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President Bill Clinton signing the bill into law.

Cosmetic features

Gun control advocates and gun rights advocates have referred to at least some of the features outlined in the federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 as cosmetic. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action and the Violence Policy Center both used the term in publications that were released by them in September 2004, when the ban expired.[15][16] In May 2012, the Law Center to Prevent Gun

Gun control advocates and gun rights advocates have referred to at least some of the features outlined in the federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 as cosmetic. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action and the Violence Policy Center both used the term in publications that were released by them in September 2004, when the ban expired.[15][16] In May 2012, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said that "the inclusion in the list of features that were purely cosmetic in nature created a loophole that allowed manufacturers to successfully circumvent the law by making minor modifications to the weapons they already produced."[17] The term was repeated in several stories after the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.[18][19] Senator Marco Rubio cited that issue during a town hall forum, responding to questions from survivors of the 2018 Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.[20]

Legal challenges

Several constitutional challenges were filed against provisions of the ban, but all were rejected by the courts. There were multiple attempts to renew the ban, but none succeeded.

A February 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress said that the "Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was unsuccessfully challenged as violating several constitutional provisions" but that challenges to three constitutional provisions were easily dismissed.[21]:7 The ban did not make up an impermissible bill of attainder.[22]:31 It was not unconstitutionally vague.[23] Also, it was ruled to be compatible with the Ninth Amendment by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[24]

Challenges to two other provisions took more time to decide.[21]Several constitutional challenges were filed against provisions of the ban, but all were rejected by the courts. There were multiple attempts to renew the ban, but none succeeded.

A February 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress said that the "Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was unsuccessfully challenged as violating several constitut

A February 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report to Congress said that the "Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was unsuccessfully challenged as violating several constitutional provisions" but that challenges to three constitutional provisions were easily dismissed.[21]:7 The ban did not make up an impermissible bill of attainder.[22]:31 It was not unconstitutionally vague.[23] Also, it was ruled to be compatible with the Ninth Amendment by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[24]

Challenges to two other provisions took more time to decide.[21]:7

In evaluating challenges to the ban under the Commerce Clause, the court first evaluated Congress's authority to regulate under the clause and then analyzed the ban's prohibitions on manufacture, transfer, and possession. The court held that "it is not even arguable that the manufacture and transfer of 'semiautomatic assault weapons' for a national market cannot be regulated as activity substantially affecting interstate commerce."[21]:8–9[22]:12 It also held that the "purpose of the ban on possession has an 'evident commercial nexus'".[21]:9[22]:14

The law was also challenged under the Equal Protection Clause. It was argued that it banned some semi-automatic weapons that were functional equivalents of exempted semi-automatic weapons and that to do so, based upon a mix of other characteristics, served no legitimate governmental interest. The reviewing court held that it was "entirely rational for Congress... to choose to ban those weapons commonly used for criminal purposes and to exempt those weapons commonly used for recreational purposes."[21]:10[25] It also found that each characteristic served to make the weapon "potentially more dangerous" and were not "commonly used on weapons designed solely for hunting."[21]:10–11[26]

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was never directly challenged under the Second Amendment. Since its 2004 expiration, there has been debate on how the ban would fare in light of cases decided in following years, especially District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).[27]

A 2017 review found that the ban did not have a significant effect on firearm homicides.[28]

A 2014 study found no impacts on homicide rates with an assault weapon ban.[29] A 2014 book published by Oxford University Press noted that "There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives".[30][31]

A 2013 study showed that the expiration of the FAWB in 2004 "led to immediate violence increases within areas of Mexico located close to American states where sales of a

A 2014 study found no impacts on homicide rates with an assault weapon ban.[29] A 2014 book published by Oxford University Press noted that "There is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives".[30][31]

A 2013 study showed that the expiration of the FAWB in 2004 "led to immediate violence increases within areas of Mexico located close to American states where sales of assault weapons became legal. The estimated effects are sizable... the additional homicides stemming from the FAWB expiration represent 21% of all homicides in these municipalities during 2005 and 2006."[32]

In 2013, Christopher S. Koper, a criminology scholar, reviewed the literature on the ban's effects and concluded that its effects on crimes committed with assault weapons were mixed due to its various loopholes. He stated that the ban did not seem to affect gun crime rates, and suggested that it might have been able to reduce shootings if it had been renewed in 2004.[33]

