What a New Assault Weapons Ban Might Look Like


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A Bushmaster XM-E assault rifle similar to one used by the Sandy Hook shooter. Photo Credit: Mika Janviven

Assault Weapons Bans: The Unintended Consequences

Historically, guns sales in the United States spike after a mass murder involving firearms occurs, but why?

One reason for the increase in gun sales is that some Americans feel more insecure about their safety after hearing about a tragic shooting spree and go out and buy a gun for protection.

The other rationale for gun sales going up is that those who already own guns fear new laws will be introduced that will curtail their ability to purchase and possess certain kinds of weapons.

As more and more weapons are bought, the manufacture, sale and importation of firearms also increases to keep up with the increase in demand that precedes a possible ban.

Reuters did a study of 15 mass shootings that have occurred since 1999. The incidents examined were ones in which at least five people were killed and there was constant media coverage over a period of days. It was found that after the Colorado movie theater shootings on July 20, 2012, gun sales nationally increased 17%. Gun sales in Colorado alone increased by almost 40%.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the production of rifles and shotguns for the American market increased 40% between 2002 and 2011.

On December 20, 2012, six days after the Sandy Hook shootings, 1,220 guns were sold in Connecticut compared to 431 firearms sold on the same day last year. On December 14, the day the children and adults were killed, 756 guns were sold in the state. On December 14, 2011, only 375 firearms were sold. The following day, 941 guns were sold in the state compared to 365 on the same day the year before.

And there is anecdotal evidence as well – many gun dealers say their best day for sales ever occurred on a day in the week following the Sandy Hook killings.

Gun Ban Ineffective Without Seizure?

If a new assault weapons ban comes into effect that does not call for a seizure of weapons currently legal (and there is no suggestion that weapons seizures are planned), the result of the Sandy Hook shootings and ensuing discussions of banning assault weapons will lead to more of these weapons in the hands of ordinary Americans when the law takes effect than there would have been had the mass murder of children and teachers not occurred.

In other words, if there is another Nancy Lanza out there, with a son planning a shooting spree, she will have just as many legal weapons after the bill passes as she does now. She might even have more.


Democratic Underground. Text of Assault Weapons Ban. (1994). Accessed December 23, 2012.

Dianne Feinstein Press Release. Feinstein to Introduce Updated Assault Weapons Bill in New Congress(2012). Accessed December 23, 2012.

CS Monitor.  How would a new US ban on assault rifles work? (2012). Accessed December 23, 2012.

Connecticut Post. Connecticut gun sales soar in wake of Sandy Hook. (2012). Accessed December 23, 2012.

UK Reuters, Insight. Mass shootings tend to lift gun sales, data shows. (2012). Accessed December 23, 2012.

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