Do Tight Gun Laws Help Criminals? We Look At The Facts…


There are a lot of studies on gun violence and crime.  In science, one study doesn’t prove anything.  It’s a body of studies that lead us to understand a trend.  And the only trend in recent history we have to play off of is the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  Nested within that act was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  This act made a majority of semi-automatic pistols and quite a few rifles and shotguns illegal to sell.  It also limited access to large capacity magazines and prevented domestic manufacturers from making more.

For ten years, we had bans in place stopping law abiding citizens from purchasing those types of firearms.

What did the government hope to accomplish with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban?

  • Remove access to magazines with more than ten rounds for pistols and five for rifles.
  • Remove access to any shotgun, rifle, or pistol deemed by the government as an “assault weapon”.
  • Remove access to firearms with threaded barrels or telescoping stocks.
  • In doing both conditions, the hoped effect would be limiting access to those types of firearms for criminal enterprises.

Did it work?  More than a decade afterwards, we’re beginning to see that the ban was largely ineffective.

Tight gun control laws do not equal reduced gun crime.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 shouldn’t be confused with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.  While they were submitted the same year, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is still in use whereas the other one expired on September 13, 2004.

Pivotal Government Study Proves The Case Against Gun Control

Dr. Christoper S. Koper is one of the leading researchers on gun violence in the United States.  Koper was the principal investigator when this question made it to the U.S. Senate.  In June, 2004, Koper and his team released their assessment for the Senate.  In that assessment, he and his team analyzed Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Reports, case studies, and peer-reviewed statistics.

One of the main focuses was finding the answer as to whether or not the federal ban (Title XI, Subtitle A of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994) had any effect on reducing violent crime.

If you’ll recall, the Brady Bill put a temporary ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons and their magazines – “assault pistols” and “assault rifles” and “high capacity” magazines.

What did this government funded study discover?

The following points were taken from abstract of “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003”, Koper C., Woods, D., Roth, J., Jerry Lee Report to the National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice, Center of Criminology, June, 2004.  Full text is available here.

Prior to Ban, Banned Guns and Magazines Were Used In At Least 25% Of Gun Crimes

  • Assault weapons were reportedly used between 2-8% of the time for documented crimes.  Koper makes the distinction that most of those assault weapons were in the assault pistol category.
  • Large capacity magazines were used in 14-26% of crimes prior to the ban.
  • Assault rifles and pistols equipped with large capacity magazines were used more often in killing police officers and mass shootings – though Koper acknowledges both incidents are extremely rare.

Ban Did Not Reduce Criminal Use Of Banned Guns And Magazines

This government study concluded that the results are mixed.  What gun control advocates were looking for was definitive statistics showing that assault rifles, pistols, and high capacity magazines were used less in crime following a ban.  This would have vindicated the idea that a ban could be effective in deterring crime.  The statistics don’t support that.

  • Gun crimes involving assault weapons dropped from 99% to 72% in cities studied – Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage.
    • This is possibly due to the government’s definition of what constitutes an assault rifle or pistol.
  • Gun crimes with assault pistols saw a slight decline, however the use of assault rifles in crime did not change.
  • Koper asserts that there were too many large capacity magazines available prior to the ban to be able to reduce the number being used in crimes.  Many manufacturers produced firearms that fell outside the scope of the federal definition of assault rifle or pistol and were thus employed in gun crimes with high capacity magazines.

Koper’s final assessment hinged on the fact that ten years is too short of a time to reduce existing stockpiles of large capacity magazines and assault weapons.  Thus, it’s nary impossible to tell if truly such a ban would hurt or help criminal activity.

Did The Gun Ban Actually Help Criminals?

Koper wasn’t the only one to study this question.  Plenty of criminologists have undertaken to find out how federal and state restrictions actually play against law abiding citizens.  In an independent study conducted by Mark Gius, et al., titled “An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates”, he concluded the following:

“…The results of the present study indicate that states with more restrictive CCW laws had gun-related murder rates that were 10% higher. In addition, the Federal assault weapons ban is significant and positive, indicating that murder rates were 19.3% higher when the Federal ban was in effect.”

Conclusion – Gun Control Does Not Stop Criminals

While studies are still being conducted to decide if gun violence is an increasing phenomenon in relation to access, the overall consensus is that the more law abiding citizens are kept from legal access to firearms for personal protection – the greater the likelihood of gun-related crime.

Should the government have a right to dictate which firearms are suitable for personal protection?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.


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About the Author

GH is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 26 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his Sig Sauer SP2022 in a Dara Holsters Appendix IWB holster.

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