After yet another round of tragic mass shootings struck two different communities around the United States in recent weeks, the gun control debate has found renewed vigor within America’s political sphere. With no fewer than 24 Democrats competing for their opportunity to run against President Trump in 2020, the discussion revolving around gun control has been given special attention from candidates seeking to engage liberal voters and demonstrate their distaste for the incumbent president’s policies.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has taken his calls for increased firearm legislation to the New York Times, penning an Op-Ed that makes a number of claims regarding the efficacy of assault weapon bans in the past and using them to support his call for a new, farther-reaching ban.
Many police departments have reported an increase in criminals using assault weapons since 2004. And multiple analyses of the data around mass shootings provide evidence that, from 1994 to 2004, the years when assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were banned, there were fewer mass shootings — fewer deaths, fewer families needlessly destroyed.
That one paragraph begs a number of questions. The police department statistics Biden touts come from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (which one could contend it a notably biased source). The second citation, which is a peer-reviewed academic study regarding mass shootings before, during, and after the repeal of the previous assault weapons ban does indeed indicate that mass shootings have become more prominent in the years since the ban was lifted. It does not, however, offer the clear conclusion that mass shootings increased because the assault weapons ban was lifted in 2004. In other words, while this point is certainly worth considering, it opens itself up to debate about correlation versus causation when considering the low number of assault weapons-related mass shootings prior to the ban in 1994. In essence, no one would argue that there were more mass shootings in the 1990s than there are today, but there remains a lively debate as to why.
Although Biden draws this data from another biased source that openly advocates for gun control (Every Town for Gun Safety), the argument remains sound thanks to large-scale incidents in which shooters used semi-automatic weapons (sometimes equipped with bump stocks) to inflict the most damage possible on crowds of civilians.
Biden goes on to contend that the vast majority of Americans, including more than half of all Republicans support a broad assault weapons ban.
However, a closer inspection of the source of this claim shows that while it did come from a largely unbiased outlet (The Morning Consult) the sample size was far too small to offer a reasonable cross section of American voters. With something in the neighborhood of 200 million registered voters in the United States, citing a study of just 1,960 voters (.0000098% of the electorate) to draw conclusions certainly opens Biden’s point up to debate here as well.
The 1994 assault weapons and high-capacity magazines bans worked. And if I am elected president, we’re going to pass them again — and this time, we’ll make them even stronger.
Despite the carefully chosen sources to support Biden’s argument, the overall intent of his Op-Ed was one that has garnered a great deal of support throughout the United States. While many have seen America’s recent influx of mass shootings as indicative of larger, systemic, cultural, and socioeconomic issues faced by the nation, others contend that it’s the ease of access to firearms that have led to the sharp increase in mass shootings. As is so often the case, the truth may be some combination of these elements, rather than one or the other.
NEWSREP wants to hear from you. Do you believe that the time has come to bring back an assault weapons ban? Do you believe the debate about gun control has become political fodder for another election season, rather than being taken seriously? Do you see a different cause, or solution to, this nation’s problem with gun violence? Click on this link to submit an Op-Ed of your own and let us know.