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Does Banning Assault Rifles Impact Mass Shootings?

February 19, 2019

Written by Clay Smith

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This review of open source data since 1981 strongly suggests that the period of an assault weapons ban (AWB) from 1994-2004 was associated with a reduction in fatality from mass shootings.

Why does this matter?
“Our primary goal is to reduce the number of bullet holes in people.” Dr. Martin Croce quoting Dr. Wayne Meredith #ThisIsOurLane

People are dangerous. People with assault rifles are more dangerous.
This was a retrospective review of three open source databases (Mother Jones News, the LA Times, and Stanford University) comparing the number of mass shootings appearing in all three for the period during which there was an assault rifle ban, 1994-2004, with the periods before and after through 2017. They defined mass shooting as 4 or more deaths from the same shooting incident, which is the strictest FBI definition. Assault weapons accounted for 430 of 501 (86%) mass shooting deaths during the study period. Mass shooting homicides are increasing, most sharply after the AWB ended in 2004. The risk of a mass shooting death was 53/140,515 total firearm homicides vs 448/348,528 during the non-ban periods. The risk ratio is 0.30 (95% CI, 0.22–0.39), which means the risk of mass shooting fatality was 70% less during the AWB. Using linear regression, they calculated that the AWB ban was associated with 9 fewer mass shooting deaths per 10,000 homicides per year. If this is correct, an AWB would have prevented 314 of the 448 (70%) of the mass shooting deaths in the periods outside the ban. Overall, case fatality is decreasing, which may reflect advances in trauma care. This study can’t speak to causality. It answers the focused question of whether the AWB was associated with lower mass shooting fatality during the time of the ban. That answer, according to this analysis, is yes.

Solutions spring from focusing on the goal of reducing gun violence and by listening to what smart, reasonable people with differing perspectives have to say about this. If you know a helpful link that would further the conversation and presents a cogent argument, please add a comment.

Perspectives on Firearms Policy

Another Spoonful

Changes in US mass shooting deaths associated with the 1994-2004 federal assault weapons ban: Analysis of open-source data. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2019 Jan;86(1):11-19. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002060.

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Reviewed by Thomas Davis

2 thoughts on “Does Banning Assault Rifles Impact Mass Shootings?

  • Started reading the source article from the LA Times that they use as a ‘database’. Found them counting a .45 ACP Smith and Wesson pistol as an ‘assault weapon’ in the Ft Hood shooting by Ivan Lopez…

    • You raise a good point. The public databases like this leave much to be desired.

What are your thoughts?