Fact check: Bill Clinton's tweet about effect of his assault weapons ban

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Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has claimed that a law he made in 1998 caused a great reduction in the national murder rate.

This is the tweet: https://twitter.com/BillClinton/status/1040354286373416960

During his second term, Clinton signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (link contains a definition of “assault weapon” under the ban) into law in 1994. This law expired in September 2004. This bill was also known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).

 

Claim:

His tweet claimed that the ban “led” to a drop in murder rate, the lowest in 33 years.

The context suggests that Clinton was using the word “led” to mean (dictionary.com): “to influence or induce; cause”.

Studies do not bear this out. While the murder rate did drop during the ban in the United States, it had been dropping before (New York Times) and also continued to drop after it was lifted.

A study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) concluded that:

[W]e cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury, as we might have expected had the ban reduced crimes with both AWs and LCMs.

In another study by one of the NIJ authors (Christopher Koper), he suggested that the ban did not work but had it remained in effect for longer, it might have had some effect in reducing shootings.

The ban did not appear to affect gun crime during the time it was in effect, but some evidence suggests it may have modestly reduced gunshot victimizations had it remained in place for a longer period.

A review of literature study by the Rand Corporation showed that the evidence was inconclusive for reducing homicide. They also found that the effect was inconclusive for mass shootings.

Fact check:

Had Clinton said that his ban might have worked had it been given more time, we might have rated it “unconfirmed” or even “probably true”.

But his claim is for the period for which it was in effect. We rate it likely false.

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        If the ban had an effect, it would likely show a increase in the rate of drop after the ban or an decrease (or perhaps even a rise) in murder after it was lifted.

        While there have only been a few studies, the available ones do not show this pattern.

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