Federal Assault Weapons Ban
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Federal Assault Weapons Ban

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This is a presentation I created and delivered for a graduate class on public policy analysis.

This is a presentation I created and delivered for a graduate class on public policy analysis.

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  • Hello, my name is Nicholas Scalice and the policy I will be covering is the Federal Assault Weapons Ban
  • Here is a summary of what we will be looking at over the next 15 minutes. First, we will look at how the assault weapons ban began and the events that brought the issue of stronger gun regulations to the national spotlight. Then, we will analyze this policy under five distinct areas of policy evaluation, which are shown here. Lastly, we will conclude with some final thoughts on the successes and failures of the federal assault weapons ban.
  • On January 17, 1989, Patrick Edward Purdy, armed with an type 56 assault rifle—a semiautomatic variant of the military AK–47—returned to his childhood elementary school in Stockton, California, and opened fire, killing 5 children and wounding 30 others. Purdy squeezed off more than 100 rounds in 3 minutes before turning the weapon on himself.During the late 1980s and early 1990s, this tragedy and other similar acts of seemingly senseless violence, coupled with escalating turf and drug wars waged by urban gangs, sparked a national debate over whether legislation was needed to end, or at least restrict, the market for imported and domestic “assault weapons.” Beginning in 1989, a few states such as California enacted their own assault weapons bans, but it was not until 1994 that a Federal law was enacted.
  • The Act made it unlawful to “manufacture, transfer or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon,” as well as large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds.However, assault weapons and large capacity magazines legally possessed on the effective date of the Act remain legal under the Act’s “grandfather clause”
  • The act also banned assault weapons (AWs) with certain military features, such as semiautomatics with the ability to accept a detachable ammunition magazine and at least two of the following traits:A folding or telescoping stockA pistol grip that protrudes beneath the firing actionA bayonet mountA flash hider or a threaded barrel designed to accommodate oneOr A grenade launcher
  • Large Capacity Magazines or LCMs are perhaps the most functionally important feature of many AWs, and most prohibited AWs came equipped with magazines holding 30 rounds and could accept magazines holding as many as 50 or 100 rounds.
  • So, now that we have set the stage for the assault weapons ban and what it consists of, let’s quickly turn to the logic behind the ban. Supporters felt that assault weapons posed a threat to public safety because they are capable of firing many shots rapidly. They argued that these characteristics enhance offenders’ ability to kill and wound more persons and to inflict multiple wounds on each victim, so that a decrease in their use would reduce the fatality rate of gun attacks.This argument gained the national spotlight in 1994, when congress passed the The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, which we have been referring to as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.The actors involved on both sides of this issue besides congress, includes the president of the united states (which was Bill Clinton at the time), national state and local law enforcement, the Brady Center for Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association.
  • The National Rifle Association was the main opponent advocating against the assault weapons ban. They stated that the ban was a violation of the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. Furthermore, they argued that any attack on gun rights is an attack on freedom. The NRA was successful in their efforts when it came time to either renew the ban in 2004 or let it expire. Due to their lobbying efforts and other factors, the ban expired in 2004 without being renewed.
  • Getting into a few more details about the formation of the assault weapons ban, let’s begin with the specific legislative title. In congress, the ban was formally referred to as Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, (Public Law 103-322), Title 4, subtitle A. It was sponsored by representaitve Jack Brooks of Texas and co-sponsored by representatives William Hughes and Charles Schumer.It passed the House of Representatives on November 3rd, 1993, then passed the Senate on November 19, 1993. It was eventually signed into law by President Clinton on September 13th, 1994 for a ten year period.
  • The jurisdiction of the ban covered all 50 states and due to a sunset provision within the legislative text, it would automatically expire after 10 years, if not renewed by congress. Well, as mentioned before, there were no successful efforts at renewing the ban, so it expired on September 13, 2004. Therefore, the ban had an effective period of just 10 years, from 1994 to 2004.
  • Once the ban was in effect, the gun industry quickly responded by renaming guns and making minor changes to guns in order to skirt the ban.In these two images, you can see an example of how this was accomplished. On top is an image of a pre-federal ban Colt AR-15. Below it is a slightly-modified post-federal ban Bushmaster XM15 Carbine Assault Rifle. By making minor changes such as replacing the collapsible stock with a fixed “tele-style” stock and replacing the flash suppressor with a standard muzzle break, the latter weapon was perfectly legal during the effective period of the ban.
