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Let's chill out on assault weapons

By Scott Tibbs, December 31, 2012

Since the horrific mass murder of young children in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a lot of talk about the "need" for an assault weapons ban to replace the 1994 ban that expired in 2004. With this in mind, we need to chill out and examine the statistics, both for cause of death generally and murder specifically.

Note: These crime numbers do not match. The Census Bureau, CDC and FBI all have slightly different numbers. Nonetheless, they are close and they are from reliable sources.

First, let's look at all causes of death in 2009:

  • Heart disease: 599,413
  • Cancer: 567,628
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 137,353
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,842
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 118,021
  • Alzheimer's disease: 79,003
  • Diabetes: 68,705
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,692
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,935
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 36,909

Murder is way down the list. According to the FBI, there were 15,241 murders in 2009, down dramatically from the high numbers in the early 1990's. From 1991 to 1994 the number of murders looked like this:

  • 1991 - 24,703
  • 1992 - 23,760
  • 1993 - 24,526
  • 1994 - 23,326

Now let's take a look at the "Murder Victims--Circumstances and Weapons Used or Cause of Death" spreadsheet compiled by the Census Bureau. Of the 9,203 murders by firearms in 2009 handguns were used in 6,503 of those murders while rifles were used in 352 murders. Even if we assume that all of the "unspecified" weapons are rifles (which would be silly) that still accounts for 2,276 murders by rifles in a nation of well over 300 million people.

As Reason.com points out, rifles of any kind were used in only 3 percent of all murders and Connecticut already has a ban on so-called "assault weapons." That is an invented term, by the way. True military weapons - fully automatic weapons - have been severely restricted for generations.

No, we do not have a compelling national crisis that requires swift action by Congress to again restrict "scary looking guns" like was done in 1994. It is always a bad idea to make laws based on isolated incidents that do not reflect the vast majority of gun owners. We do not need to further restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans to own guns in a responsible manner. Republicans should not cave on this - though some probably will.