California Assault Weapon Ban

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The California assault weapon ban was a law that was first passed in 1990 in an effort to reduce gun violence. The ban prohibited the sale, manufacture, and importation of certain types of firearms deemed to be “assault weapons.” The ban had mixed results, with some studies finding that it led to a reduction in gun violence, while others found no significant impact. There has been much debate over whether or not the ban was effective, but there is no clear consensus. The law has had improvements, where later in 2016, California enacted a decree banning the sale of assault weapons in an effort to reduce gun violence, was passed. The law was met with criticism from gun rights advocates, who claimed that it would not be effective in reducing crime. Findings show that the assault weapon ban has had a positive impact on public safety.

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The Law and its Characteristics

The assault weapon bans was comprehensive in terms of weapon coverage. As a reaction to a string of shooting massacres that received widespread media coverage, the California Legislature approved the Assault Weapons Control Act in the year 1997 (Berk, 2022). The legislation imposed stringent limitations on the purchase and ownership of so-called “assault weapons,” which are classified under certain semi-automatic rifles that have characteristics like those used by the military. The stating of the law clearly shows the deep intent to close the accessibility of attack weapons by wrongful people.

Any type of acquisition of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and a military feature is prohibited. The specific features and the firearms adding up to 151 firearms are well illustrated under the bill (Berk, 2022). The following weapons are exempt from the bill according to the provisions of the legislation: any weapon that may be legitimately owned as of the day the bill is passed. Any weapon that is physically controlled, whether by a lever, pump, slide, or bolt act (Berk, 2022). Antique guns and attack weapons still in use by the army and police administration, including former law enforcement officers. The statute safeguards weapons used for hunting and sports events. The law does not apply to certain makes and models of genuine hunting and sports rifles and shotguns, totaling 2,258 firearms. These specification and vigilant action puts pressure towards a lower number of attack weapons acquisition.

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This law reduces the two-characteristic test used in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and in many state prohibitions to a single-characteristic test. The measure makes it more difficult to circumvent the prohibition by excluding easily removable bayonet attachments and flash suppressors from the characteristics test. Interdicting potentially lethal alterations and workarounds made by third parties. Semi-automatic firearms may mimic the rate of fire of fully automatic machine guns with the use of bump or slide fire stocks (Berk, 2022). Despite regulations prohibiting detachable magazines, “bullet buttons” are still widely employed as an alternative.  Because of restrictions on pistol grips, a new form of stock known as a thumbhole stock was developed. Including a restriction on the entry of attack arms and high- capability ammunition magazines. The initial federal prohibition will no longer expire after 10 years, eradicating the sunset clause. Hence the reduction of two characteristic tests.

Millions of attack rifles and high-capacity magazines are already in circulation, and this bill seeks to limit their availability. All purchases or transfers of a previously-approved “grandfathered” assault weapon must now undergo a mandatory background check. As with the current system, this check may be conducted by the FBI or, at a state’s discretion, by a state intervention (Berk, 2022). The measure would outlaw any acquisition large-capacity ammunition feeding systems that were legally owned as of the bill’s effective date. Authorizing the use of federal Byrne JAG grant funding by states and local governments to implement a grandfathered charitable buy-back arrangement for attack arms and large- capability ammo serving systems. Strict regulations on the secure storage of grandfathered guns are being introduced to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Having the serial number and date of manufacture inscribed on attack arms and high capability ammo service systems produced after the bill’s passage date. Enforcement of these strategies would reduce the number of firearms in circulation.

Effectiveness and Consequences of Assault Weapons Ban

Studies have shown a decrease in the number of crime rates since the bill was passed. The Assault Guns Ban that was passed in 1994 was successful in lowering crime rates and removing weapons with a military appearance from civilian circulation in the United States. Since the restriction was lifted, over three hundred and fifty persons have been shot to death, and over four hundred and fifty more have been wounded. Hence, an indication that the law was key to public safety.

There was a decrease in number of illegal firearms generally According to a study conducted by the Justice Department on the attack arms ban, the restriction accounted for a drop in overall gun homicides by 6.7 percent, when compared to the effects of all other variables (Roth, 1997). The amount of attack pistols that were collected by the Baltimore Police Department decreased by 55 percent (Weil & Knox, 1997). Since the federal prohibition on assault rifles was lifted in 1994, 37 percent of police agencies have testified seeing a discernible rise in the number of offenders who use such weapons (Collins et al., 2017). Additionally, the use of attack arms in criminal activity dropped by over two-thirds within about nine years. During the time that the prohibition was in effect in Virginia, the number of confiscated weapons that were found to have high-capacity magazines reduced by a significant amount (Koper 2004). Since the restriction was lifted, that number has increased by a factor of two (Fallis & Grimaldi, 2011). All these findings show that there was positive response towards the passing of the law, hence high effectiveness.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the ban on assault weapons strengthened public safety. The law has shown perfect illustration of how successful efforts to regulate gun access can be in decreasing gun violence. The prohibition has been effective in lowering the frequency of incidents of mass shootings as well as total gun violence in the state, and it has acted as a model for other states to follow. Even though there have been some difficulties in implementing the prohibition, such as when it comes to modifications that have been made to weapons in order to get around the ban, the legislation has been successful in making California a safer place overall.

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  1. Berk, R. A. (2022). Causal Inference Challenges with Interrupted Time Series Designs: An Evaluation of an Assault Weapons Ban in California. Observational Studies. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/stanlp8&section=11
  2. Collins, M. E., Parker, S. T., Scott, T. L., & Wellford, C. F. (2017). A comparative analysis of crime guns. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences3(5), 96-127.. https://www.rsfjournal.org/content/3/5/96.abstract
  3. Fallis D. S. and Grimaldi J. V. (2011, January 23). In Virginia, high-yield clip seizures rise. Www.washingtonpost.com. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR2011012204046.html
  4. Koper, C. S., Woods, D. J., & Roth, J. A. (2004). An updated assessment of the federal assault weapons ban: impacts on gun markets and gun violence, 1994-2003. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice. https://mikelilley.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Assessment-of-1994-AWB.pdf
  5. Roth, J. A., Koper, C. S., & Adams, W. (1997). Impact evaluation of the public safety and recreational firearms use protection act of 1994. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. https://www.momoco-ex.com/sites/default/files/publication/67071/406797-Impact-Evaluation-of-the-Public-Safety-and-Recreational-Firearms-Use-Protection-Act-of–.PDF
  6. Weil, D. S., & Knox, R. C. (1997). The Maryland ban on the sale of assault pistols and high-capacity magazines: estimating the impact in Baltimore. American journal of public health, 87(2), 297-298. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.87.2.297-a
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