Mass Shooting Casualties, by Religion of Perpetrator: Muslim vs. Non-Muslim, Updated

A previous post on mass shooting casualties has been widely circulated. Here I update to include recent data, and to normalize by population. An upward trend indicates the incidence of casualties is rising.

Here is the aggregate series (expressed per million population).


Figure 1: 12 month moving average of mass shooting casualties, per million population; deaths (dark red), wounded (pink). May and June 2016 population extrapolated using May and June 2015 growth rates. Source: Mother Jones through June 15, Census via FRED for mid-month population. and author’s calculations.

Here are the disaggregate figures.


Figure 2: 12 month moving average of mass shooting casualties, per million population; deaths attributed to non-Muslims (dark red), wounded (pink); deaths attributed to Muslims (dark blue), wounded (light blue). May and June 2016 population extrapolated using May and June 2015 growth rates. Source: Mother Jones through June 15, Census via FRED for mid-month population, identification of religion from various news sources, and author’s calculations.

Non-normalized data can be seen here.

Updated, 6/17 7:45AM Pacific: Reader Jeff suggests a 5 year moving average. I plot below (normalized by population).


Figure 3: 60 month moving average of mass shooting casualties, per million population; deaths (dark red), wounded (pink). May and June 2016 population extrapolated using May and June 2015 growth rates. Source: Mother Jones through June 15, Census via FRED for mid-month population. and author’s calculations.

48 thoughts on “Mass Shooting Casualties, by Religion of Perpetrator: Muslim vs. Non-Muslim, Updated

  1. Anon2

    It’s not terrorists attacks by radical Islamists that’s the problem, it’s guns…..straight from the talking points of Obama and the Dems.

    1. Anonymous

      According to what data? Is there data showing that gun ownership Increased per capita while the trend Menzie shows above increased?

      1. Mike v

        The number of households with guns continue to decrease, but total number of guns per capita keeps increasing. The same people keep buying more and more guns.

  2. Anon2

    How about data on mass killings in the US from terrorist attacks by radical Islamists (Muslims) vs. mass killings in the US from terrorists attacks by non Muslims?

  3. Bruce Hall

    There are always nuts with a cause or grievance who believe their course of action should be to kill others. Timothy McVeigh achieved his ends with fertilizer and truck fuel. According to USA Today, killings of family members and robberies account for about 2/3 of the total. 16% a public (random) and the rest are of uncertain cause. In total, these account for 1% of the murders in the U.S. Still more than there should be, but 0.4% of all murders are the type that occurred in Orlando. Most are not done with “assault-style” weapons which are far less concealable and no more useful than an ordinary pistol with a large magazine (AR15 is .223 cal. and holds 30 rounds; a 1911 .45 cal. pistol can hold 27 rounds and fits under a shirt). Pistols are by far the choice of gangs or individuals who commit the vast majority of murders. All this points to the irrational focus on a relatively small caliber weapon of which there are millions in the U.S. and primarily used for sport.

    But data seems to be irrelevant in the public discourse. Neither is the fact that these so-called assault style rifles are mechanically identical with standard .223 cal. rifles. The concern seems to be with the cosmetics. In all cases, whether pistols or rifles, the weapons can be fired rapidly, but not with a single pull of the trigger.

    It was noted that no one in Orlando who was killed or wounded was armed. The argument is that being armed in those situations is useless. The facts differ.

    The graphs are interesting, but without reference to overall murders. Also, if the graphs were split out as rates by race/religion you might see an interesting current trend. But regardless, these account for a highly publicized and emotional number of murders, but still a relatively small number.

    That’s not to trivialize the deaths, but to put them in perspective. However, in most cases, the perpetrators had exhibited behavior that was consistent with potential violence and it was ignored. Certainly not all occurrences could have been prevented, but it’s hard to conceive that none of them could have been stopped by timely intervention.

    Finally, it has been pointed out that the most well-arm city in the most well-armed state in the most well-armed country is also one of the safest places in the U.S. … Plano, Texas. It’s not the number of guns, it’s the owners. Crime rates are highest among the poor and those who feel marginalized. Logic would dictate that those people should be restricted from owning guns, but rights are rights and restricting one group is discrimination.

