2013 Obama DOJ Memo: AWB and High Cap Mag Ban Won’t Reduce Crime

We’ve known for almost a decade about the Clinton era’s Department of Justice and their report that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was ineffective and had no noticeable impact on crime. However, that study has largely been ignored due to its age. Thankfully, Barack Obama’s very own Department of Justice authored a memo in January (which has subsequently leaked, and been published by the NRA) in which Greg Ridgeway (the Deputy Director for the National Institute of Justice) went over the various options for increased gun control and voiced an opinion on whether any of the options being discussed would actually reduce crime. And — surprise surprise — the NIJ found that nothing being proposed by the Democrats would do anything to actually reduce crime in the United States. Let me tease out the more juicy bits for you . . .

How about an “assault weapons” ban . . . would that reduce crime? According to the memo:

Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.

There it is in black and white. A clear message from Barack Obama’s own DoJ that the “assault weapons” ban he’s pushing for would have no real world effect.

How about “smart guns?” You know, those guns that supposedly will only fire for the registered owner? Under the heading of “Smart Guns”:

Unlikely to affect gun crime

And yet, it’s still being touted as something that “must be done” to reduce crime.

What about magazine capacity restrictions? Surely that would have the immediate impact on crime that the Democrats are looking for.

In order to have an impact, large capacity magazine regulation needs to sharply curtail their availability to include restrictions on importation, manufacture, sale, and possession. An exemption for previously owned magazines would nearly eliminate any impact. The program would need to be coupled with an extensive buyback of existing large capacity magazines. With an exemption the impact of the restrictions would only be felt when the magazines degrade or when they no longer are compatible with guns in circulation. This would take decades to realize.

In short, due to that pesky Constitutional restriction on the government against illegal search and seizure and ex post facto laws, even a magazine capacity restriction would be pointless.

Again, this isn’t anything new. We’ve been telling you this for the last three years here at TTAG. And now we know that those in charge are getting the exact same advice form their advisers. They just choose to ignore it and push for civilian disarmament anyway.

There are dozens of other priorities they could be working on (like lobs, an actual budget, or maybe the economy) but instead they’re focusing their efforts on feel-good, base-pleasing bills that would do nothing to improve the situation in America and would only infringe on the civil rights of millions of law abiding Americans.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

41 Responses to 2013 Obama DOJ Memo: AWB and High Cap Mag Ban Won’t Reduce Crime

  1. avatarLance says:

    More ammo for us to tell the antis to shut up!!

  2. avatarRoss says:

    I wish the NRA would use Chris to get the message out more often.

    • avatarCCDWGuy says:

      I agree with your comment about Chris. He represents the NRA very well and does not have all the baggage Wayne has to carry. It’s refreshing to see him delivering this message.

  3. avatarRandy Drescher says:

    They aren’t trying to reduce crime. They are trying to protect looters & rioters. Randy

  4. avatarCasey T says:

    Surprise, surprise, there is a memo that states all of this crap won’t work and yet our President ignores this and still pushes for it. Maybe, he wants to further cripple the economy or something. Also, we should mention the whole willfully violating the Constitution for no reason issue.

    • avatarMark N. says:

      No, he is not ignoring it, and in fact recognizes the problem. What you fail to grasp is that this is the first little step, the step they can get through Cpongress, that is the camel’s nose under the tent. He can sell these changes–because they sound so good. No one NEEDS an assault weapon, nonne NEEDS a large capacity magazine–the battle is all about appearances. There is no way he could sell gun confiscation–which is what DiFi was after but a provision that mysteriously disappeared from her bill before it was introduced, because that would cede the bully pulpit to gun owners. But when such guns stop being sold, stop being advertised, and diminish from the public attention absent another horrific massacre, it gets easier and easier to sustain the majority needed for a total ban. DiFi wanted so much more, but Obama is smart enough to know that her plan was a nonstarter and would set back gun controefforts. Always remember that the ultimate goal is to register and then confiscate HANDGUNS, not rifles or shotguns.

  5. avatarAvid Reader says:

    Well, duh. . .

  6. avatarJackieO says:

    This is info that needs to get out beyond the true believers and seep into the awareness of the general group that have no clue and possibly educate a few to the informed side.

    • avatarBilly Wardlaw says:

      I keep saying I would chip in for a full page NYT add with this info, and/or these quotes in giant bold typeface!

      In short – let’s Kickstarter this biatch!