In 2004, a research report commissioned by the National Institute of Justice found that if the ban was renewed, the effects on gun violence would likely be small and perhaps too small for reliable measurement, because rifles in general, including rifles referred to as "assault rifles" or "assault weapons", are rarely used in gun crimes. That study, by the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, found no significant evidence that either the assault weapons ban or the ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds had reduced gun murders. The report found that the share of gun crimes involving assault weapons had declined by 17 to 72 percent in the studied localities. The authors reported that "there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury." The report also concluded that it was "premature to make definitive assessments of the ban's impact on gun crime," since millions of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines manufactured prior to the ban had been exempted and would thus be in circulation for years following the ban's implementation.[34]

In 2003, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent, non-federal task force, examined an assortment of firearms laws, including the AWB, and found "insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence."[35] A review of firearms research from 2001 by the National Research Council "did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes." The committee noted that guns were relatively rarely used criminally before the ban and that its maximum potential effect on gun violence outcomes would likely be very small.[36]

In relation to a 2001 study the National Research Council in 2005, stated "evaluation of the short-term effects of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes."[37]

Research published by John Lott in 1998 found no impact of these bans on violent crime rates.[38] Koper, Woods, and Roth studies focus on gun murders, while Lott's look at murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults.[38] Unlike their work, Lott's research accounted for state assault weapon bans and twelve other different types of gun control laws.[38]

A 2019 DiMaggio et al. study looked at mass shooting data for 1981 to 2017 and found that mass-shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur during the 1994 to 2004 federal ban period, and that the ban was associated with a 0.1% reduction in total firearm homicide fatalities due to the reduction in mass-shootings' contribution to total homicides.[40]

A 2018 Rand review found two studies that looked at the impact of assault weapons laws, including the 1994 federal law, on mass shootings that controlled for other factors which affected mass shootings. The results were inconclusive with the 2015 Gius study showing an impact while the other study did not.[41]

A study by Mark Gius, professor of economics at Quinnipiac University, studied the law's impact on public mass shootings.[42] Gius defined this subset of mass shootings as those occurring in a relatively public place, targeted random victims, were not otherwise related to a crime (a robbery or act of terrorism), and that involved four or more victim fatalities. Guis found that while assault weapons were not the primary weapon used in this subset of mass shootings, fatalities and injuries were statistically lower during the period the federal ban was active. The 2018 Rand analysis noted that the federal law portion of this analysis lacked a comparison group.[42]

A 2015 study found a small decrease in the rate of mass shootings followed by increases beginning after the ban was lifted.[43] The same repo

A 2018 Rand review found two studies that looked at the impact of assault weapons laws, including the 1994 federal law, on mass shootings that controlled for other factors which affected mass shootings. The results were inconclusive with the 2015 Gius study showing an impact while the other study did not.[41]

A study by Mark Gius, professor of economics at Quinnipiac University, studied the law's impact on public mass shootings.[42] Gius defined this subset of mass shootings as those occurring in a relatively public place, targeted random victims, were not otherwise related to a crime (a robbery or act of terrorism), and that involved four or more victim fatalities. Guis found that while assault weapons were not the primary weapon used in this subset of mass shootings, fatalities and injuries were statistically lower during the period the federal ban was active. The 2018 Rand analysis noted that the federal law portion of this analysis lacked a comparison group.[42]

A 2015 study found a small decrease in the rate of mass shootings followed by increases beginning after the ban was lifted.[43] The same report also noted that all mass shootings in Australia occurred before the 1996 National Firearms Agreement which placed tight control on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons.[43][44] However, since the report's publication, there have been two mass shooting events in Darwin[45] and Osmington[46] in Australia.[47]

Even with this ban in place, the Columbine High School massacre happened, using weapons that were legal under the ban. [48][49]

A 2002 study by Koper and Roth found that around the time when the ban became law, assault weapon prices increased significantly, but the increase was reversed in the several months afterward by a surge in assault weapons production that occurred just before the ban took effect.[50] John Lott found that the bans may have reduced the number of gun shows by over 20 percent.[51]

Efforts at renewal