TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 1999202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There was a 20 percent decline in the criminal use of guns banned by the 1994 Crime Act immediately following its passage, as well as a decline of gun murder rates, according to a report released today by the Justice Department. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study, Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96, examined market trends such as prices, production and thefts to determine the ban's effectiveness, and the consequences of the use of assault weapons.

"The assault weapons ban has helped to reduce the number of murders committed with these weapons, especially murders of law enforcement officers," said President Clinton. "We must continue to work together to keep these deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals permanently."

The NIJ study noted that the assault weapons ban may have reduced the gun murder rate and murders of law enforcement officers by those armed with assault weapons. Also, declining law enforcement requests for Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) traces indicate that the criminal use of assault weapons decreased by 20 percent in the first year after the ban (as compared to 11 percent for all guns).

In the two years prior to the law's passage, primary market prices of the banned weapons and magazines jumped by upwards of 50 percent. Gun distributors, dealers and collectors speculated that the prohibited weapons would become expensive collectors' items. Because the production of assault weapons increased in the months leading up to the ban, prices of those same weapons fell dramatically once the law went into effect.

The Research in Brief being released today is a synthesis of "Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994," a full report to Congress conducted by the Urban Institute and released on March 13, 1997. A follow-up study is being funded by NIJ and is scheduled for release in 2000. This study will assess the longer term impacts of the ban, which could differ substantially from today's short-term findings.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice, is the primary sponsor of criminal justice research and evaluations of programs to reduce crime. For additional information about NIJ, the Internet address is

General information about the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at

The Research in Brief and the full report are available on the Internet at, or from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) by calling toll-free, 1-800/851-3420.

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NIJ 99-046

After hours contact: James Phillips at 888/491-4487 (pager)