America’s “gun problem” has something in common with pornography: it may be hard to define, but Americans know it when they see it.

It’s a complex topic many wish to solve with simple solutions. Assault weapon bans are currently popular. Who can blame anybody for wanting to rid the country of a soulless, inanimate object they hold responsible for so much death and grief?

The increase in mass shootings is why public opinion polls show a dramatic uptick in support for gun control measures. Yet there is no actual definition of a mass shooting (whenever a news item quotes statistics, ask what definition is in use), or of an assault weapon, for that matter.

READ MORE — Andy Bloom: American tragedies — how does this mess end?

Congress wrestled with that question in 1994 when it passed the ten-year Federal Assault Weapon Ban. The debate included charts, Venn diagrams, statistical analyses, personal anecdotes, authentic weapons, and toy copies.

Congress passed a ten-year ban on the manufacture, transfer, and possession of eighteen specific models of weapons and others with military-style features. Also prohibited in the assault weapon bans were high-capacity magazines that held more than ten bullets. The law included a grandfather clause for weapons already in the owner’s possession.

Analysis conducted after the ban expired in 2004 suggests it didn’t have much impact. At best, the data is “inconclusive.” 

A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M University in 2016 concluded that the 1994 assault weapons ban did not affect mass shootings. The study looked at all mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012 and found that the number of mass shootings did not change significantly during the years that the ban was in effect. Other projects found similar results.

Proponents say mass shootings were lower during the ban, but they can’t control other societal variables, which they usually say is the explanation for crime. Further, the sample size is too small to be significant. Some suggest the ban would be more effective if implemented longer.

Prohibition lasted thirteen years in the U.S. and wasn’t becoming more effective by the time it ended because bans don’t work.

The Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970. The following year, Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” The University of Pennsylvania estimates that by 2021 (the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s declaration), the U.S. had spent $1 trillion fighting that war. How’s that going?

What bans have worked? Prostitution, gambling, speeding? Why would anybody think assault weapon bans would be different?

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws. First, we have laws. Murder is pretty much illegal. Murderers can receive the death penalty from the federal government and in 27 states. However, governors have imposed moratoriums in three, including Pennsylvania (in February, Governor Josh Shapiro announced he would continue Tom Wolf’s policy and sign reprieves). Second, we already have gun laws. Third, this involves a constitutional right.

Friends remind me that other countries ban firearms altogether and don’t have gun crimes. These countries also don’t have our Second Amendment — which, at the same time, these friends tell me they don’t want to infringe.

The place to start isn’t by shredding the Bill of Rights. Not even if it makes some people feel better.

The Bill of Rights limits the federal government’s power: It can’t limit free speech, establish a state religion, stop assemblies, quarter troops in private residences, etc. The Second Amendment prevents the government from infringing on the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” It was so important that the framers put it directly after freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is an individual right unconnected to militia service.

The Second Amendment isn’t the only attribute that separates the United States from every other country on earth — the years I spent working internationally taught me how unique we are.

  • We may be the only country that refrigerates eggs.
  • We are the only country that serves ice in our beverages.
  • Maybe it’s just dangerous living in the U.S.A.? For example:
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in the U.S. was 17.01 in 2020.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in Russia in 2020 was 11.6.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in China in 2020 was 11.5.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in Mexico in 2020 was 10.5.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in Germany in 2020 was 3.7.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in Japan was 3.48 in 2020.
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 drivers in the U.K. was 2.3 in 2020.

As more heinous crimes committed by evil people happen, pressure will mount on Congress to take action — any action. There’s a good chance Congress will pass a law banning assault weapons, however it defines it now.

Handguns are used to kill far more Americans than assault weapons. Further, it isn’t difficult to convert many types of firearms into semi-automatic weapons.

Once the Second Amendment is malleable enough to ban one type of firearm, and gun deaths remain high, it’s not a reach to imagine the calls to ban more guns or Congress agreeing.

Gun control advocates like to use words like “common sense.” We should use common sense before resorting to yet another ineffective ban. Perhaps people against the ban can find room to compromise, such as:

  • It is common sense to tie state background check systems together nationwide. 
  • I don’t find it offensive to remove gun show loopholes. One person could oversee all transactions at a show.
  • It is common sense to enforce the gun laws already on the books.

Then maybe people inclined to ban weapons can agree on a couple of other common sense measures to try first, such as:

  • It is common sense to protect children in schools like we do banks and airports.
  • It is common sense to stop coddling criminals and make punishment sure and swift before people learn that the system allows them to get away with causing considerable harm.

Assault weapon bans will have a short-term placebo effect and make some people feel better at the expense of constitutional rights. Ultimately, it won’t make anybody safer, and giving up constitutional rights stands to make everybody less free.

Bad people do bad things. The human mind has an unlimited capacity for thinking of evil ways to hurt others. Whether it’s converting another gun into a semi-automatic weapon, using a vehicle for mass murder, a knife, sledgehammer, or ax, or turning a truck or an airplane into a lethal weapon, it will take more than banning one type of weapon from stopping mass murderers.

The place to start isn’t by shredding the Bill of Rights. Not even if it makes some people feel better. 

Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.

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