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Calls for gun control have echoed across the nation following a series of devastating mass shootings. Some experts, however, say there’s little to no evidence showing that tightening laws on guns will prevent violent crimes and similar shootings.
“Not really,” Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott told Fox News Digital when asked if there is empirical evidence showing gun control measures can prevent violent crimes. “There’s been a lot of studies done on things like assault weapons bans, background checks … Even for the assault weapons ban, even the Clinton administration – which signed it into law – paid for research on it. And even their studies couldn’t find any benefits in terms of reducing a type of violent crime or in terms of stopping things like mass public shootings.”
President Biden addressed the nation following the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting last month, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, demanding “commonsense” gun laws and argued the Second Amendment is “not absolute.”
“We need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21; strengthen background checks; enact safe storage and red flag laws; repeal the immunity, that protect gun manufacturers from liability; address the mental health crisis, deepening the trauma of gun violence,” Biden said on June 2.
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Lawmakers answered some of the president’s calls in June, with a bipartisan group of senators announcing they reached a tentative agreement on a gun package. The proposal includes a national expansion of mental health services for children and families; an enhanced review process for gun buyers under the age of 21; penalties for straw purchases and additional funding for school resource officers.
Biden has also argued that “we know [gun laws] work and have a positive impact,” pointing to the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 and claiming “mass shootings tripled” following the ban expiring in 2004.
Experts who spoke to Fox News Digital, however, pointed to the 1994 ban as having “had no appreciable impact on crime.”
“President Biden’s proposed measures to curb guns would NOT reduce gun crime and also have constitutional problems,” George Mason University Professor Emerita Joyce Lee Malcolm told Fox News Digital. “We had an assault weapon ban for ten years. It was allowed to expire because the Justice Department research said it had no appreciable impact on crime.”
A Department of Justice study published in 1999 that examined the short term effects of the ban found it “has failed to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims.”
Malcolm is the author of the empirical study, “Guns and Violence: The English Experience,” which investigated England from the Middle Ages to the late twentieth century and the country’s level of armed crime before modern gun laws and how those laws impacted gun crimes.
She found that in 1954, when there were no laws on shotguns in the country, London saw 12 cases of armed robbery. Gun laws became more severe in the country in the following years, and by 1974, London saw 1,400 armed robberies.
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The study gained widespread applause for its thoroughness, including from Thomas Sowell in 2016, who said it “illustrates the difference between isolated, cherry-picked facts and relevant empirical evidence.”
“Many gun control advocates have cited the much higher murder rates in the United States than in England because of tighter gun control laws in England. But Professor Malcolm’s study points out that the murder rate in New York has been some multiple of the murder rate in London for two centuries — and, during most of that time, neither city had serious restrictions on gun ownership,” Sowell wrote in an op-ed.
Malcolm added in her comments to Fox News Digital that “there is no real definition of an assault weapon” as Democrats rally to ban such guns.
“People think of an AK47 or other automatic. The AR-15, most often cited by gun-control folks for a ban, is not a ‘weapon of war’ as the Democrats keep asserting. It is not an automatic weapon but the most popular hunting rifle in the country owned by MILLIONS of law-abiding Americans,” she said.
As for banning high-capacity magazines, Malcolm said such a move could actually leave law-abiding gun owners less likely to defend themselves.
“High capacity magazines that are being described as magazines that hold over 7 or 10 rounds are not the magazines that come with or even fit the popular handguns and long guns most Americans own. Banning them would make all those legally purchased weapons useless,” Malcolm told Fox News Digital. “And that won’t make a difference in the crime rate, perhaps do the opposite by preventing people from defending themselves.”
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Gun control activists, however, have made banning “assault weapons” a bedrock of their proposals to curb mass shootings.
“In a less broken society, we would be able to require background checks every single time someone wants to buy a gun, and we would ban assault rifles outright,” David Hogg said in a statement this month following the bipartisan group of senators announcing an agreement on a gun package. “But if even one life is saved or one attempted mass shooting is prevented because of these regulations, we believe that it is worth fighting for.”
Hogg is the co-founder of March for Our Lives, a gun control group that was formed after the Parkland school shooting in 2018, which advocates for “a higher standard of gun ownership.” The group has issued various proposals on curbing crime via gun control, including, “a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other weapons of war; policies to disarm gun owners who pose a harm risk; and a national gun buy-back program.”
The U.S. was rocked by a series of mass shootings this spring, including a shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, a shooting at a church in California, a shooting on Philadelphia’s popular South Street, the Uvalde shooting and others.
Fox News Digital asked Lott what variable is contributing to the increase in mass shootings, noting that gun laws have become more restrictive in recent decades while mass shootings have increased. Lott said the increase in such high-profile shootings likely comes down to criminals wanting media attention and killers perhaps wanting to outdo each other with shocking attacks.
“People have always committed suicide. But someplace along the line, people who wanted to commit suicide feel that they weren’t appreciated by society, realize that they could get a lot of attention by going and killing large numbers of people in public,” he said. “You read the diaries, you read the manifestos, you read the other things from these killers, and they crave media attention.”
Lott said perpetrators who want to commit violent and shocking crimes will set their sights on “soft targets” such as schools and grocery stores because they are less likely to face an armed individual who could thwart the attack.
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“To me, it’s obvious. Look out there and you see about 96% of the mass public shootings occur in places where guns are banned. These people want to kill as many people as possible. And they know if they go to a place where victims aren’t able to go and defend themselves, they’re going to be more successful,” he said.
He singled out the Buffalo grocery store shooter’s manifesto, which “talks explicitly about what his ideal target is. And he says he wants to avoid places where he knows people have concealed handguns.”
Lott said doing away with “gun-free zones” would be “the one thing that would work” on curbing such violent crimes.
“These gun-free zones actually serve as magnets for these killers to attack. Because they know they’re going to be more successful in terms of killing,” he said.
To Malcolm, “the best route is to do something about facilities for people who have been found to be a danger to themselves and others.”
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“The ‘red-flag’ laws aim to do this, but they allow the police to disarm someone fingered as dangerous before the individual has an opportunity to be heard. There is no due process. If that can be resolved and we can expand the facilities that are needed for the dangerous mentally ill, that might really help. Right now prisons have more mentally ill and violent people than hospitals do,” she said.