  • As far as regulation was concerned, the gun industry’s success in introducing copycat guns, along with the federal government’s failure to move against copycats under the “copies and duplicates” language of the statute, has raised concerns about the impact of the ban on the use of assault weapons in criminal activities.
  • The policy was enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or ATF.ATF regulations were published in the Code of Federal Regulations as seen here.Other regulations werefound in this section of the United States Code.Neither of these sections remain in effect since the ban has expired.
  • As for compliance outcomes of the policy, an important statistic to look at is the number of police recoveries of assault weapons reported to ATF, as a percentage of all traced guns, during the ban period. Basically, whenever a gun is used in a crime, a trace of that weapon or the shell casings is made in order to determine the type of gun used. When police recover assault weapons, they report this to the ATF.Such recoveries declined continually after the implementation of the ban.In 1994, approximately 4% of all traced guns recovered by police were classified as assault weapons.That number declined to just over 2% by 1997, and continued to decline to 1.6% in 2001
  • Here is the same data we just discussed in the last two slides in a visual format. Notice the clear trend downward after the ban was implemented in 1994.
  • Now we will look at two academic studies on the ban, beginning with the 2004 Brady study.In answering the question of whether or not the ban reduced the incident of assault weapons used in crimes, researchers found that in the five-year period prior to the act (1990-1994), assault weapons were accounted for in 4.82% of ATF crime gun traces.However, after enactment, such guns accounted for only 1.61% of traces, which shows a decline of 66% from the pre-ban rate
  • Moving on to the Koper, Woods and Roth Study, which is also from 2004, they found that Following implementation of the ban, the share of gun crimes involving AWs declined by 17% to 72% across the localities examined for this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage), based on data covering all or portions of the 1995-2003 post-ban period. They also concluded that the much bigger impact on gun violence is the prevalence of large capacity magazines, which were also outlawed by the ban
  • As far as the effect of the ban on gun markets, researchers noted that the assault weapons ban had clear short-term effects on the gun market, some of which were unintended consequences.Production of the banned weapons increased before the law took effect and prices fell afterwardThese effects suggest that the weapons became more available generally, but they must have become less accessible to criminals because there was at least a short-term decrease in criminal use of the banned weapons.
  • To visualize this, here is a graph of the annual price trends for assault rifles in blue and non-banned comparison rifles in pink. Note the rise and fall of assault rifle prices before and after the implementation of the ban, which is noted by the dashed vertical line.
  • The last statistic we will cover is the effect of the ban on lethal incidents of gun violence. Gun homicides plummeted from approximately 16,300 in 1994 to 10,100 in 1999, a reduction of about 38%. Experts believe numerous factors contributed to the drop in these and other crimes, such asChanging drug markets, a strong economy, better policing, and higher incarceration rates. Attributing the decline solely to the ban is problematic, considering that crimes with LCMs appear to have been steady or rising in the post-ban era. Nevertheless, many researchers believe that the number of gun homicides would have been significantly higher had it not been for the ban.
  • As a final evaluation of the federal assault weapons ban, we once again turn to the 2004 Brady study, which reported two summary findings. First, Assault weapons banned by name in the Federal Assault Weapons Act declined significantly as a percentage of guns ATF has traced to crime, and in absolute numbers of traces, during the active years of the ban.And second,The gun industry’s efforts to evade the Act through the sale of “copycat” guns has hampered but not substantially undercut the positive effect of the statute in reducing the incidence of assault weapons among crime guns.
  • So, what do these findings and the rest of the data mean in broader terms? Well, the Success in reducing criminal use of the banned AWs and LCMs has been mixed.The ban’s exemption of millions of pre-ban assault weapons and Large capacity magazines ensured that the effects of the law would occur gradually.Alternative wording of the Act in order to avoid the “copycat problem” could have improved the impact of the ban and Large capacity magazines continue to be the bigger issue.While 10 years seems like a long time, it was not a long enough period to see the full effects of the ban. Many would conclude that had it been in place for a significantly longer period of time, the successes would be far greater, but we will never know for sure unless it is one day rewritten and reinstated with everything we have learned since the beginning.