    While there are those who advocate that global warming “deniers” should be killed or thrown in jail and that “hate speech” should be banned, we are loath to give up a basic constitutional right. While there are those who advocate the warrantless search and seizure of property for those who are members of potentially violent groups, we are loath to give up a basic constitutional right. While there are those who see indeterminate detention without trial as necessary for our safety, we are anxious to give up a basic constitutional right. While there are those who misuse rifles, and pressure cookers, and fertilizer, we are anxious to give up a basic constitutional right. Consistency is not our strong point.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: Yes, I have long been advocating that I need my own personal nuke to defend myself. Barring that, I want a garage filled with M72 LAWs!

      1. Bruce Hall

        Menzie, it’s fortunate you don’t work at Walmart, eh? 😉

        Why take out automobile insurance; you’ll never try to get in an accident? Why take out life insurance; you won’t need it when you die? Why take out homeowners insurance; you’re not setting your home on fire? Oh, because life can be random?

        There are 300 million guns in the U.S.; 299,990,000 are not used for killing people. Could it be there are an very, very small number of people who should be the focus rather than the very, very large number of guns? So, yes, your chance of needing a gun to fend off an attacker with a gun is infinitesimal. Just ask the people who survived the attack in Orlando.—Pink-Pistols_Dallas-Fort-Worth-383291771.html It’s just another insurance policy.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Bruce Hall: I voluntarily drive. It’s not a right. I take a risk voluntarily. On the other hand, I don’t voluntarily sign up for getting shot at when I go to a nightclub. That’s the difference between auto insurance and what you’re talking about.

          But the nub of the issue is this statement: “rights are rights” — as if that’s an absolute statement. But can I say *anything*? Are there limits to what I can say? Should I have the right to physically threaten people, with impunity?

          That’s why I gave the example I did. Taken to a logical, absolutist, conclusion, I have a right to a tac-nuke; heck an H-bomb if I can afford it.

          Just think about that. Or, maybe just think about someone hanging outside your house with a LAW. I think by your criterion, my second amendment rights have been infringed upon.

          1. dilbert dogbert

            Consumer 3D printing is starting to grow. Soon there will be kitchen tabletop laser isotope separation too. Just think of the possiblities!!!

          2. Rick Stryker


            Bruce said the ability to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right. He did not say that it is an unlimited right, any more than any other right is unlimited, such as the right to free speech or the right to freedom of assembly. It’s much harder to refute what he actually said rather than your highly exaggerated version of what he said, isn’t it?

            Bruce made a number of good points. Why don’t you attempt to refute those? For example, Bruce pointed out that an “assault rifle” ban is basically just the criminalization of cosmetic features of a rifle. Do you disagree with that?

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Rick Stryker: Actually, I would apply restrictions based on the capabilities of the weapon in terms of rate of fire, etc., rather than saying “assault rifle”. And if I can restrict ownership of LAWs, and machine guns (as popularly defined), why not restrict ownership according to these parameters? Once Bruce Hall has allowed that I shouldn’t own my own personal tac-nuke, it’s a question about where to draw the line, and I think I draw the line at a different place than he does.

          4. Mike

            Dr. Chinn,

            What’s your take on legalising drugs to counter gun violence related the industry?

        2. Steven Kopits

          Actually, Bruce, it appears that a firefight erupted immediately at the club, but the gunman either had more firepower or better aim than the security personnel taking him on.

          There is a case for a rate of fire limitation on weapons. In this case, it might have saved, say, 20-30 lives, but certainly not everyone. The question is whether saving, say, 10 lives per year is worth taking away the rights of millions of AR-15 gun owners.

          Consider: According to the Mother Jones database, since Jan. 1, 2013, there have been six mass shooting using automatic weapons, with total fatalities of 80. Of these, four incidents were by Muslims, with total fatalities of 74 (93%).

          Of the remaining two non-Muslim incidents, the fatalities averaged 3 apiece. For purposes of comparison, the average fatalities for incidents not involving automatic weapons during the same period was 6. Thus, fully automatic weapons, not used by Muslims, were half as likely to cause death as non-automatic weapons.

