Feb 27, 2013 No Comments ›› Jake Hammer
Excerpted from THE BLAZE: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made her case in favor of gun control during a packed hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The hearing was called to debate Feinstein’s proposed a ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
“Let me now describe the key features of our new legislation, the ‘Assault Weapons Ban of 2013,’” Feinstein said Wednesday. “The bill bans the sale, transfer, importation, and manufacturing of 157 specifically named semi-automatic assault weapons.”
She continued: “It also bans any other assault weapon, which is defined as a semi-automatic weapon that can accept a detachable magazine and has one military characteristic, such as a pistol grip, barrel shroud, or folding stock…These features were developed for military weapons to make them more effective and efficient at killing people in close-combat situations.”
Feinstein, with photos of Sandy Hook victims behind her, argued that the U.S. has “witnessed an increased number of these mass killings” and called semi-automatic “assault weapons” the one “common thread running through these mass shootings.” She says the gun ban is needed in order to prevent future tragedies.
“Sadly, [Newtown] is not an anomaly,” Feinstein said. “We have witnessed an increased number of these mass killings. The one common thread running through these mass shootings — from Aurora, Colorado, to Tucson, Arizona, to Blacksburg, Virginia — is that the gunman used a military-style semi-automatic assault weapon or a large capacity magazine to inflict unspeakable terror.”
But do the facts support Feinstein’s argument?
Let’s start with the claim that mass killings are on the rise in the United States. According to the Associated Press, those who study mass shootings say they are not becoming more common.
“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.
Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.
Chances of being killed in a mass shooting, he says, are probably no greater than being struck by lightning.
“Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds…who have been victimized in senseless attacks, the facts say clearly that [there] has been no increase in mass killings,” Fox wrote. When clusters of incidents occur close together, he added, that likely reflects a mixture of copycatting and coincidence.
Many anti-gun advocates have noted that six of the 12 deadliest shootings in U.S. history have occurred since 2007, with the Newtown massacre ranking second on that list. However, mass killings, in fact, peaked in 1929.
Feinstein also argued that banning so-called “assault weapons” would help decrease mass shootings.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the old assault weapons ban was undermined because it is difficult to define what an “assault weapon” actually is and there were already so many in circulation. The study also concluded that the law appeared to have little effect on gun violence overall, most likely because rifles are used in a small percentage of gun crimes.
Consider this, hands and feet, knifes, shotguns, and handguns all killed more people than rifles in 2010. According to FBI data, 358 people were killed by rifles that year, half that of people who were killed by “hands and feet.”