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Biden Just Said We Need to Ban Assault Weapons to Stop Mass Shootings. Here’s What the Research Says.

President Biden responded to a spate of mass shootings with a prime-time address Thursday urging Congress to crack down on guns, including by banning “assault weapons.”

SO WHAT

It’s not at all clear banning assault weapons would actually help prevent mass shootings.

WHAT HE SAID

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the time had come for a federal prohibition of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say ‘enough‘? Enough!” Biden declared. “My fellow Americans, enoughEnough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act.”

  • The president also called on lawmakers to address America’s “mental health crisis,” bolster background checks, pass red flag laws and strip gun manufactures of liability protections.

“I know what happened when we had rational action before, when the crime bill was — the law that got passed. It did significantly cut down on mass murders,” Biden said Monday, referring to the 1994 crime bill and assault weapons ban he helped pass as a senator.

THE SCIENCE

However, the best available evidence does not support Biden’s assertion that a nationwide assault weapons ban would reduce mass shootings.

(Source: Rand Corporation)

Some studies have indicated the 1994 ban, which ended in 2004, may have had a small negative effect on gun massacres.

  • But an exhaustive review of gun control research by the Rand Corporation, which relied only on the relatively few studies it deemed “methodologically rigorous,” determined the link between assault weapons bans and mass shootings was uncertain.
  • The four qualifying studies on the subject were found to provide “inconclusive evidence for the effect of assault weapon bans on mass shootings.”
  • One of the studies, a 2016 paper published by Harvard Business School, actually found a significant positive association between a state’s assault weapon ban and mass shootings, though the authors cautioned the sample size was too small to draw conclusions.

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