          The numbers indicate that we have a Muslim terrorist problem. Two thirds of the automatic weapon incidents and 93% of fatalities since 2013 were caused by Muslims. Muslims are 1% of the US population.

          On the other hand, based on data from the last three and a half years, there is no statistical benefit to preventing non-Muslims from obtaining fully automatic weapons.

          Finally, of course, as you point out, the vast majority of murders in this country , perhaps 7,000 annually, are committed by young black and Latino men, aged 17-30, of other young black and Latino men, 80%+ of whom will have had a prior arrest record (90% in the case of the killer), and overwhelmingly committed using handguns. That’s the real policy decision domain.

    2. efcdons

      There definitely would have been way less deaths if everyone in the club was armed /s. Have you ever been to a nightclub? It’s dark but occasionally punctuated by super bright flashing light, noisy, smokey, and densely packed. Do you really think patrons would have been able to ascertain “the bad guy”, shoot him, and do it all without shooting the wrong person while all those other factors were in play? If anything the fact people weren’t armed probably decreased the number of dead and wounded in this situation. Witnesses said they didn’t even realize there was shooting until people were going down because the noise made it impossible to hear the gunshots or tell they were shots and not part of the music.

      I’m not saying there is never any case where an armed “good guy” could have prevented death and wounding. This was certainly not one of those situations.

  4. Anonymous

    wow you just proved a group that comprises 98.7% of American commits more crimes than a group comprised of 1.3%. Stellar research!

      1. Rick Stryker


        If you take the Pew Research Center’s recent estimate of the U.S. Muslim population and linearly interpolate between their 2015 estimate of 1% of the population and their 2050 estimate of 2.1% of the population, you get an estimate of 1.3% for the percentage of the U.S. population that’s Muslim for 2016. I assume that’s what anonymous (or the source he relied on) did.

  5. sherparick

    The problem is that the chart really does not go back far enough. In 1966 Charles Whitman killed is wife and mother and then went up to the tower at the University of Texas, killing or mortally wounding 17 people and wounding 30 others. This incident appeared to have kicked off the modern of era of mass shootings in the U.S., with copy cats around the world.

    Needless to say, most of perpetrators have been non-Muslim. And though tragic for the individuals and their families, the life of the Republic has gone on.

  6. dilbert dogbert

    As Ronald Reagan said: Government is the problem.
    Others have said: Guns are the solution.

  7. Erik Poole

    Thanks Menzie. Is there an upward trend? Perhaps.

    One thing for certain: mass casualty shootings are frequent, better get used to them. Just like we are familiar and comfortable with deaths caused by automobiles, tobacco, alcohol, opioids and individual, apolitical gun accidents and murders.

    Judging from the comments posted to the December 10, 2015 blog post, Osama bin Laden and similar anti-American activists must be very happy with the ‘us versus them’ discourse currently driving US policy. The resulting mass hysterical hyper-vigilance is a godsend for those seeking to promote polarization and violent conflict as well as the weakening of US hegemony.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Erik Poole: I’m pretty sure by most statistical measures, there is an upward trend…if you believe to the contrary, I’d appreciate the data analysis that underpins your belief.

      If I am not mistaken, automobile deaths/population is declining, as is tobacco related deaths. So too with gun-related deaths/population since 1993 (suicide component has risen of late).

      1. jeff

        A 5 year MA would show the trend better. I agree with the other poster that it might make sense to normalize by population

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Jeff: Figures 1 and 2 are normalized by population.

          I have added Figure 3, 5 year moving average counterpart to Figure 1 (also normalized by population).

      2. Erik Poole

        Menzie Chinn: I am just eye-balling the data Menzie. If you would like to use statistical measures to ‘prove’ or at least to argue in favour of a clear trend with momentum, please do.

        As for the rest, you and Jeffrey J. Brown are correct to remind us of the declining rates of violence, declining death rates due to automobiles, tobacco and alcohol.

        To elaborate: maiming or death by automobile, tobacco, alcohol, opioids and apolitical shooting events are familiar, comfortable ways of hurting fellow citizens. Politically motivated violence is not familiar or comfortable and folks tend to over react and fear these events in a way that is not warranted by the ex ante probabilities. The resulting hyper vigilance appears to have all kinds of potential negative consequences and policy outcomes.

