Politicians are continuing their campaign against semi-automatic rifles, and Washington state is the latest battleground.
Washington just became the 10th state to ban new sales of what are deemed to be “assault weapons.” The ban covers various types of firearms, including commonly used semi-automatic rifles such as the much-maligned AR-15. Unfortunately, the new law does not make Washington state any safer. It does, however, violate the rights of its citizens.
There is an abundance of research on the efficacy of assault weapons bans, and the existing data gives no reason to believe these policies will meaningfully affect gun violence. The Rand Corporation, a non-partisan research institute, finds no conclusive evidence that assault weapons bans have an effect on mass shootings. And research published in 2020 in Criminology and Public Policy concludes that commonly proposed gun control policies, including assault weapons bans, “do not seem to be associated with the incidence of fatal mass shootings.”
Even researchers that conducted a Department-of-Justice-funded study on the effects of the 1994-2004 assault weapons ban wrote at the time that they “cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence,” and that if the ban was renewed, its “effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
These results are not surprising, as potential murderers and mass shooters can simply use firearms other than rifles to commit their crimes. For example, in 2007, the Virginia Tech mass shooter left 32 people dead and only used handguns. In fact, handguns are the most commonly used weapon in mass shootings.
Furthermore, rifles of any kind are involved in only a tiny percentage of gun homicides. Pew Research points out that “of the 13,620 U.S. gun murders and nonnegligent manslaughters [in 2020] for which data is available,” rifles were involved in a mere 3% of those crimes—around 400. Handguns, on the other hand, were involved in 59% of those incidences—over 8,000. (RELATED: JUDGE ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO: Does The FBI Even Believe In The Constitution?)
For law-abiding citizens, rifles like the AR-15 are tools used for sport, hunting, and self-defense. AR-15-style rifles are incredibly popular, and based on recent court rulings, this popularity means it is likely unconstitutional to ban them.
In the SCOTUS case NYSRPA v. Bruen (2022), the majority highlighted that consistency with the history of U.S. firearms regulations is the test for the constitutionality of a new regulation. The majority stated that the history of firearms regulations supports the view that “the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are ‘in common use at the time.’” Given the popularity of semi-automatic rifles for lawful purposes, the firearms covered by this ban are clearly in common use.
The court did recognize that there is a tradition of regulating “dangerous and unusual weapons,” but based on gun violence statistics, and the fact that the rifles covered under this ban are semi-automatic like typical handguns, there is nothing dangerous or unusual about them.
So, in addition to doing little to affect gun violence and safety in the state of Washington, the ban has all kinds of legal problems. The Second Amendment Foundation promptly filed a lawsuit over Washington’s ban. Hopefully the citizens of the state will soon have their rights restored.
Benjamin Ayanian is a contributor for Young Voices, a PR firm and talent agency for young, pro-liberty commentators. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Newsweek, and more. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminAyanian.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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