Lost in the noise, however, is what exactly should be done. And even more important, why.
But first, some background.
A pair of horrific shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend has brought several controversial policy proposals into the spotlight.
Perhaps chief among them is the assault weapons ban, a measure that would ban “military-style” semi-automatic rifles — and which is favored by an overwhelming number of Democrats.
In fact, nearly every Democrat running for president in 2020 has voiced support for a ban, according to Vox.
But would an assault weapons ban really decrease mass shootings — or violent crime in general?
One major study suggests it would not.
According to the RAND Corporation, “evidence for the effect of assault weapon bans on mass shootings is inconclusive.” Similarly, “evidence for the effect of assault weapon bans on total homicides and firearm homicides is inconclusive.”
A ban would be not only ineffective, but also misdirected.
The most recent available statistics from the FBI indicate that when it comes to murder, rifles are far from the most common weapon.
In 2017, rifles accounted for 403 murders in the United States.
By contrast, “knives or cutting instruments” accounted for 1,591.
And when’s the last time we heard about a ban on knives?
(In honesty, it was pretty recently, in Britain.)
In America, however, calls for knife bans are rare, and rightly so. But the reason for politicians’ silence on knives is more sinister.
As a pragmatic matter, legislation banning knives would be politically useless.
Proposing a ban on assault rifles is a much more effective strategy. Calling for a ban on scary-looking weapons is viscerally appealing and emotionally satisfying.
But if major studies and federally collected data are any indication, an assault weapons ban would do little good.