The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing called “Protecting America from Assault Weapons.” If it wasn’t obvious from the title of the hearing, this Democrat-controlled committee took the opportunity to host a circus of gun control propaganda under the barely veiled guise of a congressional hearing.
While the details and dramatic flair varied, each Democrat on the panel used their questioning time to promote a handful of gun control myths:
- Assault weapons exist in the form of very popular semi-automatic rifles;
- These popular firearms are a uniquely deadly threat to communities and law enforcement officers and should be banned; and
- The ban of 1994-2004 was effective.
Define It Correctly
Let’s take these one by one. What the gun control advocates have cleverly rebranded “assault weapons,” are actually modern sporting rifles. Millions of these have been in common, civilian use since the 1960s. They aren’t referring to automatic military rifles. They are instead referring to a semi-automatic firearm that fire just one bullet with each pull of the trigger (versus a fully automatic firearm — machine gun — which continues to shoot until the trigger is released). Specifically, gun control advocates incorrectly define an “assault weapon” as a semi-automatic firearm that can accept a detachable magazine and has two or more of the following cosmetic features (it is these cosmetic features that distinguish the firearm from other “non-assault weapons.”)
Secondly, modern sporting rifles are rarely misused by criminals, despite at least 16 million modern sporting rifles (MSRs) being in private ownership in the United States. According to the FBI’s latest crime data, in 2017 there were just over 15,000 homicides. Rifles of any kind, MSRs or other types of rifles, were used in only 3 percent of homicides. More people were killed by hands or feet. In fact, knives, hands, feet and other non-gun weapons represent a full third of all homicides in 2017 – ten times the number of rifle homicides.
Ownership Up, Crime Down
Finally, there is broad agreement that the 1994 ban on certain semi-automatic rifles based on cosmetic features did nothing to prevent or reduce violent crimes. Violent crime has fortunately trended downward since the early 1990’s, both during and after the ban was in place. A comprehensive study by the Centers for Disease Control — hardly a pro-gun entity — looked at the full panoply of gun control measures — including the “assault weapons ban” — and concluded that none could be proven to reduce crime. Of course, the gun control advocates on the panel argue that the ban wasn’t effective because the evil gun industry deliberately and “aggressively” evaded the ban by designing guns to circumvent the ban.
In short – bans on modern sporting rifles do nothing to address the very real problems in our country. They don’t reduce crime. They don’t reduce suicides. They don’t reduce accidents, or mass shooting tragedies. Bans don’t work because it’s only a ban for those who follow the law.
The Judiciary Committee heard from Dianna Muller, a former police officer and professional 3-gun competition shooter. She’s also the founder of DC Project, a group of women firearms ownership advocate from across the country. “Please don’t legislate the 150 million people just like me into being criminals,” she told the committee.
It’s great that the Judiciary Committee took the time to talk about how to make our communities safer. And we applaud the members of the committee who accurately described the problems at hand and the legitimate, legal uses of these common firearms across the country. Unfortunately, starting from the very title of the hearing, this time was wasted.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.