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Impact of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
J A Roth; C S Koper
Date Published
March 1999
12 pages

This study examines how assault weapons ban contained in 1994 Federal legislation affected gun markets and gun-related violence during 1994-96.


The weapons banned by this legislation were used only rarely in gun crimes before the ban, but supporters regarded these weapons as a threat to public safety because they are capable of firing many shots rapidly. The research used national and local data sources to examine market trends for the banned weapons and close substitutes. Results revealed that the ban triggered speculative price increases and ramped-up production of the banned firearms prior to the law's implementation, followed by a substantial post-ban drop in prices to levels of previous years. In addition, criminal use of the banned guns declined, at least temporarily, after the law went into effect; this finding suggested that the legal stock of pre-ban assault weapons was largely in the hands of collectors and dealers, at least for the short term. Findings also suggested that the ban may have contributed to a reduction in the gun murder rate and murders of police officers by criminals armed with assault weapons. Finally, the ban has failed to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims. Findings indicated that the public safety benefits of the 1994 ban have not yet been demonstrated and suggested that existing regulations should be complemented by further tests of enforcement tactics that focus on the tiny numbers of gun dealers and owners linked to gun violence. Further research is also recommended. Figures, tables, and 22 reference notes