By: Matthew Issent
In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed an assault weapons ban into law. At the time, around 3 in 4 Americans supported the assault weapons ban. Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan all wrote to Congress expressing support. The ban was signed into law in September of 1994. It was limited to 10 years and was not renewed in 2004.
Gun violence decreased during the 10 years the assault weapons ban was in effect – 1999 the exception. During that time, the average number of people killed in a mass shooting decreased from nine to seven. After the ban expired, that number went back up to nine – and has increased in recent years.
Research suggests renewal of the ban would be one, among many, measures that would help combat the gun violence epidemic. Although most weapons used in mass shootings were not covered by the ban, the ban did reduce access to weapons of war.
While it’s widely accepted that the assault weapons ban did little to curb overall gun violence, there are other measures that can help address the epidemic of gun violence. Gun buybacks and changes to ammunition purchases, along with an assault weapons ban, can make a real impact in reducing gun deaths.
Right now, ammunition can be purchased online. The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2017 is another step in the right direction. By putting tighter control on the purchase of ammunition, gun violence from weapons of all types can be reduced. Not only would online purchases be put to an end, but mass purchases of ammunition would be recorded and reported.
Gun buyback programs are in effect all over the US. Even though they do little to impact the overall problem, they do save lives. Two of every three gun-related-deaths are suicides. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has said that half of those who commit suicide use guns. Suicide is an impulsive act and the presence of a firearm make completion of a suicide attempt more likely.
Any single regulation on the possession and sale of guns, ammunition, and firearms accessories will do very little to address this issue. As the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms debates regulating the purchase and possession of “bump-stock” accessories, they – along with the Congress – should consider other measures to work along with the changes to bump stock access and make a real effort to reduce gun violence in America.