On the anniversary of the so-called “federal assault weapons” ban of 1994, the New York Times published a column explaining the very term “assault weapon” is one the “Democrats created” in the 1990s to ban “a politically defined category of guns.”
Lois Beckett, a reporter who covers gun violence for ProPublica, wrote, in the piece headlined “The Assault Weapon Myth,” that despite the popularity of the ban, “even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.”
“It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year,” she wrote. “Little handguns do. In 2012, only 322 people were murdered with any kind of rifle, F.B.I. data shows. The continuing focus on assault weapons stems from the media’s obsessive focus on mass shootings, which disproportionately involve weapons like the AR-15, a civilian version of the military M16 rifle. This, in turn, obscures some grim truths about who is really dying from gunshots.”
Even when the ban was enacted, the politically defined category of larger weapons figured in about 2 percent of gun crimes nationwide.
It’s a stunning admission from a media institution that still obsesses about gun violence – but it goes even further.