  7. avatarAccur81 says:

    Well, the whole Hopey / Changey thing never impressed me. I guess the change he was looking for was consistently attacking our rights, increasing our federal deficit, weakening our nation, and making really nifty speeches that *inspire* people.

    Why people still think BHO is a good president is beyond me.

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      I’m not sure about the ‘ex post facto’ problem, but I’m sure the NIJ clarified that there was a ‘takings clause’ issue of large dimension, coupled with a ‘futility’ issue.

      • avatarMark N. says:

        Nick, Nick, Nick, you shouldn’t jump to legal conclusions about “illegal searches and seizures” and ex post facto laws,” it just spreads disinformation. There is no ex post facto issue. An expost facto law criminalizes behavior that was legal when performed, but does not bar prosecution for activities after the effective date of the law. For example, if it was legal to drink when you were 18, they cannot punish you now for what you did back then even though the law has changed to prohibit drinking under age 21, but only if you drink after he effective date of thenew statute and are under 21. These bans without grandfather clauses do not penalize your ownership of a weapon or magazine before the effective date of the law, only for continued possession after the effective date of the law. But as Ropingdown correctly points out, as did the DOJ attorney, there is a real big “takings” issue that would likely require the government to reimburse owners for the value of their now banned property that was purchased when it was legal to possess. Nor is there necessarily any illegal search and seizure issue; as long as the government has probable cause to believe that you possess contraband now, they can get a search warrant to confiscate it. Yes there could be illegal searches, but not because of the new law, just because that is always an issue in any search.

    • avatarLeo338 says:

      The thing is Accur81 the average person doesn’t know what BHO is about. All they know is what their local news or CNN tells them, which is always a BS story coupled with a 10 second video of him doing one of his weekly speeches. As far as they know he is out there fighting for the little guy. Heck for the SOTU speech this year he claimed the economy is great, there couldn’t be more jobs being created and the deficit problem has been fixed. If we had a media that actually did their job Americans would be marching on the WhiteHouse lawn demanding this guy be thrown out. Ignorance is a big part of the problem but for a lot of people they don’t like politics. Their time is filled by work and family.

  8. avatarJason says:

    Is there a non-edited version anywhere? I’d prefer it, even if all that has been added are highlights.

    • avatarBeninMA says:

      Agreed, I’d like a clean copy to pass around as well. When the truth is this clear, you don’t need to spoon feed it.

      • avatarNathanredbeard says:

        All the news stories on other websites (Google “greg ridgeway firearms memo”) have the link to the NRA uploaded copy. Looks like that’s as good as it gets for now.

  9. avatarThomas Paine says:

    yeah, but the victims of gun violence deserve a vote. a vote on something that would not have prevented it in the first place, but they still deserve a vote. makes sense.

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      Deserve a vote? They get to vote: They can vote for better state funding of mental health services, and for compulsory outpatient treatment for mental illness adjudged dangerous (provided due process is respected). In Colorado. In Connecticut. They can vote in Chicago for the effective direction of City funds to gang control, education, focused policing, and mandatory time for unlawful possession of a handgun. They can call that last bit the Julian Gayles Law, or Hadiya’s Law.

    • avatarWLCE says:

      right. lets put all of our rights on the table for votes by the majority *rolls eyes*

      In what universe did that make sense to anybody? LOL

  10. avatarAnodyne says:

    Nick, it looks like you missed a spot. From the memo:

    “The 1997 Australia gun buyback and its associated regulations is an exception to this. 1. It was large, buying back 20% of the firearm stock. 2. It targeted semi-automatic weapons. 3. It coupled the buyback with a ban on certain weapons and a nationwide registration and licensing program. There is strong evidence that it reduced mass killings (before the initiative massacres occurred on average once per
    year and none have occurred in the 15 years since).”

    Only one problem – here’s the list of Australian mass killings before 1997; not all of which were committed with firearms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia

    I’m unaware of a single peer reviewed study that has found reliable evidence that the ban reduced mass killings in Australia, in large part because they were so unusual before the ban (not withstanding the fact that the ban was a direct result of Port Arthur massacre).

    • @Anodyne: The following paragraph to the one you quoted starts with “The Australia buyback appears to have had no effect on crime otherwise…”

      It is saying that while the massive buybacks (confiscation) have reduced mass killings, but otherwise have not had any effect on crime. Since mass shootings account for a miniscule percentage of total violent and even gun crime, it’s effect is pretty small. The same paragraph also goes on to attack the accuracy of a study that claims the massive buyback reduced gun homicide.

