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