        Let’s get back to the main point of this and similar blog posts: America’s war on Muslims be it real, imagined, wished for or otherwise.

        Why would the USA be at war with the Islamic world given the relatively poor technological and economic outcomes attained by most countries with a predominantly Muslim population? After all, the economic, political and military power of the USA and NATO countries dwarfs that of the non-Nato Muslim countries. (Turkey is a member of NATO.) The Muslim pose absolutely zero existential threat to rich western countries.

        The answer is the violent struggle over land, water and other resources in Palestine where the majority of the victims are Muslims. The struggle against Israeli occupation and colonialism is not only important to Muslims but has become the iconic symbol of western imperialism among national liberation groups throughout the world.

        It is the one exception to the rule that western nations no longer violently prey on or subjugate other societies. It fits into a larger narrative of fewer violent interstate conflicts and major intrastate conflicts and declining mortalities from those kinds of conflicts.

        The ‘nakba’ was devastating for Arabs. Close to 50% of Arabs in the Palestinian Mandate were either expelled from their homes or were not allowed to return. Since then Israel has refused to negotiate any right of return. And for this, many will continue to call the birth of the modern state of Israel, an exercise in ethnic cleansing.

        Throw in the Israeli kill ratios, the regional monopoly of nuclear weapons and the Gestapo-like sweep of West Bank in 2014 just when Hamas looked like it was prepared to negotiate and it all looks quite awful, almost like the USA had resigned itself to another Sept 11th twin towers attack. But then it could also be argued that this nation building exercise is far kinder and gentler than what we have known in the past.

        After all the Palestinian Jews and subsequently Israelis could have chosen a path of genocide and did not.

        The regional monopoly on nuclear weapons is interesting; it could be argued that this arsenal is being used for aggressive purposes — protecting the state of Israel while it populates the territories taken in 1967 with settler immigrants of Jewish origin — and that aggressive deployment is highly destabilizing. Whether American-sponsored proliferation of nuclear weapons among “friends” leads to a more stable global system and enhanced American security or increases the likelihood of regional nuclear war does remain an open question.

        Overall, violence rates are declining but the potential for a limited nuclear conflict that takes out one to two billion people is still there. (It would definitely resolve the anthropogenic climate change threat but presumably few people would actually wish for that.)

        In the meantime, spontaneous, ‘lone wolf’ attacks on civilians appear to be increasing in Israel, the occupied territories and the USA. They are probably best dealt with as criminal acts but invariably targeted populations will turn them into political acts, threats against national security for which there is no obvious military solution.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Erik Poole: What is it with you guys? We live in a world of Excel. Both data sources are easily accessible. Excel can run a d**n regression. And yet you want to just babble about eyeballing. Just seems like you’re using laziness to enable yourself to….

          1. Erik Poole

            Menzie Chinn: I apologize for not restricting the discussion to descriptive statistics. The resource conflict lurking in the background seems so much more worrisome. Also please note that you too were eye-balling the trend.

            Frankly whether US mass public shootings are trending up, flat or trending down, does it really matter? Have not the costs been already ‘too high’ for far too long?

            Regardless, there is a serious problem here. Inspired lone wolf attacks by those of Muslim origin in North America are perceived as important and likely trending higher. They coincide with what appears to be a recent dramatic increase in spontaneous violent attacks by Palestinians against Israeli Jews. They coincide with several well planned and executed attacks on civilians in Europe and elsewhere.

            The resulting mass hysterical hyper vigilance may explain why Trump is so confident that he can pitch racial profiling methods without worrying about alienating key voter constituencies.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Erik Poole: Mass killings divided by population rejects a unit root test (ADF, etc.) at all conventional levels. Mass killings divided by population has a coefficient on time trend (monthly frequency) with HAC t-stat of positive 2.4. I.e., a positive trend, by conventional statistical measures.

  8. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Some additional info: (December, 2015): We’ve had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why.

    Premeditated mass shootings in public places are happening more often, some researchers say, plunging towns and cities into grief and riveting the attention of a horrified nation. In general, though, fewer Americans are dying as a result of gun violence — a shift that began about two decades ago.

