Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jacob Sullum: An "Assault Weapon" Ban Won't Stop Mass Shootings

At Reason


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand this argument. No law that I’m aware of succeeds in eliminating what it’s trying to prevent. Making certain explosives illegal doesn’t stop people from caring out attacks with them, but I’ve neber heard that as an argument against their being illegal.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said... *does* that argument go?

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand the question. The piece you linked to argues against a law banning assault weapons, in part, because it wouldn't stop people from committing mass shootings. If people want an assault weapon bad enough, they'll get one whether it's legal or not. My point was simply that essentially all laws are circumvented by people who are committed to breaking them, but we don't generally call those laws into question on account of that.

Maybe your point was simply that this wasn't the main thrust of the article, and that the bigger point is that other, less vilified weapons can and are just as easily used in mass shootings. I'm not sure I entirely buy that, though. AR-15s are literally marketed for kids because of how easy they are to use, and thus it seems that even the most unskilled marksmen is going to be able to do more damage with one than most other guns. Not to mention that civilian ownership of handguns and traditional long guns seem easier to justify, even if they're used in more crimes.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

No, I was basically moving over to *your* side and wondering how that original argument is supposed to go, on account of the point you made. I agree, it's not obvious.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

As far as I can tell the Reason article is saying hey, we can't stop big mass killings because the market is already flooded with assault weapons, so we might as well keep flooding the market.

The statistics are broken, too. They argue that assault weapons have no impact on lethality, because some of the big mass killings were with handguns. But at the same time, they say only 3% of mass killings are with assault weapons. From this, we can estimate that individual assault weapon attacks are over an order of magnitude more likely to result in a large-scale death count than attacks with handguns. The Vegas concert and Florida gay bar killings in particular show how this happens.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, PM, you're right. Except in extreme close quarters, an AR-15 is way deadlier than a normal handgun.

And the goal of legislation is, realistically speaking, influencing probabilities, not ending the relevant behavior completely.

OTOH it does kind of matter that so few "modern sporting rifles" are used in crimes, but handguns are virtually the criminal's best friend...

I'm not passionately opposed to setting a higher bar for purchasing MSRs. It seems reasonable to me that you might have to give at least some evidence of sanity in order buy an AR-15 and a bunch of 30-round mags.

But, again, so few are misused that I'm not exactly sure how to think about this.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

The statistics are disturbing in another way: handguns outnumber automatic/assault rifles in the US by roughly 10:1. Yet they are not 10x more likely to be used in public mass killings. I looked at the original data:
It's hard to analyze, since "automatic rifle" and "assault rifle" and just "rifle" are used to describe the same weapon. But they show up too often for the choice to be just chance and availability.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

9ne last thing: the 3% number is just wrong because of the imprecise weapons categorization. The same weapons are listed as "assault weapon" and "semiautomatic rifle" in the original database, presumably following the lead of the newspaper where it was reported. So there is not a whole lot of statistical foundation left in the story.

2:26 AM  

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