Thursday, July 28, 2022

With Deception and Misdirection, House Democrats Vainly Try To Make the Case for Banning 'Assault Weapons'

Jacob Sullum 

The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on H.R. 1808, which would ban the production and sale of "assault weapons." That category includes semi-automatic rifles with features such as pistol grips, folding or adjustable stocks, barrel shrouds, and threaded barrels. The bill also would ban a long list of models by name. Setting the stage for the vote on H.R. 1808, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform today grilled manufacturers of the targeted rifles, emphasizing that they make money by selling the guns that Democrats want to ban, a fact the bill's supporters view as self-evidently scandalous.

The Democrats on the committee offered little evidence to support that perspective. In particular, they failed to show that "assault weapons" are especially likely to be used for criminal purposes, as opposed to lawful purposes such as self-defense or sport, or that prohibiting the features listed in the proposed ban can reasonably be expected to have a meaningful impact on gun violence.

In a press release she issued today, committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D–N.Y.) repeatedly asserts that "AR-15-style assault rifles" are "the weapons of choice for murderers responsible for America's deadly mass shootings." She reiterated that claim at the hearing, calling such rifles "the weapon of choice in most mass murders."

That is clearly not true. According to a recent National Institute of Justice report on public mass shootings from 1966 through 2019, 77 percent of the perpetrators used handguns. About a quarter of the perpetrators used weapons that would be covered by legislation like H.R. 1808.

Mass shootings represent a tiny share of all gun homicides—somewhere between 0.2 percent and 2.6 percent of the total in 2020, depending on how mass shootings are defined. Contrary to Maloney's claim, handguns account for the vast majority of firearms used in mass shootings, and they account for an even larger share of weapons used in all gun homicides: more than 90 percent in cases where the type of firearm was specified, according to the FBI's 2019 data. Rifles of any sort, only a subset of which would qualify as "assault weapons," were used in less than 3 percent of those cases...MORE

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