When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled. — Joe Biden, Tuesday, May 24, 2022.Transcript of Biden’s Speech Tuesday night about the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
There was no drop in the number of attacks with assault weapons during the 1994 to 2004 ban (data available here). There was an increase after the ban sunset, but the change is not statistically significant. More importantly, if Biden’s claim is correct, we should see a drop in the percent of attacks with assault weapons during the federal ban period and then an increase in the post-ban period, but the exact opposite is true. You can’t have the ban reducing the number of attacks without the share of attacks using assault weapons falling. While virtually all the work in this area looks at attacks where four or more people are murdered, the graphs above look at 6 or more because of claims by Louis Klarevas.
The Mother Jones set of mass public shootings uses the traditional FBI definition of four or more people murdered. Again, there is virtually no change in the number of attacks with assault weapons, though the number of attacks with any type of weapon does increase. Again, though, that is because when the assault weapon ban sunset there was a huge increase in the number of attacks not using an assault weapon. It would be interesting for gun control advocates to explain why eliminating the assault weapon ban had no effect on the number of attacks with assault weapons but increased attacks that used other types of weapons.
Finally, we show Klarevas’ unique data that the Biden administration has been relying on. Not only does Klarevas create his own definition of mass public shootings involving six or more murders, but, importantly, he also has his own unique set of cases that ignore the FBI definitions of public places and attacks that don’t involve some other type of crime. Still, even with those changes, the share of mass public shootings involving assault weapons falls after the assault weapon ban sunset because the increase in attacks primarily involves more non-assault weapons. Again, it would be interesting to have a gun control advocate explain that.
There has been a lot of research on the assault weapon ban, and even work paid for by the Clinton administration was unable to find any benefits from the law, including any reduction in any type of violent crime or mass public shootings. Here is a recent California judicial decision that came to the same conclusion regarding California’s assault weapon ban.
The number of attacks surely has not tripled after the ban ended.
The data used in these graphs is available here and here.