Dan Flynn's article about "Scary, Scary Guns" references a State of California report that Dan was kind enough to send me a link for. Looking through it was quite instructive, not least for its caveats.
First, the report is based primarily on data from rural, not urban, locations, so it is probably nearly worthless as a broader measure of gun violence in that state or the nation.
Nevertheless, some of the "internals" are interesting:
The report notes that nine of the 175 firearms which made it into the database for the report were classified as assault weapons, but none were classified as short-barreled shotguns or rifles. This means (best as I can tell) that ALL of the "assault weapons" noted in the report were pistols, based on that state's own definitions of "assault weapons." There was one fully automatic weapon, i.e. a machine gun, reported, but (again, best as I can tell) the definition of "assault weapon" specifies semi-automatic, at least for rifles. In any case, at least 8 of the 9 reported assault weapons were apparently pistols.
To be sure, for those who find guns scary, some of these "pistols" are not your standard police-issue fare, and can appear as threatening as a long gun. For example, Uzi and TEC-9 semi-autos are "assault weapon" pistols.
The percentage of total gun crime committed using "assault weapons", even including the classification of some pistols as assault weapons, is consistently tiny, at least in this sampling area across non-urban sections of California.
For example, the 2009 report shows 8 of 147 gun crimes being committed with an assault weapon, but only one of those was a rifle.
One thing I'd like to make clear: the debate over "assault weapons" is not a debate over fully-automatic weapons, which are already very highly regulated, very difficult and expensive to buy, and not involved in any civilian mass shooting in (my) recent memory.
For those who aren't up to speed on the lingo, fully automatic means firing many shots by pulling (and holding) the trigger one time. Semi-automatic, which is what "assault weapons" are (though not all semi-autos are assault weapons), means that they hold more than one bullet but that the trigger must be pulled one time for each shot.
We're all on edge following the recent horrific events in Aurora and Newtown, and the other recent deadly and near-deadly shootings we've read in the news. But we should not fall victim to the left's desire to "never let a crisis go to waste."
As many commenters on this site have properly noted, gun control is much more about control (of citizens by government) than about guns. It's also worth noting that in every recent year, more people have been killed by hammers than by rifles.
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