GREENSBORO, N.C. — It's a topic that fires up candidates on any debate stage and draws some of the largest divides in congress -- gun control.
Recently, House Bill 1296 gained attention. Proposed in February, it aims to criminalize the import, sale, manufacturing, transfer or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons or large-capacity devices.
Does that sound familiar? Viewer Alfred Finney mailed WFMY News 2 a VERIFY inquiry, referencing the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. He wrote, in part,
"...The common-sense answer was made in 1994, and no guns were taken from the people. Can you VERIFY that no assault rifles that [have] been used in the killings were bought between the year 1994 and 2004?"
Former President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law in 1994. It outlawed gun manufacturers from producing 18 semi-automatic firearms with military-style capabilities and banned high-capacity magazines that could fire 10 rounds.
But, it did not affect the ownership or re-sale of these weapons made before 1994. People also could modify the banned weapons to make them legal, like by removing a bayonet.
And, the law did not stop mass shootings. For example, the Columbine massacre of 1999 happened during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The Violence Policy Center notes shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold bought shotguns and a High Point 9 mm Carbine from unlicensed sellers at a gun show in 1998. The boys were too young to buy an assault pistol, but a pizza shop employee reportedly sold one to them. They killed 13 students and teachers before taking their lives.
The University of Pennsylvania study found during the weapons ban, gun crimes involving assault weapons decreased by 17 percent to 72 percent in big cities. However, the report said crimes from other guns equipped with high-capacity magazines rose, likely because people stockpiled the magazines before the ban went into effect.
The new study from the New York University School of Medicine compared mass shooting deaths during, before and after the ban. It concluded mass shootings were 70 percent less likely during the federal ban. The data showed there were nine fewer mass shooting deaths per 10,000 firearm murders.
Here is the issue with all of this data: there is no legal definition for "mass shooting." The FBI defines only a "mass killing" as an instance in which three or more people died.
Viewer Alfred Finney asked WFMY to VERIFY no assault rifles used in mass shootings were bought between 1994 and 2004. That is false. But, research suggests it is true mass shootings were less frequent during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
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