Federal Assault Weapons Ban Federal Assault Weapons Ban Presentation Transcript

  • Federal Assault Weapons BanCreated and Presented by Nicholas Scalice
  • Introduction • Where it all began • What the ban covered • Five areas of policy evaluation – Policy Environment – Policy Formation and Adoption – Policy Regulation – Policy Enforcement – Policy Evaluation • Conclusion2
  • Where It All Began • Cleveland School Massacre – January 17, 1989 – Stockton, California – Patrick Edward Purdy – Type 56 Assault Rifle – Fired 106 rounds in 3 minutes – Killed 5 and injured 30 • Bans in California and 6 other states • Federal ban enacted in 19943 View slide
  • What the Ban Covered • The Act made it unlawful to “manufacture, transfer or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon,” as well as large capacity magazines (LCMs) capable of holding more than 10 rounds • However, assault weapons and large capacity magazines legally possessed on the effective date of the Act remain legal under the Act’s “grandfather clause”4 View slide
  • The “Features Test” Provision • It also banned assault weapons (AWs) with certain military features, such as semiautomatics with the ability to accept a detachable ammunition magazine and at least two of the following traits: – A folding or telescoping stock – A pistol grip that protrudes beneath the firing action – A bayonet mount – A flash hider or a threaded barrel designed to accommodate one – A grenade launcher5
  • Large Capacity Magazines • LCMs are perhaps the most functionally important feature of many AWs • Most prohibited AWs came equipped with magazines holding 30 rounds and could accept magazines holding as many as 50 or 100 rounds6
  • Policy Environment • Setting the stage in the early 1990s • The logic of the assault weapons ban • 1994: The definitive year – The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (The Federal Assault Weapons Ban) • Actors involved: – Congress – President of the United States – National, state and local law enforcement – Brady Center for Gun Violence7 – National Rifle Association
  • Policy Environment • Main opponent was the NRA – Argued a violation of the 2nd amendment – Argued that any attack on gun rights is an attack on freedom – Successfully lobbied for non-renewal8
  • Policy Formation • Specific legislative title: – Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, (Public Law 103- 322), Title IX, subtitle A • Sponsor: – Representative Jack B. Brooks (TX) • Co-sponsors: – Representative William J. Hughes (NJ) – Representative Charles E. Schumer (NY) • Passed House on November 3, 1993 • Passed Senate on November 19, 19939 • Signed by Pres. Clinton on Sept.13, 1994
  • Policy Adoption • Jurisdiction began on federal level and covered to all 50 states • The end of the ban – Expired September 13, 2004 – Sunset provision – No successful efforts to renew ban • Effective period of the ban – 1994 to 200410
  • The Copycat Problem • How the gun industry responded to ban – Renaming guns – Making minor changes • Difficult to determine this impact on ban11
  • Policy Regulation • The industry’s success in introducing copycat guns, along with the federal government’s failure to move against copycats under the “copies and duplicates” language of the statute, has raised concerns about the impact of the ban on the use of assault weapons in criminal activities12
  • Policy Enforcement • Federal enforcement – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – ATF regulations are published as Title 27, Chapter II, Code of Federal Regulations by the Government Printing Office • Section 478 pertained to the ban • This section is no longer in effect – Other regulations are found in United States Code, Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedures, Part I – Crimes, Chapter 44 – Firearms, Sec. 922 – Unlawful Acts • This section is no longer in effect13
  • Compliance Outcomes • Number of police recoveries of assault weapons reported to ATF as a percentage of all traced guns, during the ban period – Such recoveries declined continually after the implementation of the ban – In 1994, approximately 4% of all traced guns recovered by police were classified as assault weapons – That number declined to just over 2% by 1997, and continued to decline to 1.6% by 200114
  • Effects on Assault Weapon Use • Police Recoveries of Assault Weapons Reported to ATF (National), 1990-200215
  • Brady Study (2004) • In answering the question of whether or not the ban reduced the incident of assault weapons used in crimes, researchers found that in the five-year period prior to the act (1990- 1994), assault weapons were accounted for in 4.82% of ATF crime gun traces • However, after enactment, such guns accounted for only 1.61% of traces, which shows a decline of 66% from the pre-ban rate16
  • Koper, Woods & Roth Study (2004) • Following implementation of the ban, the share of gun crimes involving AWs declined by 17% to 72% across the localities examined for this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage), based on data covering all or portions of the 1995-2003 post-ban period • Concluded that the much bigger impact on gun violence is the prevalence of large capacity magazines, which were also outlawed by the ban17
  • Effects on Gun Markets • The assault weapons ban had clear short-term effects on the gun market, some of which were unintended consequences • Production of the banned weapons increased before the law took effect and prices fell afterward • These effects suggest that the weapons became more available generally, but they must have become less accessible to criminals because there was at least a short-term decrease in criminal use of18 the banned weapons
  • Effects on Gun Markets • Annual Price Trends for Assault Rifles and Comparison Rifles, 1991-199919
  • Effects on Lethal Consequences • Gun homicides plummeted from approximately 16,300 in 1994 to 10,100 in 1999, a reduction of about 38% • Experts believe numerous factors contributed to the drop in these and other crimes, such as: – Changing drug markets, a strong economy, better policing, and higher incarceration rates • Attributing the decline solely to the ban is problematic, considering that crimes with LCMs appear to have been steady20 or rising in the post-ban era
  • Policy Evaluation • Finding #1 (2004 Brady Study) – Assault weapons banned by name in the Federal Assault Weapons Act declined significantly as a percentage of guns ATF has traced to crime, and in absolute numbers of traces, during the active years of the ban • Finding #2 (2004 Brady Study) – The gun industry’s efforts to evade the Act through the sale of “copycat” guns has hampered but not substantially undercut the positive effect of the statute in reducing the incidence of assault21 weapons among crime guns
  • Conclusion • Success in reducing criminal use of the banned AWs and LCMs has been mixed • The ban’s exemption of millions of pre- ban AWs and LCMs ensured that the effects of the law would occur gradually • Alternative wording of the Act in order to avoid the “copycat problem” could have improved the impact of the ban • LCMs continue to be the bigger issue • While 10 years seems like a long time, it was not a long enough period to see22 the full effects of the ban
  • References• Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. (2004). On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act.• Koper, C. S., Woods, D. J., & Roth, J. A. (2004). An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003. Report to the National Institute of Justice.• National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr• Roth, J. A., & Koper, C. S. (1997). Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994 (Rep.). Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute.• U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote - H.R. 3355. (n.d.). U.S. Senate Legislation & Records. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/ roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=103• Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355, 103d Cong., 2nd Sess. (1993).