The Corner

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden’s Gun Lie

President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters)

They keep saying it, so we have to keep pointing out it’s not true. Joe Biden’s address tonight had plenty of falsehoods about guns, but one that might not get enough attention is his claim about the “assault weapon” ban. After lamenting recent mass shootings, Biden said (from the prepared text):

In the 1990s, we passed universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high—capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired in seconds.

We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined.

But in the early 2000s, that law expired and we’ve seen the daily bloodshed since.

Biden is insinuating that once the Federal Assault Weapons Ban sunsetted in 2004, gun violence skyrocketed. It simply wasn’t so. The rate of gun homicide continued falling for more than a decade after the ban ended, even though gun ownership exploded. From 2006, overall homicides fell ten out of 14 years. Twenty-one years after a gun violence peaked in 1993, and a decade after the assault-weapon ban ended, homicides by firearms hit a historic low. By that time, the AR-15 had become the most popular rifle in the country. In 2004, there were 14,536 overall homicides in the United States. In 2019, the last year on record, there were 14,185. During that span, Americans bought north of 100 million new guns. That trend has only accelerated the past two years. Even in years gun homicides didn’t fall, the spikes had little to do with “assault weapons,” since the rifle is used in only fraction of gun crimes. And “assault weapons” had even less to do with gun violence when the ban was passed in the 1990s. Though there is no question mass shooters tend to gravitate towards AR-15s today, there is also no evidence that mass shooting themselves increased after the ban lifted, either.

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