From the freaking New York Times, of all places.
Over the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.
[...]But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.
It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.
In 2012, only 322 people were murdered with any kind of rifle, F.B.I. data shows.
[...]This politically defined category of guns — a selection of rifles, shotguns and handguns with “military-style” features — only figured in about 2 percent of gun crimes nationwide before the ban.
Handguns were used in more than 80 percent of murders each year, but gun control advocates had failed to interest enough of the public in a handgun ban. Handguns were the weapons most likely to kill you, but they were associated by the public with self-defense. (In 2008, the Supreme Court said there was a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense.)
Banning sales of military-style weapons resonated with both legislators and the public: Civilians did not need to own guns designed for use in war zones.
On Sept. 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban into law. It barred the manufacture and sale of new guns with military features and magazines holding more than 10 rounds. But the law allowed those who already owned these guns — an estimated 1.5 million of them — to keep their weapons.
The policy proved costly. Mr. Clinton blamed the ban for Democratic losses in 1994. Crime fell, but when the ban expired, a detailed study found no proof that it had contributed to the decline.
The ban did reduce the number of assault weapons recovered by local police, to 1 percent from roughly 2 percent.
“Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement,” a Department of Justice-funded evaluation concluded.
So what does work?
“We spent a whole bunch of time and a whole bunch of political capital yelling and screaming about assault weapons,” Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu of New Orleans said. He called it a “zero sum political fight about a symbolic weapon.”
Mr. Landrieu and Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia are founders of Cities United, a network of mayors trying to prevent the deaths of young black men. “This is not just a gun issue, this is an unemployment issue, it’s a poverty issue, it’s a family issue, it’s a culture of violence issue,” Mr. Landrieu said.
More than 20 years of research funded by the Justice Department has found that programs to target high-risk people or places, rather than targeting certain kinds of guns, can reduce gun violence.
So if banning guns doesn’t stop the crime, then what is causing all the crime?
Dr. Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute explains in his testimony to Congress:
Welfare contributes to crime in several ways. First, children from single-parent families are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. According to one study, children raised in single-parent families are one-third more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior.(3) Moreover, O’Neill found that, holding other variables constant, black children from single- parent households are twice as likely to commit crimes as black children from a family where the father is present. Nearly 70 percent of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes, as do 43 percent of prison inmates.(4) Research indicates a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of single-parent families in a neighborhood.(5)
As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noted in her seminal article for The Atlantic Monthly:
The relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation’s mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers, and court officials, consistently point to family break up as the most important source of rising rates of crime.(6)
Don’t ban guns, ban welfare.