It has become a talking point on the anti-gun left to claim that while “assault weapon” bans don’t reduce gun-related crime, they do reduce the frequency and fatality of mass murders.
Virginia State Senator Mark Levine, for example, in a word vomit salad of uninformed opinions, claimed that the 1994 “assault weapons” ban was “very successful” in stopping mass murders. He used that supposed fact to support his own ban that would eventually fail in the Virginia Senate.
A new study has given the lie to even that defense. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that bans on semi-automatic firearms commonly referred to as “assault weapons” have no effect on fatal mass murders.
It’s buried at the bottom of the press release, but it’s there: “the study did not find an independent association between assault weapon bans and the incidence of fatal mass shootings after controlling for the effects of bans on large-capacity magazines.”
The study also undercuts the push to ban the private transfer of firearms. It found no connection between a reduction in mass murders and comprehensive background check laws that do not also include a licensing requirement.
The study also did not find significant associations between mass murders and concealed carry laws or firearm prohibitions for violent misdemeanor convictions and domestic violence restraining orders.
Researchers claim that bans on magazines holding more than 10 rounds as well as gun owner licensing requirements do play a role in reducing mass murders.
The study analyzed 604 fatal mass murders in 45 states between 1984 and 2017. It found that bans on “large-capacity” magazines were associated with a “significant reduction” in the rate of fatal mass shootings with four or more fatalities and the number killed in those shootings.
It also supposedly found a 56 percent reduction in mass shootings in states that require prospective gun owners to apply in person for a license to own a firearm using some type of fingerprint identification. Nine states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina—and the District of Columbia currently have some form of firearm purchaser or owner licensing laws.
The press release does not describe the method by which researchers reached any of their conclusions.
Multiple studies have found no significant connection between bans on “assault weapons” and homicide rates. A 2019 Journal of the American Medical Association study found such bans were not “significantly associated with overall homicide rates,” and a 2017 Journal of General Internal Medicine study found that laws targeting military-style assault weapons were not associated with changes in firearm homicide rates.