Fact Check: Biden Claims Mass Shootings ‘Tripled’ After ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Ended
CLAIM: During his speech in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden said mass shootings “tripled” after the 1994-2004 “assault weapons” ban expired.
Biden said, “Back in 1994, I took on the NRA and passed the ‘assault weapons’ ban. For ten years, mass shootings were down.”
He added, “But in 2004, Republicans let that ban expire, and what happened? Mass shootings tripled.”
There are two things to unpack here: First, his claim that the ban itself was successful while in effect and, second, his claim that mass shootings “tripled” once the ban expired.
On February 19, 2018, Breitbart News looked at a report by the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which found that the “assault weapons” ban could not be credited with any reduction in crime.
The NIJ report was written in 2004 as the ban was about to expire.
The Washington Times quoted University of Pennsylvania professor Christopher Koper, author of the NIJ report, saying, “We 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.”
The NIJ report observed, “The ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
So much for the claims of all the great things the ban accomplished. Now consider the claim that mass shootings tripled after the ban expired.
Breitbart News noted that the Washington Post fact-checked the claim about mass shootings tripling when Biden first made it in early June 2022.
The Post reported:
Biden claimed that mass shooting deaths tripled after the law expired. He appears to be relying on a study of mass shooting data from 1981 to 2017, published in 2019 in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery by a team led by Charles DiMaggio, a professor of surgery at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. That group found that an assault weapons ban would have prevented 314 out of 448, or 70 percent, of the mass shooting deaths during the years when the ban was not in effect. But the data used in that study has come under attack by some analysts.
The Post added, “The new mass-shooting database shows that there were 31 mass shootings in the decade before the 1994 law, 31 in the 10 years the law was in force (Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 12, 2004) and 47 in the 10 years after it expired. As noted, some of that increase stems from population growth.”
The claim that mass shootings “tripled” after the “assault weapons” ban expired is mostly false. There was a modest increase in such shootings, but the expiration of the ban does not seem to be causal in that rise.