    In 1993, there were seven homicides by firearm for every 100,000 Americans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2013, that figure had fallen by nearly half, to 3.6 — a total of 11,208 firearm homicides. The number of victims of crimes involving guns that did not result in death (such as robberies) declined even more precipitously, from 725 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 175 in 2013.

    Older data suggests that gun violence might have been even more widespread previously. The rate of murder and manslaughter excluding negligence reached an apex in 1980, according to the FBI. That year, there were 10.8 willful killings per 100,000 people. Although not a perfect measure of the overall rate of gun violence, the decline in the rate of murder and manslaughter is suggestive: Two in three homicides these days are committed with guns.

    This decline in gun violence is part of an overall decline in violent crime. According to the FBI’s data, the national rate of violent crime has decreased 49 percent since its apex in 1991. Even as a certain type of mass shooting is apparently becoming more frequent, America has become a much less violent place.

    1. dilbert dogbert

      Kevin Drum has been pushing the idea that violent crimes have been diminishing because of the removal of lead from the environment. That is why the Flint MI lead problem is worrisome. Who Knows?

  9. 2slugbaits

    Bruce Hall While in the aggregate handguns are responsible for more deaths each year than rifles, WAY most of those deaths by handguns are suicides, unplanned crimes of passion, accidents, robberies gone bad, etc. A handgun is ill-suited for mass murder. For example, the accuracy of the .45 cal M1911 that you cited is 2.2 to 3.4 inches at 20 yards. An AR-15 is orders of magnitude more accurate. A .45 cal handgun is also difficult to shoot accurately at speed. What you see on television cop shows is not reality.

    Gun control can’t solve all of our violent death problems, but it will solve some of them. There are highly effective electronic locking devices that would go a long way towards preventing certain kinds of gunshot wounds. And banning large magazines would at least give people a fighting chance in many mass murder situations. It takes even an experienced shooter several critical seconds to reload. Besides, there’s no legitimate reason for anyone needed large magazine capacities. If you want to hunt with an AR-15 and you need more than a couple of rounds to nail that rabbit, then you don’t have any business owning a gun in the first place. If you want to take your AR-15 to some target range to practice marksmanship (as opposed to just running off shots for the hell of it), then there’s no reason why you would even want a large magazine. At least not if you fancy yourself as a competition level shooter. The only reasons for having large capacity magazines is to either flatter your manhood or to hunt humans. I don’t think either reason is very convincing.

    Also, while the AR-15 rifle is bulky and hard to conceal, there is a carbine version of the AR-15, just as the M4 (used by airborne paratroopers) is the carbine equivalent of the M16.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between terrorism and deranged mass murder. Terrorism is every bit as immoral as deranged mass murder, but we need to keep in mind that it’s qualitatively different. Terrorism always has a political objective. Terrorism is an immoral means to achieve a political end. Terrorism is not nihilistic; it’s coldly rational. So actions by the IRA or the PLO or the Irgun or Shining Path or the Maadi Army are terrorist groups because terror is seen as a tool to achieve political ends. But a lot of what the media calls “terrorism” is really best thought of as nihilistic and deranged psychoses of disturbed minds. The Orlando shooter might have professed allegiance to ISIS, but that allegiance seems to have mostly been an excuse to self-justify mental psychosis. It’s worth keeping this distinction in mind because combatting terrorism as a political weapon and personal derangement each require very different strategies.

    1. Bruce Hall

      2slug you take an example too literally. The 1911 can be quite accurate in close quarters (a dance hall), but there are plenty of other large magazine pistols that are easier to fire and just as deadly as the AR15. In fact, there are .223 cal pistols that use the identical ammunition. But all of that is beside the points I was making: incidents such as Orlando are exceedingly rare and being without personal protection ensures you are a victim in such circumstances.

      Women are owning guns in rapidly increasing numbers. After Orlando, homosexuals are recognizing that calling the police and being protected is a non sequitur. Paris showed that gun control simply makes better targets of law abiding people. It really doesn’t matter why someone is shooting at you; it matters if you can stop them. So, unless you live is safe, gun-restricted cities like Chicago or Washington, D.C. where murders seldom happen, or St. Louis and Los Angeles where riots never occurred, you might want to just consider the possibility that a deranged Anglican priest might come after you with a weapon. Yes, it may be remote, but you are three times more likely to die from gunshot than fire. And I’ll bet you have fire insurance and life insurance.

