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‘Military-Style Weapons’
Function, not cosmetics, should govern gun policy.

A civilian version of the AK-47

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But despite Obama’s frightening image of military weapons on America’s streets, it is pretty hard to seriously argue that a new ban on “assault weapons” would reduce crime in the United States. Even research done for the Clinton administration didn’t find that the federal assault-weapons ban reduced crime.

Indeed, banning guns on the basis of how they look, and not how they operate, shouldn’t be expected to make any difference. And there are no published academic studies by economists or criminologists that find the original federal assault-weapons ban to have reduced murder or violent crime generally. There is no evidence that the state assault-weapons bans reduced murder or violent-crime rates either. Since the federal ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have actually fallen. In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people. Preliminary numbers for 2011 show that the murder rate has fallen to 4.7 per 100,000 people.

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In fact, murder rates fell immediately after September 2004, and they fell more in the states without assault-weapons bans than in the states with them.

Nevertheless, the fears at the time were significant. An Associated Press headline warned, “Gun shops and police officers brace for end of assault weapons ban.” It was even part of the presidential campaign that year: “Kerry blasts lapse of assault weapons ban.” An Internet search turned up more than 560 news stories in the first two weeks of September 2004 that expressed fear about ending the ban. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fact that murder and other violent crime declined after the ban ended was hardly covered in the media.

If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple-victim public shootings, it is about time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks: With just a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. The Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, like others run by the chain around the country, displayed warning signs that it was prohibited to carry guns into the theater.

So President Obama wants to keep guns like the AK-47 “in the hands of soldiers.” But these are not military weapons. No self-respecting military in the world would use them, and it is time for Obama to stop scaring the American people.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and the author of More Guns, Less Crime, published in a greatly expanded third edition by the University of Chicago Press (2010).



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