Why Congress Should Not Bring Back the Federal 'Assault Weapon' Ban

Congress allowed the ban on commonly owned semi-automatic firearms to expire in 2004 for two main reasons: The ban was an infringement on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, and it  failed to live up to supporters’ promises.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the right of individuals to possess firearms is protected by the Second Amendment. There is no question that the firearms affected by the now-expired ban have been legally and widely owned for decades. These guns aren’t machine guns; despite anti-gun groups’ efforts to confuse the public, the guns fire just one shot for each pull of the trigger, using technology that’s more than a century old.

Furthermore, a congressionally mandated study of the ban by the Urban Institute showed that the ban couldn’t possibly have had much impact on crime because “the banned guns were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders” in the first place. That study was consistent with findings by state and local law enforcement agencies, the Department of Justice and the Congressional Research Service.

Proof that the ban had little effect on crime can also be found in FBI statistics, which show that since the ban expired, murder has fallen to a 43-year low and total violent crime rate to a 35-year low.

Supporters of the ban often ask, “Who needs these guns?” But in America, the burden of proof is on those who wish to restrict rights. The burden of making the case for this ban is one that supporters have never been able to carry.