    2. Rick Stryker


      No, that’s not true at all that handguns are not suited for mass murder.

      Seung-Hui Cho, who committed the Virginia Tech massacre, killed 33 and wounded 23. He was armed with 2 glock 19s, one walther p22, and a lot of spare magazines.

      1. 2slugbaits

        Rick Stryker I think we can be fairly confident that he would have killed even more with an assault rifle. You can do serious damage with a powerful handgun, but assault rifles have a lot more capabilities for mass murder. Assault rifles with high velocity rounds are more lethal than handguns because of the differences in the way they kill. Handguns kill by putting big holes in victims, but the bullet typically exits the body. High velocity .223 rounds kill by spiking blood pressure (i.e., inducing cardiac arrest) and then tumbling inside the body. With a handgun much of the kinetic energy in the round exits the body. With an assault rifle and a high velocity round virtually all of the kinetic energy is absorbed by the body. This means that hitting a lethal part of the body is more important with a handgun than it is with a rifle. A handgun would to the thigh is probably survivable. An assault rifle wound with a high velocity round to the thigh is probably fatal. That’s why the US Army went from a 7.62mm round with the old M14 to a 5.56mm round with the M16/M4 and M249. And as I said, assault rifles are orders of magnitude more accurate than a handgun. So in terms of which weapon is better designed for mass murder it’s not even close. Now if you want to argue that we should ban powerful handguns, then you’ll get no argument from me on that.

        What’s truly crazy are these large magazines. The standard load for an infantryman going into combat with an M16 rifle is to carry one magazine in the rifle (30 rounds) plus carry an additional six magazines. That’s a total of 210 rounds. That’s for at least a full day of intense combat. I cannot fathom why a civilian would need even a tenth of what an infantryman going into a combat zone carries. Why in hell would anyone need an AR-15 banana clip with a hundred rounds? Why would they even need the standard thirty rounds? Back when the Second Amendment was ratified militia only had single shot weapons. Why wouldn’t it be constitutional to limit guns to a single shot? If it was good enough for George Washington, why isn’t it good enough for Bubba?

        Politically the NRA’s position is unsustainable over the long run. Eventually there will be a tipping point and gun sales and gun ownership will be severely curtailed. The NRA is pursuing a “break but do not bend” kind of strategy. It’s also hurting gun manufacturers in ways that are not obvious. Don’t be surprised if at least two other major gun producers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as Colt Industries did not long ago.

        1. Rick Stryker


          People who use handguns almost always use hollowpoint ammo. Hollowpoint ammo expands after it leaves the barrel of the handgun. It is designed to not exit the body. All the kinetic energy of the handgun bullet is transferred when using hollowpoints.

          Until the Orlando shooting, Cho produced the most number of fatalities in a mass shooting, even though he used handguns only. You are attributing way to much to ar15 rifles. A lunatic with handguns and a lot of magazines can be just as dangerous as a lunatic with an ar15 and a lot of magazines.

  10. Rick Stryker


    From your comment, then, you don’t support any of the current or extant assault rifle bans. Current and proposed laws define assault rifles in terms of cosmetic features and magazine size allowed, not in terms of rate of fire.

    A common misconception of gun control advocates is that the general public can go out and buy fully-automatic military weapons, i.e., machine guns that can fire more than one round with a single depression of the trigger. Machine guns have been highly regulated since 1934 under the National Firearms Act. Since 1986, new production of machine guns has been outlawed, so that there is only a finite supply of machine guns manufactured before 1986 can be owned by the public. To get one of these expensive NFA weapons, you have to either get a police chief’s signature or have the gun owned by an LLC or trust you have set up.

    “Assault rifles” are all semi-automatic, meaning that the shooter must depress the trigger once for every shot fired. “Assault rifles” are distinguished from other semi-automatic rifles by cosmetic features and magazine size. States that have assault rifle bans generally restrict the magazine size to 10 rounds and have tests on the number of cosmetic features allowed on the rifle. New Jersey for example has a two feature test while California has a one feature test. These features are cosmetic factors that increase the “cool” factor or are conveniences such as a pistol grip. These features do not affect the capability or lethality of the rifle.

