Which states have an assault weapons ban?
With the cameras turned off as Democratic representatives staged a sit-in on Wednesday to force a vote on gun control measures, it is unclear whether Congress will make any progress on the issue. If gridlock continues, it might be up to state legislatures to enact any such laws. But which states have already banned assault weapons, and which have not?
Gun control policy and public debate is plagued by etymological disagreements. In order to consider the effectiveness or constitutionality of any weapons ban, it is vital to note that automatic weapons are not readily defined, and jurisdictions vary in their interpretation of the label. Many semi-automatic firearms may be included in the category of assault weapons, but the exact parameters that differentiate standard sporting rifles and assault weapons are still contested heatedly. In the original 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), 19 firearms were outlawed explicitly, in addition to large-capacity magazines and firearms with specific militaristic elements in their design. Because the problem characteristics were clearly outlined, manufacturers were easily able to skirt the ban by making cosmetic changes to the design of their weapons, likely curbing the effectiveness of the ban.
All this semantic conflict complicates a data-driven approach to gun laws, since visualizations using gun type as a variable often do not list the characteristics of each gun. With these limitations in mind, we can begin to consider the data. As this InsideGov visualization demonstrates, semi-automatic handguns are used in 40.3 percent of mass shootings, far more than assault rifles (11.8 percent), semi-automatic assault handguns (2.5 percent) or assault shotguns (0.8 percent).
While the CDC is still unable to research gun violence, California's announcement that it will fund its own studies suggests more comprehensive data on the effects of bans may be available in the future.