We released our initial take on the proposed assault weapons ban (AWB) highlighting some of the immediate concerns. In this article, we’ll take a much deeper dive into the justification for this bill, and why it’s like trying to fix a leaky faucet with a sledge hammer.
You will find the following topics covered in this article.
- Deconstruction of the justification of the bill
- Dismantling “weapons of war” characterization
- Dismantling the argument that these types of weapons are “not suitable for self-defense”
- Dismantling the assertion that manufacturers deliberately market weapons to troubled young men
- Destroying the data behind their quoted 85% statistic and tying in the broader relationship to gun deaths as a whole
Like many gun control bills, Section 1 of SB 5193/HB 1180 and SB 5265/HB 1240 provides justification for the proposed legislation. At least when it comes to gun control legislation, these justifications are often hyperbolic, if not plainly false. Upon analysis of this section, I noticed some things that don’t quite add up, especially given the scope of the bill’s restrictions.
Weapons of War Argument
While not explicitly called “weapons of war” in section 1, we see that idea being flirted with starting on page 1, line 13 with the following assertion:
Assault weapons are civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. For this reason the legislature finds that assault weapons are “like” “M-16 rifles” and thus are “weapons most useful in military service.”
While this is certainly one opinion, when looking at what is defined as an “assault weapon,” this statement doesn’t hold water.
There are many semi-automatic rifles that would be banned by this legislation that were designed and built for the civilian market. There are a vast number of .22 rimfire rifles that would be classified as assault weapons by this legislation, including many Ruger 10/22 variants that were not necessarily intended for military use. Next, take many pistol caliber carbines, which continue to grow in popularity. While some makes/models were intended for both military and civilian use, many are exclusively on the civilian market. The Ruger PC Carbine is a great example of this. Look at a manufacturer like Kel-Tec, many of their pistols and rifles designed for civilian use would be banned by this legislation as well. Further, the Ruger 10/22, the Ruger PC Carbine, or the Kel-Tec CMR30 are nothing “like” the “M-16.”
There are plenty more examples, however I do believe that this demonstrates the disingenuous nature of the assertion made in this bill.
Weapons Not Suitable for Self-Defense
Gun owners know that the assertion made on line page 2, line 8 is clearly false:
Moreover, the legislature finds that assault weapons are not suitable for self-defense and that studies show that assault weapons are statistically not used in self-defense.
Perhaps the researchers in the studies that they’re referring to understand that the term “assault weapon” is an engineered term by government and aren’t reporting as such. Many gun owners, myself included, have purchased these types of weapons exclusively for this purpose. Many gun owners, including myself have had to use them for this purpose. Again, many gun owners, myself included, in their use of their firearm for defensive purposes have either not had to discharge their weapon, or otherwise report a defensive use incident.
In my specific case, I moved 45 minutes northeast of Seattle and now live in the foothills where there are black bear, cougar, and coyotes galore, and have had rise to use my weapon in defense of my property against a pair of coyotes that would have devoured my small dog. Further, with as remote as I am, there is no telling when the sheriff’s office would show up to a home invasion/burglary. Based on my previous experience, I don’t have high hopes.
When living in Shoreline, police never did respond when dozens of cars came into my neighborhood late at night and started doing burnouts, with people getting out of their vehicles, wandering about, throwing beer cans in lawns, and destroying property. All I could do is watch out the front window with my rifle ready to protect myself should the mob go completely wild. Thankfully they eventually packed up and left, but it wasn’t until one of them who had parked in my yard saw the sidearm on my hip as I stood in the window and went and started ushering people out of the area. So perhaps that counts as a 2-fer.
While there were no reports to any authorities in either case, these were actual defensive uses of my rifle.
Deliberate Toxic Marketing
The legislature also asserts on page 2, line 16:
…the gun industry has specifically marketed these weapons as “tactical,” “hyper masculine,” and “military style” in manner that overtly appeals to troubled young men intent on becoming the next mass shooter.
I struggle with where to begin here. This assertion is largely opinionated and not really based in fact. I suppose the best place to start is with the one actual example of this type of marketing that bankrupted Remington after Sandy Hook. At this point, everyone likely knows about that example.
Aside from that, the marketing tactics that I see day in and day out are largely about self-defense. I fail to see how marketing something as “tactical” is negative. All kinds of non-firearm products are marketed in this way. Heck, the marketing of section 1 of this legislation is tactical.
As someone who browses quite often, I can’t recall seeing anything marketed in the firearms world as “military style.” In the airsoft world, sure, but that’s entirely unrelated to the subject matter. I have seen things marketed as “military grade,” which only speaks to the specific quality of a product the same way “food grade” does. There is no implied usage requirement in either case. We also see this term “military-grade” used in the marketing of all sorts of non-firearm related products as well. So I fail to see the relevance.