    Because these restrictions are meaningless for the actual functioning of the rifle, the manufacturers will usually put out state compliant “assault rifles.” They’ll drop the least desirable cosmetic features to comply with the law of the state. California has a one feature test. In that case, manufacturers generally keep the pistol grip but compensate by making the magazine non-detachable. That’s a slight inconvenience because legally the magazine can’t be detachable by hand. However, the magazine can be detached with a tool legally. Thus, California-compliant assault rifles have a bullet button that allows the shooter to detach the magazine by pressing the tip of a bullet on a button. A slight inconvenience, but it doesn’t really change things much.

    California is proud of itself for having the toughest assault rifle ban in the country, tougher than Clinton’s ban. You’d think any would-be terrorist would be stopped by the ban, but of course you’d only think that if you didn’t understand how guns really work. The San Bernadino terrorists were not stopped by California’s stringent assault rifle ban. The terrorists used California-compliant assault rifles to commit their mayhem. The bullet button didn’t slow them down much when they murdered all those innocent people, nor did it slow them down in their firefight with the police. They simply exchanged the 10 round magazines for high capacity magazines, getting around the 10 round limit easily. But even if they didn’t do that, it wouldn’t have mattered much. They could have just carried more 10 round magazines. It only takes a second or two to swap out a magazine.

    California’s assault weapon ban didn’t stop another mass shooter in your Mother Jones Data. John Zawarhi, the Santa Monica shooter, was prohibited from purchasing firearms because of past mental health issues. However, he assembled his own AR 15 from parts.

    You are right of course that we have to draw the line. But that line should be drawn in a rational way, balancing the rights of people to own firearms for hunting, target shooting, or self-defense with the requirements of public safety. I don’t know of any firearms rights advocate who would argue that people need to possess military weapons. That’s a red herring. The problem with so much gun control is that the line is drawn in an irrational way, assault rifle bans being a prominent example.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: I think I would use parameters such as rate of fire, muzzle velocity, ease of concealment, that would be more encompassing than the previous assault rifle ban.

      I think we need a nationwide restriction for the efficacy of the restrictions, given the porousness of the state borders. If we have a “very great wall” at the northern and southern borders, well perhaps that’ll heighten the efficacy even more (although I still think the the benefit-cost ratio for a Trumpian wall is likely to be less than unity).

      1. Rick Stryker


        I don’t know how you’d make that work. As I said, rate of fire is the same for all semi-autos. Muzzle velocity depends on many factors: the amount of powder in the load, the weight and caliber of the bullet, etc.

        Give me an example. What would you ban and and under what criteria?

      2. PeakTrader

        Menzie Chinn, deterrence and fairness are two important implications of the 2nd Amendment.

    2. steve

      Actually, you can put a bump fire stock on your AR-15 and it becomes pretty much the same thing as a full auto weapon.


  11. Joseph

    I agree that the cosmetic definitions are not very useful, but that is what you get when you have to legislate within the constraints of what can be passed in spite of the NRA. The NRA and gun manufacturers like those ambiguous loopholes.

    It would be much simpler to define the banned weapons as all semi-automatics and all handguns, period. That’s it. Nobody needs such weapons for hunting. Their only practical use is as instruments of death — killing people. There is no unlimited right to own deliberate killing machines that serve no other purpose.

  12. Ben

    Most countries in Asiahave tight guns control, with some even have dealth penalties for illegal gun possessions. It is my observations that in most of these countries where guns are tightly controlled, seldom random or mass killings with guns happen. Why?

  13. Bruce Hall


    Watch this:

    Do I accept as reasonable restrictions on fully automatic weapons? Yes. Although terrorists and criminals can modify nearly any weapon from single shot per pull to multiple shots per pull without much difficulty. Do I support restrictions on explosives? Yes. But that does not include fertilizer and diesel fuel or pressure cookers and nails which can be components of explosives used by terrorists/criminals.

    Pathological people will find a way to kill others if they choose to do so. My semi-automatic weapons provide at least a fighting chance if confronted with such people (pun intended).

