DOJ Memo: Assault-Weapons Ban ‘Unlikely to Have an Impact on Gun Violence’

by Eliana Johnson

An internal Justice Department memo obtained and released by the National Rifle Association reveals the department’s conclusions about the efficacy of a number of gun-control measures being touted by the Obama administration. The NRA is featuring the memo, whose existence has been verified by the administration, in a new ad.

Prepared by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, the report concludes that an assault-weapons ban is “unlikely to have an impact on gun violence” because such weapons are not a major contributor to gun crime in the United States. However, the memo notes that “if coupled with a gun buyback and no exemptions then it could be effective.” Although the Obama administration and some congressional Democrats are currently pushing for a ban on assault weapons, they are not proposing a program of mandatory gun buybacks.

Authored by NIJ deputy directory Greg Ridgeway and titled “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies” the memo states that the efficacy of universal background checks is limited by the fact that most crime weapons are obtained through straw purchasers (47 percent of the total) and theft (26 percent). In order to meaningfully reduce gun crime, Ridgeway argues, law-enforcement measures must target straw purchasers and require the registration of firearms. He proposes the creation of a system by which gun transfers can occur with federal oversight, but also with relative ease.

The NRA uses the memo to argue that the Obama administration is considering gun confiscation, but the administration is denying the claim, telling the website Talking Points Memo that has never supported either gun confiscation or a national gun registry. “The ad claims that in order for our proposals to work, we would have to confiscate guns and create a national gun registry,” said an administration official. “That is simply not true.”

The full memo is available here, and the NRA’s ad is viewable below. 

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