooting dropped approximately 23%, and then rose to about the same level at the ban’s expiration. Without delving into the details of each event, this would seem more likely a result of limited availability of high-capacity magazines. (If one had the time and information available, we could review the evidence recovered from each shooting and determine if the events during the ban period actually did involve lower-capacity magazines.)

    Since the expiration of the ban, *both* the frequency and lethality of mass-shooting events have increased. Since the ban doesn’t appear to have reduced the frequency of such events compared to the prior period, it’s questionable to assume that reinstating the same policy would have such an effect today.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t do anything. Indeed, pending better analysis, it looks like a high-capacity magazine ban might have an effect. But given the difficulty of increasing regulation of firearms in this country, it is imperative that what we spend our energy on be something that works. And that means we can’t ignore the “standard objections” that are actually true – like the fact that there are tens of millions of these weapons already present, which aren’t going away.

  • MAT

    David Frum echoing Wcat, myself and many others above:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/17/opinion/frum-leadership-newtown/index.html

  • Sam Wang

    This does not hold up. Your hypothesis predicts that the per capita gun death rate by should correlate positively with the population density on a state-by-state basis.

    Gun deaths by state are available here. Population density is available here.

    Of the 50 states, those with the five highest death rates (AK, AZ, LA, NV, WY) have a median of 18.8 deaths per 100,000 population, and a median population density of 25 persons per square mile. Those with the lowest five death rates (CT, HI, MA, NJ, NY) have 4.3 deaths per 100,000 population, and 739 persons per square mile. The relationship is in the wrong direction.

    Lest you think I am cherrypicking, the overall correlation coefficient is r=-0.40. This negative value, which can be anywhere from -1 to +1, means that there is an overall tendency for death rate to be higher in places of lower population density.

  • coolstar

    I find the argument about what defines an “assault rifle” to be besides the point. ANYTHING, rifle, shotgun, or handgun with more than a 6 or 7 round magazine is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to kill human beings (outside of target shooting, ALL handguns are designed to kill humans). Such weapons should be in the hands of the military and LEO, NO ONE ELSE. Here’s an idea from writer David Brin that I think has merit: the real problem in mass shootings is the rate of fire. Cutting down on magazine size lowers this, but so would a mechanical (and/or electronic) limit on the rate of fire directly. I think a good first guess would be one round every two seconds. Put this together with smaller magazines, and this could have a real impact on mass killings by gunfire. I realize that a few exceptions would be necessary, mostly for shotguns used for bird hunting and for trap and skeet shooting, but those could require special permits etc. If you can’t stop that semi-mythical bad guy under these limitations I have some advice: practice more.

  • Some Body

    @Sam — This may have something to do with gun ownership being higher in rural areas and lower in urban areas.

  • Some Body

    Smith, you could easily have packed all those excuses into just one message, not four. The resulting argument would have been equally unconvincing (cherrypicking or even falsifying data to fit a preset position doesn’t get you very far, nor do profanities), but would have taken less space.

  • Wheelers cat

    Here’s where Nate silver and paul krugman can shine. Like I said, democrats can seize the wave.
    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/in-gun-ownership-statistics-partisan-divide-is-sharp/
    Like with majority/minority voters, republicans will be forced to follow it, and drawn into the wake or drown fighting the current.
    Utram bibis? Aquam an undum?

  • bks

    Gun control is a non-starter. Gun derision will work, though. There is a difference between owning one cat and twenty cats and there is a difference between owning one gun and twenty guns. Time to include “gun-whackjob” in the DSM.

    –bks

  • mediaglyphic

    per capita guns murder
    US 88 4.2
    Canada 31 1.6

    These two countries are about as like as like can be, culturally we watch the same tv, movies. Similar government. look at the difference in guns and murders/cap .

    • mediaglyphic

      i haven’t got the hang of formating

      US guns per capita 88
      US murders per capita 4.2

      Canada guns per capita 31
      Canada murders per capita 1.6

    • JamesInCA

      Actually, the manifold differences between the U.S. and Canada, including form of government, crime rates, etc., are used as a textbook example in many introductory sociology courses of how two nations with a common origin can diverge to form two different cultures.

  • MAT

    Yes, and the sale of dynamite is now heavily regulated. So your point is?

  • Peacockherl

    A bit of history to add to the debate:

    The U.S. Army, whose business it is the kill efficiently, conducted several studies in the aftermath of WWII. They found (a) many frontluine soldiers (up to 66 percent) armed with an M-1 rifle (semiauto, limited magazine capacity) never fired their weapon in combat. Further studies found that an individual was more likely to fire if armed with a submachine gun. The military concluded that full-auto weapons psychologically empowered troops.

    Other studies found that the more rounds that were fired, the greater the liklihood an enemy would be killed.

    Ergo, the development of the M-16 — a light recoil, full auto that would psychologically empower and cause a soldier to shoot at the enemy, and, with a basic 30-round magazine, fill the air with lead, thus increasing the liklihood of killing an enemy.

    I have never heard anyone disprove the notion that the same factors do not apply to deranged mass murderers. It’s the gun, the magazine and the man. The three cannot be separated. Eliminating the first two is a step forward in reducing the lethality of mass murder.

  • Sam Wang

    Pardon my saying so, guys, but this is getting to be a low-information thread. I am usually spared nastiness and foolishness of the type I am holding in moderation at the moment. Frankly, I prefer blogging about polls.

    To state the obvious, technology is an amplifier of intentions. Guns are easy and inexpensive technology for amplifying violent impulses. It is not an undue imposition on our rights to regulate gun safety. Magazine size control would be one obvious means. A systematic structure for training and issuing permits would be another. Presumably those who sternly lecture others on the difference between a magazine and a clip would pass such tests.

    The correlation I posted upthread speaks for itself. Speaking as a resident of New Jersey, the state with the lowest gun ownership in the country – and one of the lowest gun death rates – I find myself pleased at the thought that the denizens of Jersey Shore lack access to firearms.

    This thread gets a cooling-off period.

  • bks

    Simple statistical techniques seem to be failing us on this question. We can’t even properly define “assault rifle.” If we want to deal with mass killings by assault rifle, we have left behind the much larger problem of ordinary homicides where handguns are the problem. But mass killings are highly correlated with SSRI drugs, so maybe we should look into banning those first?

    –bks