Finally, the term “hyper masculine” seems to take a stab at positioning these types of firearms as part of the “toxic masculinity” movement. While I can appreciate that toxic masculinity does exist, this isn’t it. The number of women who own these types of firearms continues to grow, and the legislature knows that.
As far as this marketing being used to overtly appeal to troubled young men intent on becoming the next mass shooter, we’ve clearly demonstrated that this is not the case. This actually strengthens the argument that this legislation is not appropriate for fixing the root cause of the issue, which is both societal and psychological in nature. However instead of doing the hard work, the legislature continues to insist on trying to fix a leaky faucet with a sledge hammer.
Mass Shooting Fatality Statistics
I was saving the best for last. On page 2, line 2 the legislature asserts:
An analysis of mass shootings that result in four or more deaths found that 85 percent of those fatalities were cause by an assault weapon. The legislature also finds that this regulation is likely to have an impact on the number of mass shootings committed in Washington. Studies have show that during the period the federal assault weapon ban was in effect, mass shooting fatalities were 70 percent less likely to occur.
This statistic was directly copied from the Giffords Law Center Assault Weapons page. Aside from quoting a site that has an obvious bias against firearms, I’m glad they used this source. If there’s one thing Giffords is good about, it’s providing their source material (even if they misuse it). Naturally I traced down the source report (Changes in US mass shooting deaths associated with the 1994–2004 federal assault weapons ban: Analysis of open-source data).
I’m not sure that Giffords actually decided to pay for the report and read it based on their usage of the data. I’m fairly certain that the Washington legislature didn’t. However, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I forked out the $60.70 and did just that.
It should surprise no one at this point that the quoted 85% is in-fact misleading and bears no direct relevance to Washington state. While I can’t share the entire report due to copyright restrictions, you’re welcome to buy it for yourself. I will share relevant excerpts from the report for the purpose of this article.
Data Collection and Analysis
The first thing I wanted to know, was what data sources were used, and what logic was employed when analyzing the data.
Mass incident shooting data were obtained from three independent, well-documented and referenced online sources: Mother Jones Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and Stanford University. These sources have each been the basis for a number of previous studies. Data from the three online open-source references were combined. Analyses were restricted to incidents reported by all three sources. Entries were further restricted to those for which four or more fatalities (not including the shooter) were reported, which meets the strictest definition of mass shootings as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sadly, since the publishing of the report, the LA Times source data has scrubbed from the web and is not available via archive.org either. The Stanford University data appears to still be available, but is behind a $250 pay wall.
That being said, the Mother Jones data is still freely available and being maintained. One can reasonably assume that not all datasets included the same data, so in theory only a subset of the Mother Jones data was used as part of this research.
While I certainly understand the reasoning behind combining multiple datasets to potentially provide a more accurate and corroborated telling of events, the Mother Jones data does contain all relevant source material required to verify their data. I have no reason to believe that the researchers lied about their reported figures, I do, however, have some concerns with the methodology given that the ability to verify the source material was also in their hands. The resulting data set that was analyzed was greatly restricted which can, and in this case does, drastically effect the outcome.
Report Discussion Notes
While the authors believe that a renewed assault weapons ban would reduce mass-shooting related homicides, this is also based on their own admission of using self-imposed restrictions on their already limited datasets in order to draw that conclusion. The authors of the report also state that bans will not result in fewer overall firearm-related homicides.
An assault weapon ban is not a panacea, nor do our analyses indicate that an assault weapon ban will result in fewer overall firearm-related homicides.
Independent Analysis of Mother Jones Data
I analyzed the data from Mother Jones, a larger single dataset than what was used for the report. I found significantly different figures than what were reported and are being quoted by Giffords and the legislature. In this analysis, I looked at mass shootings involving a rifle for which four or more fatalities were reported. I then performed secondary analysis where I looked at mass shootings where assault weapons were specifically referenced for which four or more fatalities were reported. In both cases the shooter could be included in the minimum of four which skews the data in favor of gun control advocates.
The Mother Jones data contains a total 40 years of information. 28 of those years had mass shooting incidents outside of the national AWB, all 10 of the years where the AWB was in place had incidents, and 2 years had no incidents recorded.
National Rifle Results
The results of the first analysis where the term “rifle” was used as a query designator, I found that in the 28 years of incidents outside of the national AWB, 53% of the fatalities were potentially a result of an assault weapon. Whereas during the 10 years of the national assault weapon ban 48% of the fatalities were potentially a result of an assault weapon. I say potentially as some cases indicate multiple types of weapons being used, and using “rifle” as the query designator does not necessarily mean that the rifle used would be classified as an assault weapon. The 5% variation between the two given this caveat seems insignificant.