      • avatarAnodyne says:

        The point of my comment was to highlight the specific parenthetical claim that “(before the initiative massacres occurred on average once per year and none have occurred in the 15 years since)”.

        Frequently claims are made (and become the focus of academic studies) about specific types of crime, e.g., rampage killings/massacres. My comment referred only to such crimes. Hence the preface, you missed a spot. Again, there is no reliable evidence that the gun ban reduced massacres. Moreover, Australia has a continuing problem of multiple-homicide, arson-based crime (e.g., Churchill massacre, Childers Palace Hostel, etc.) suggesting a compreshensive view of homicide in Austrailia isn’t particularly cheery after the ban. And don’t even get me started on the alarming increase in suicide in Australia post-ban.

    • avatarDean Weingarten says:

      Here is a study that compared Australian mass shootings with New Zealand mass shootings. it concluded that there is no reason to believe that the ban reduced mass shootings. Not peer reviewed, but some pretty good information.

      I wrote about it on my blog, Gun Watch, and included an abstract. There is also a link to the paper, which is PDF.

      http://gunwatch.blogspot.com/2013/02/gun-confiscation-in-australia-not-shown.html

      • avatarAnodyne says:

        Quick clarification, Dean. This study is peer-reviewed, as are all publications in this web-based journal. Some commentators have questioned the authors’ indpendence because of their association with WiSH, a women’s shooting and hunting (that also advocates against violence).

        It is sometimes difficult to compare studies that use different definitions of the events under study – massacres, mass killings, mass shootings, spree killings, public rampage killings, etc. This particular study refers to mass killings whether public or domestic (spree-killings typically only refers to public shootings). The author of the memo that began this thread estimated approxiately one mass killing per year prior to the ban by dividing the 12 public and domestic mass shootings by 16 years. This 1. ignores the distinction between public and domestic violence 2. artifically sets the baseline year of 1980 because these were the years examined in the study to which he is referring, and 3. only looks at shootings vs mass killings committed by other means (e.g., arson or machete).

        I doubt this was a deliberate distortion of the data by the memo writer. It was probably a result of half-assing a complicated issue. The sad part is that he was clearly aware of the punch line of the studies he looked at, i.e., the ban was not the causal factor in the absence of mass killings thereafter, however they are defined, but he gave the impression that the opposite was true.

  11. “If we can score just one political point its worth it…..”

  12. avatarg says:

    “There are dozens of other priorities they could be working on (like lobs, an actual budget, or maybe the economy)”

    Typo police: shouldn’t this read “jobs” not lobs? Or we talking Line Of Business or a new word for “low paying job?”

    In any case, good article Nick.

  13. avatarjwm says:

    Gun control has never been about making our streets or schools safer. Here it is 2 months after Sandy hook and the people spinning their wheels trying to increase gun control have done nothing, that’s NOTHING, to make our kids any safer than the day Lanza went beserk.

    biden, barry, difi, mikeyb, hmmmmer, lbd and wc to name just a few have made no progress at all towards making our schools safer. Each person has a finite amount of time and resources to effect a problem. Those resources are being wasted in a less than useless effort to stop law abiding people from having guns.

    Which makes the anti’s a part of the problem, not the solution. Resources that could go to make our schools safer are being squandered in useless gun control measures. And at the end of the day the next Lanza is already armed and just has to pick the next soft target to wreak havoc on.

    • avatarJohn Rand says:

      I would propose it’s a bit more than that.

      The federal gun legislation is just a cover. If they get anything passed, I’m sure they’ll take it as a bonus, but it’s primarily there as a barter chip and smoke screen so they can get away with the fiscal changes (or.. lack of changes) they wish.

      The longer they can keep they can keep the interest rates low and inflation high, they can continue to force more and more people into the entitlement programs. Soon generations of people who were unable to save any useful amount of money due to the inability for retirement funds to appreciate past even inflation or for their property to appreciate at all, will be forced into the entitlement system. Especially since they’re now labeling Social Security as an entitlement.

      Reading that DoJ PDF with a liberal eye, all I’m seeing is “Large buybacks work great.” I suspect that is what POTUS will get out of it also.

  14. avatarokto says:

    Can we get a link to this document NOT hosted by a pro-gun org? Nobody on the other side will listen to something that comes from the NRA. and the only other places I can find it are on wildly right-wing blogs that even I won’t listen to without a super-size grain of salt.

    If we are going to couch the credibility of this study in the [theoretical] objectivity of the Department of Justice, it can’t come from such an obviously-biased source as the NRA.