    There is a large segment of our population that has a blind spot when it comes to the positive aspects of having personal defense weapons. Certainly, 99.9% of those people will never need to shoot a gun in self defense; they may also never have a claim under their fire insurance policies. The U.S. never had to fire a nuclear armed missile in self defense (I was a missile launch commander during the cold war), but the mere presence of the weapons was (and is) sufficient. While you may voluntarily not drive nor not have personal protection, that is not reason or justification to deny others. Your free speech is unrestricted as long as others agree with you, but there are some who are threatened with subpoenas for exercising their free speech… Is that the next step? But, but, free speech never killed anyone!!! Yet, the argument for wanting to jail some who disagree with the dire predictions of climate models is that their free speech might cause severe consequences for others. Might. Could. Perhaps. Same arguments against guns.

    Pathological fear is reason for denying constitutional rights.

  14. PeakTrader

    “The Paris attack occurred in a country with some of the strongest gun control restrictions in the world. You had people just 10 to 12 meters from the terrorists who were able to film them on their cell phones but they were unable to do anything to stop the attack. Yet, at the same time the laws hadn’t stopped the terrorists from being massively armed.

    The four terrorists had body armor and radio communications. They were armed with numerous semi-automatic handguns, automatic Kalashnikov rifles, a loaded M42 rocket launcher, 10 Molotov cocktails, 10 smoke grenades, a hand grenade, and 15 sticks of dynamite.”

  15. Joseph

    Pathological fear is reason for denying constitutional rights.

    The more correct statement would be that pathological fear is the reason that gun nuts cling to their guns. It’s the vigilante fantasy of adolescence. Some people just never grow up.

  16. Bob Snodgrass

    I’m a Vietnam veteran who once owned three guns (pistol, rifle, shotgun). I’ve had neighbors’ cars stolen from their driveway in daytime while during my 20 years in a moderately high crime neighborhood, my wife and I have had no break ins or thefts. We’ve had 2 fatal shootings within 200 yards in the last 7 years, both believed by neighbors to be related to drug deals. I attribute our safety from thieves to our yappy dogs who bark if anyone jiggles the gate to come into our yard- can’t prove it. We value our dogs primarily as companions. Some people have been killed by pit bulls, so dogs are not risk free. I don’t dismiss the desirability of preventing as many suicides as possible, having known a few friends who suddenly and impulsively shot themselves. Those determined on suicide will always find a way. Suicides have outnumbered murders in the US since the feds began keeping statistics.

    No rights are absolute and delays or limits on gun purchase don’t strike me as intolerable. In spite of what the egotistical liar says, no president can abrogate any part of the Constitution. The question comes down to interpretation. That has changed over the years. My grandparents were farmers, they didn’t rub shoulders with angry or unbalanced people; I suspect that the numbers of a & unb people per capita haven’t changed greatly in 100 years. There is a rural vs urban dimension to this problem, just as there’s a rural v urban dimension to the Sunni-Shia conflicts. How many of the mass killings, starting with the 1966 Whitman killings, occurred in rural areas? There were quite a few school shootings in small towns in the 90s, but overall there is a big difference. A surprising % of Americans still live in rural areas, 19.3% according to 2010 census.

    It’s not easy to define assault rifle, i would focus on magazine size. As a long time hunter, 8 cartridges is plenty. Big magazines should be illegal to own, buy or sell (with some lead in time). If we ban large magazines, we don’t have to ban assault weapons. I’d like to see a license required to buy ammunition- there are too many dangerous wife beaters out there. A ban on large magazines would reduce but not end gun violence- millions would still remain in circulation. Laws make a difference. I’d favor an Australian solution to gun violence but I think that the courts and public opinion would block it. We Americans are too obsessed with toughness and machismo. Any by the way, I keep my two guns locked up. I say human rights should precede gun rights and property rights. That day will come but maybe not in my lifetime.

    1. PeakTrader

      Bob, you have it backwards. Gun rights and property rights precede human rights.

      See the Jews in Nazi Germany.

      If we limit guns to eight bullets today, why not one bullet tomorrow?

      A diplomat said years ago American foreign policy is like a football game rather than a chess game. Yet, projecting power has often proved most effective.

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