Gun Laws & Legislation

Sen. Kamala Harris’ Call For ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ Doesn’t Square With The Facts

By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation

California’s Sen. Kamala Harris fired up the Twitter machine last week to call for an “assault weapons ban in this country.” It’s in the compelling interest of public safety, she says. Except that it’s not.

“It’s long past time we renew the assault weapons ban in this country. It is in the best interest of keeping all of us safe.” ~Harris on Twitter

Sen. Harris’s concept of the nation’s best interest is not rooted in facts. We’ll discuss her mislabeling of modern sporting rifles in a minute, but a simple scan of the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report shows that criminals used knives or cutting instruments to kill their victims at nearly three times the rate of rifles and shotgun combined. The FBI recorded 252 deaths by rifle (or any kind) compared to 1,544 stabbing deaths. To put that into further perspective, blunt objects accounted for 437 murders in 2015 and hands, fists, and feet accounted for 624 murders. But Sen. Harris tells us the problem is “assault weapons.”

Sen. Harris chooses to ignore the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hardly a pro-gun entity, looked at the full spectrum of gun control measures, including the “assault weapons ban” that was in effect between 1994 and 2004. CDC couldn’t point to a single measure that could be proven to reduce crime. A further Congressional study found “the banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.” That report also noted that “assault weapons” were “rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.”

Sen. Harris also ignores the fact a ban on “assault rifles” is really a ban on cosmetic features. The AR-15 family of firearms is different than the military M-16/M-4 family of firearms. AR-15 rifles are semi-automatic, meaning they fire one bullet for each time the trigger is squeezed. Modern sporting rifles are used for sporting purposes, including hunting and recreational shooting. There are more than 13 million moderns sporting rifles owned by Americans today, making them among the most popular firearms in America.

Besides all that, Sen. Harris is calling for the ban on a rifle that even the New York Times admitted was a manufactured term meant to scare the public into supporting the Clinton-era ban that centered on magazine capacity and cosmetic features, not the actual function.

Despite all Sen. Harris wants to believe, modern sporting rifles have proven themselves in home defense. In March, for example, three home invaders broke into a Broken Arrow, Okla., residence. A 23-year-old, home at the time of the invasion, confronted the invaders and defended himself, killing the three criminals. In another case outside Houston, Texas, a 15-year-old used his father’s AR-15 to protect his sister and himself from two home invaders.

In North Carolina, a homeowner with an AR-15 traded shots with an armed robber entering his house, who shot first. The examples are numerous and not hard to find.

But Sen. Harris is leading the march to say Americans have no business owning these rifles. And she’s not the only one. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled this year that Maryland could deny citizens there the right to own these commonly-owned rifles.

The Supreme Court answered this question in the landmark 2008 Heller decision in which Justice Antonin Scalia affirmed for the majority the right to keep and bear arms that are in common use. Millions of law-abiding owners of modern sporting rifles tell us that Sen. Harris’s call for an “assault weapons ban” is clearly off target.

Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.