    • avataranonymous says:

      That was my first reaction too, thinking “this is too good to be true”. And recalling how many times I’ve been fooled by internet hoaxes, including from our side, I was skeptical.

      But it turns out that the memo is true.

      DOJ Memo: Assault-Weapons Ban ‘Unlikely to Have an Impact on Gun Violence’
      By Eliana Johnson
      National Review Online
      February 18, 2013 3:30 P.M
      .
      .
      An internal Justice Department memo obtained and released by the National Rifle Association reveals the department’s conclusions about the efficacy of a number of gun-control measures being touted by the Obama administration. The NRA is featuring the memo, whose existence has been verified by the administration, in a new ad.

      I’ve been looking for a story about this on liberal sites, such as NPR and Huffington Post, and found nothing so far. I think that it is interesting that they have not informed their audiences about this yet. If this was false, I think left-leaning media outlets would have been all over the NRA by now.

  15. Why would Obama be detered by this information? It doesn’t say that his proposals wouldn’t work to reduce violence, they just say in order for his proposals to work they would have to include registration and confiscation. Do you not think he is for those things? I have a hard time believing most antis are not, they just know that it’s not politically popular enough for them to admit at this time.

    I’ve read most of the memo and what I don’t see is an acknowledgment of the potential for increased violence following reduced lawful firearm ownership, because it would empower criminals and offer them less resistance to commit their crimes.

  16. “In addition large capacity magazines were used in nearly 25% of all crimes in 1993 just prior to the ban.” -From the NIJ memo, section on magazines

    How many of those had the criminal actually fire all the rounds in the magazine? How many rounds were still in the magazine when the crime was over?

  17. avatarRoger Cain says:

    Sorry Chris, but Obama has never like anything other than an ass-clown. Simple policies for a simpleton who is a master at nothing other than spin. The man should be impeached.

  18. avatarJAS says:

    ‘Nick,

    With all due respect, your quoting is looking like NBC’s – You are editing out in your favor – not good. That tactic is not defensible and is counterproductive. You quote:

    “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.”

    Whereas, the whole statement is this:

    “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence. If coupled with a gun buyback and no exemptions then it could be effective.”

    • avatarRalph says:

      I think you missed the point, JAS. The AWB proposed by POTUS AFAIK does not contain a buyback and there is an exemption. So, the current proposal is exactly and specifically what DOJ said would not work. Nick’s citation is perfectly on point and accurate. The additional language supports his statement. It does not contradict it. That’s not selective editing.

      • avatarJosh ogkw says:

        i have to agree with JAS.

        the reality is the report was edited for convenience. why i am against any new gun legislation, we cannot fight it by selectively omitting information as the anti’s have been doing. if in a hearing on capitol hill someone quoted as he did in the above article, his argument would be voided and vilified when someone makes aware that he did not use the full text that suggests, “it could be effective”.

        unfortunately ive experienced far more people willing to call someone an idiot or shout when gun control is discussed than to educate in reasonable conversation. the ignorant have a big hand in gun control and information is what we should use to combat it, not ignorance.

  19. avatarAnodyne says:

    Quick clarification, Dean. This study is peer-reviewed, as are all publications in this web-based journal. Some commentators have questioned the authors’ indpendence because of their association with WiSH, a women’s shooting and hunting (that also advocates against violence).

    It is sometimes difficult to compare studies that use different definitions of the events under study – massacres, mass killings, mass shootings, spree killings, public rampage killings, etc. This particular study refers to mass killings whether public or domestic (spree-killings typically only refers to public shootings). The author of the memo that began this thread estimated approxiately one mass killing per year prior to the ban by dividing the 12 public and domestic mass shootings by 16 years. This 1. ignores the distinction between public and domestic violence 2. artifically sets the baseline year of 1980 because these were the years examined in the study to which he is referring, and 3. only looks at shootings vs mass killings committed by other means (e.g., arson or machete).

    I doubt this was a deliberate distortion of the data by the memo writer. It was probably a result of half-assing a complicated issue. The sad part is that he was clearly aware of the punch line of the studies he looked at, i.e., the ban was not the causal factor in the absence of mass killings thereafter, however they are defined, but he gave the impression that the opposite was true.

  20. avatarShipwreck says:

    “On Jan. 24, I introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, a bill to stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans to own weapons for sporting, recreation and safety purposes”

    -that bitch from cali

    how am i supposed to discourage foreign invaders and fight tyrants, the constitutional duty set before, if i cant kill masses with high ammuntion magazines?

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