Gun Bans are Misguided and Ineffective

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Henry Koontz

This past weekend, thousands participated in the “March for Our Lives” to advocate for gun control. One policy being proposed is a ban on “assault weapons.” There are a number of reasons why such a ban doesn’t make sense and why any ban on a broad category of firearms would have a negative effect.

First of all, if advocates of an “assault weapons” ban were aware of gun crime statistics, they would be focusing on banning pistols instead of rifles. Pistols are used in 65 percent of all homicides, while rifles of all kinds are used in only 3 percent. Pistols are also used more in mass shootings than rifles are. Pistols were used in 59 percent of mass shootings and rifles were used in 24 percent of mass shootings between 1982 and 2012.

Since pistols are “deadlier,” why aren’t gun control advocates focusing on banning pistols instead of rifles? Probably because the shootings that have gotten the most media attention lately have involved rifles, not pistols. Proposing a ban based on media coverage and not based on firearm statistics is illogical.

Secondly, as a previous OGB author pointed out, real assault rifles are already illegal for average civilians.

The AR-15 (the gun used in the Parkland, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs shootings) is not an assault rifle. The definition of an assault rifle is a rifle that can be fully automatic. That means more than one bullet comes out for every pull of the trigger (like a machine gun). The AR-15 is semi-automatic, which means only one bullet comes out with a pull of the trigger.

This is why civilians can buy an AR-15 but generally cannot buy a fully automatic M-4 (the rifle the U.S. military uses). Even though the AR-15 looks similar to the M-4, it functions differently. Many semi-automatic rifles do the exact same thing as an AR-15 even though they look different. The proposal to just ban AR-15s is pointless since other semi-automatic rifles would still be legal.

This is the mistake lawmakers made when they passed the 1994 assault weapons ban, which only banned certain semi-automatic rifles. This law did nothing to stop the Columbine shooters from using a Hi-Point 995, a semi-automatic rifle not included in the assault weapons ban of 1994. When the ban expired in 2004, studies by the Institute of Justice and University of Pennsylvania found that it had no measurable effect on violent crime.

So for a gun ban to even have the starting potential to have any impact, it would have to include all semi-automatic rifles and/or pistols. That would mean authorities forcibly confiscating roughly half of all firearms in the U.S. Aside from the obvious legal and Constitutional hurdles to doing this, this undertaking would be completely impractical. Since there is no gun registry of everyone who owns a firearm, authorities would have to rely on people voluntarily turning in their guns.

Those who respect the law enough to do this are not the ones who would be committing gun crimes. People who commit gun crimes already disregard the law so there is no reason they would voluntarily turn in their guns. For the most part, the only people who would be disarmed by this ban are those who would be using their guns for self defense and not crime.

This is why guns bans can lead to more deaths. Guns save more lives through self defense every year than there are murders or accidental deaths from guns.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of defensive gun uses per year is anywhere from 500,000 to more than a 1,000,000 per year. Surveys show that 17 percent of people who have used a firearm in self defense believe someone would have died had they not had a firearm for self defense. If you apply that percentage to even the low-end defensive gun use estimate of 500,000 per year, you get the estimate that at least 83,333 lives are saved per year through defensive use of firearms.

That number is much higher than the 15,549 gun murders and accidental gun deaths in 2017. Since gun bans disarm the people who use guns for self defense, the number of lives saved by guns goes down. The number of gun murders, however, stays about the same since criminals don’t comply with the ban. So the net effect of a broad gun ban is more deaths.

Countries, such as the U.K., Ireland and Jamaica that tried some type of broad ban, experienced higher murder rates after the ban. Australia experienced no effect on their murder rate as a result of banning most semi-automatic firearms. There is not a single example of a country that has banned semi-automatic or single action firearms and had a reduction in murders as a result of the ban. The facts show that gun bans don’t work.

It’s understandable that people want to do something after a tragedy to prevent it from happening again. But facts are very important. It’s troubling when people at “March for our Lives” who want to ban assault rifles don’t know what an assault rifle is or that assault rifles are already illegal.

While gun bans won’t make anything better, there are reasonable things that can be done to decrease deaths. Laws we already have can be strengthened and the type of places where people can concealed carry can be widened.

Ownership of guns is important not just because it’s our Second Amendment right, but also because the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.