Guest post by Rob Knowles

What does the Left really want when they talk about gun control? Ask any Democrat, and they’ll likely say that they want a ban on “assault weapons,” meaning AR-15 type semi-automatic rifles.

In the aftermath of the Orlando terror attack, Hillary Clinton said that “weapons of war have no place on our streets.” She added, “We did have an assault weapons ban for ten years. I think it should be reinstated.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “these assault weapons are weapons of war.”

President Obama made an identical remark following the Sandy Hook shooting, saying “weapons of war have no place on our streets.” He added, “We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons.”

We hear the same thing over and over again. “Weapons of war,” or “military-style assault weapons” need to be done away with. After every mass shooting, Democrats get on their soapbox, and crow about so-called assault weapons. Conservatives present facts, the Democrats summarily dismiss those facts, the blame gets pinned on conservatives, and the Democrats pose for the cameras. Rinse and repeat.

But what are the facts?

First, semi-automatic rifles, the “weapons of war” to which the Democrats so frequently refer, are not the weapon of choice in mass shootings.

According to James Alan Fox, whom the Cato Institute refers to as “the nation’s leading criminologist studying mass killing,” from 1982-2012, handguns comprised 61% of the firearms used in mass shootings. Only 24.6% were “assault weapons.”

A study by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) indicates that handguns were used in 68% of mass public shootings from 2009-2014.

Another study by the CDC states that “handguns are used in more than 87 percent of violent crimes.”

So, if handguns are the primary firearm used in mass shootings (and shootings in general), why do Democrats continue to talk about “assault weapons?” Because the term “handgun” doesn’t have the same impact as “military-style assault weapon,” or “weapon of war.” Additionally, a handgun looks a lot less scary than an AR-15.

Regarding the effectiveness of the 1994 assault weapons ban that lasted ten years before expiring, James Alan Fox writes:

“…a comparison of the incidence of mass shootings during the ten year window when the assault weapon ban was in force against the time periods before implementation and after expiration shows that the legislation had virtually no effect.”

The New York Times adds that it was essentially a useless and politically-motivated ban:

“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,” however, “banning sales of military-style weapons resonated with both legislators and the public.”

Again, the scary looking guns were simply an easier target despite handguns actually representing the majority of firearms used in violent crime.

A Pew Research study shows that gun violence fell 49% from 1993 to 2010. According to The Washington Post and a Congressional Research Service report, the number of firearms in U.S. jumped from 192 million to 357 million over approximately the same time period of time (1994-2013). While gun ownership increased by 56%, gun violence fell by 49%. However, as Pew notes, despite these statistics, a massive “56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago.”

Moreover, the study by the CDC states:

“The number of public mass shootings of the type that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School accounted for a very small fraction of all firearm-related deaths…Since 1983, there have been 78 events in which 4 or more individuals were killed by a single perpetrator in 1 day in the United States, resulting in 547 victims and 476 injured persons.”

So, if “military-style assault weapons” are only responsible for a fraction of mass shooting deaths, and mass shootings account for only a fraction of gun deaths in general, why is Democratic rhetoric so fervently focused on semi-automatic rifles? Short answer–because it has to be.

Americans would reject any talk of banning handguns because handguns are used effectively for self-defense between 500,000 to 3,000,000 times a year, according to the CDC (and there’s that darn Second Amendment thingy, too). But the Left wants a war. They want a show-battle in which they’re the heroes and conservatives are the villains. To accomplish this, they must turn the narrative to the big, scary guns. The perfect way to do this is to focus on mass shootings.

Every time a mass casualty shooting occurs–regardless of the perpetrator’s choice of firearm–the Democrats rush the stage, yell about gun control, show pictures of big, scary guns, talk about “military-style assault weapons,” and “weapons of war,” then blame conservatives for the whole thing. The scary thing is, it works–as demonstrated by various polls.

This isn’t about gun violence. The Democrats want scared Americans to vote for them. In order to motivate that, they need to manipulate the narrative. They don’t care about human life. Not one bit. If they did, their rhetoric would reflect the facts–but it doesn’t.

Cross-posted from