The results of this analysis seem to indicate that there was not a significant change in fatalities as a result of the national assault weapons ban at all.
National Assault Weapons Results
The results of the second analysis where the term “assault” was used as a query designator, I found that in the 28 years of incidents outside of the national AWB, 21% of the fatalities were potentially a result of an assault weapon. Whereas during the 10 years of the national assault weapon ban 33% of the fatalities were potentially a result of an assault weapon. I say potentially as some cases indicate multiple types of weapons being used.
This is a much more significant finding. The results of this analysis seem to indicate that the percentage of fatalities with assault weapons during the national assault weapons ban were significantly greater than years without a ban.
Washington Specific Results
Note, that in the 40 years of data, only 7 mass shootings in Washington were recorded in the dataset. There was only one mass shooting in Washington during the national assault weapon ban, and the weapon was recorded as a rifle/assault weapon so a chart was not made as the results were simply 100%. This leads to a broader point regarding the lack of commonality of mass shootings when compared to homicides by firearm as a whole.
The 40 years of data from Mother Jones counts 1,074 lives lost to mass shootings. For reference, at a national scale, this is 0.000792% of total gun deaths and 0.002029% of homicides for the same time frame. We are talking about thousandths to tens of thousandths of 1%.
This broad and sweeping legislation that decimates the rights of millions is absolutely ludicrous and should demonstrate fully that data can be, and is manipulated to make things appear different than they really are.
Be sure to contact your representatives and the House and Senate committees to express your views on this bill.
|HB 1180||Firearms/assault weapons||(Peterson)||Comment|
|SB 5193||Firearms/assault weapons||(Kuderer)||Comment|
Senate Law & Justice Committee Contact Information
|Dhingra, Manka (D)|
|Manka.Dhingra@leg.wa.gov||239 John A. Cherberg Building||(360) 786-7672|
|Trudeau, Yasmin (D)|
|Yasmin.Trudeau@leg.wa.gov||227 John A. Cherberg Building||(360) 786-7652|
|Padden, Mike (R)|
|Mike.Padden@leg.wa.gov||215 Legislative Modular Building||(360) 786-7606|
|Kuderer, Patty (D)||Patty.Kuderer@leg.wa.gov||223 John A. Cherberg Building||(360) 786-7694|
|McCune, Jim (R)||Jim.McCune@leg.wa.gov||110 Legislative Modular Building||(360) 786-7602|
|Pedersen, Jamie (D)||Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov||309 Legislative Building||(360) 786-7628|
|Salomon, Jesse (D)||Jesse.Salomon@leg.wa.gov||404 Legislative Building||(360) 786-7662|
|Torres, Nikki (R)||Nikki.Torres@leg.wa.gov||111 Legislative Modular Building||(360) 786-7684|
|Valdez, Javier (D)||Javier.Valdez@leg.wa.gov||403 Legislative Building||(360) 786-7690|
|Wagoner, Keith (R)||Keith.Wagoner@leg.wa.gov||112 Legislative Modular Building||(360) 786-7676|
|Wilson, Lynda (R)||Lynda.Wilson@leg.wa.gov||205 Legislative Modular Building||(360) 786-7632|
House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee Contact Information
|Hansen, Drew (D)|
|Drew.Hansen@leg.wa.gov||370 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7842|
|Farivar, Darya (D)|
|Darya.Varivar@leg.wa.gov||369 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7818|
|Walsh, Jim (R)|
Ranking Minority Member
|Jim.Walsh@leg.wa.gov||428 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7806|
|Graham, Jenny (R)|
Assistant Ranking Minority Member
|Jenny.Graham@leg.wa.gov||435 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7962|
|Cheney, Greg (R)||Greg.Cheney@leg.wa.gov||406 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7812|
|Entenman, Debra (D)||Debra.Entenman@leg.wa.gov||305 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7918|
|Goodman, Roger (D)||Roger.Goodman@leg.wa.gov||436B Legislative Building||(360) 786-7878|
|Peterson, Strom (D)||Strom.Peterson@leg.wa.gov||324 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7950|
|Rude, Skyler (R)||Skyler.Rude@leg.wa.gov||122G Legislative Building||(360) 786-7828|
|Thai, My-Linh (D)||My-Linh.Thai@leg.wa.gov||421 John L. O’Brien Building||(360) 786-7926|
|Walen, Amy (D)||Amy.Walen@leg.wa.gov||437B Legislative Building||(360) 786-7848|