Responding to the New York Times’ piece claiming “That Assault Weapon Ban? It Really Did Work,” September 4

Sep 12, 2019 | Featured

This letter was submitted to the New York Times

Dear Letters Editor:

There’s a serious flaw in John Donohue and Theodora Boulouta’s claims about the 1994 assault weapons ban (“That Assault Weapon Ban? It Really Did Work,” September 4). There are few actual “assault weapons” of any type in their dataset, either pre- or post-ban.

According to data by Mother Jones magazine, there were 3 mass public shootings with assault weapons in the ten years before the assault weapons ban, 2 during the 10-year ban, and 4 in the ten years after. Shootings had to have six or more fatalities to be included. As the authors note, these changes constitute large percentage variations, but are not statistically significant.

If Donohue and Boulouta are right that the ban had an impact, it should have reduced the number of shootings with assault weapons relative to shootings with other guns. While the share of mass public shootings with assault weapons did indeed fall from 30% in the pre-ban period to 25% during the ban, it fell to just 14.8% in the post-ban period. If the ban was really the driving force behind the change, it makes little sense that the sharpest drop would occur after the ban expired.


John R Lott, Jr., President of the Crime Prevention Research Center

Professor Carl Moody, Department of Economics, College of William & Mary



  1. Charles Jessee

    Following the 10yr ban on AWs, the share of mass shootings went down more than 2-fold more than during the 10yr period when AWs were banned. Even with the massive increase in manufacture and sales of banned firearms during than post-AWB 10yr period. One might hypothesize: More Guns, Less Crime. 😉

  2. Cauthon

    Always appreciate your work. Isn’t it interesting that the whole focus of current debate about guns is about the IAW’s, Imitation Assault Weapons, even though they are seldom used for murder? The gun control fanatics keep telling us that if we just get rid of those weapons, we will all live a long and happy life and die in our sleep. I am not fond of the dumb voter theory or even the dumb legislator theory, even though I might laugh at the old Mark Twain joke; we can be proud of our record of political activism, electing people who will stand up for our rights, but if our opponents were not full of BS we would have lost long ago. The NRA offers evidence based ideas for improving public safety, while the activists for gun control laws have to hope that the people and our legislators will not find out about the evidence, because it is not on their side. The major increase in multiple murders has been in the last few years, and I am sure that increase does not correspond to a similar increase in anything to do with guns, so there has to be some other explanation; I wonder how much the promotion of political violence has to do with that – since we see Antifa and others beating people and setting fires.