Here’s a lesson for California voters:  When electing a person to represent you in Congress, remember that blind zealotry and self-righteousness are a poor substitute for level-headedness and humility.

California’s senior U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein (D), sponsor of the federal “assault weapon” and “large” magazine bans of 1994-2004, says that researchers who conducted the congressionally mandated study of the bans, and found them lacking in effect, are wrong.

Two weeks ago, on the 10-year anniversary of the bans’ expiration, Feinstein issued a press release claiming, as she has previously, that the bans were “responsible for a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders.”  That figure, Feinstein says, comes from the congressionally-mandated study of the bans, which was conducted by Christopher Koper and other researchers at the Urban Institute.

On Wednesday, however, ProPublica reported that Professor Koper disagrees with Feinstein’s claim, and–get this–Feinstein says that Koper is wrong about his own study.

Reporter Lois Beckett writes that “Feinstein attributed the statistic to an initial Department of Justice-funded study of the first few years of the ban, published in 1997.  But one of the authors of that study, Dr. Christopher Koper, a criminologist from George Mason University, told ProPublica that number was just a ‘tentative conclusion.’  Koper was also the principal investigator on the 2004 study that, as he put it, ‘kind of overruled, based on new evidence, what the preliminary report had been in 1997.’”

Beckett continues, “Koper said he and the other researchers in 2004 had not re-done the specific analysis that resulted in the 6.7 percent estimate, because the calculation had been based on an assumption that turned out to be false.  In the 1997 study, Koper said, he and the other researchers had assumed that the ban had successfully decreased the use of large-capacity magazines.  What they later found was that despite the ban, the use of large-capacity magazines in crime had actually stayed steady or risen.”

Professor Koper told Beckett, “The weight of evidence that was gathered and analyzed across the two reports suggested that the initial drop in the gun murder rate must have been due to other factors besides the assault weapons ban.”

However, Feinstein disagrees with Koper’s conclusion that his 2004 study invalidates the senator’s “6.7 percent” claim.  And Feinstein insists, “I continue to believe that drying up the supply of military-style assault weapons is an important piece of the puzzle–and the data back this up.”

On reflection, Sen. Feinstein may want to start asking herself why so many people have disagreed with her, for so many years, on this subject.

In 1995, CBS 60 Minutes said that the claim, that the bans reduced crime, was nothing more than “a good applause line,” because the year the bans were imposed was “the best year for assault weapon sales ever.”  In 2004, the Christian Science Monitor explained why, noting that “gun manufacturers only had to make minor changes to weapons in order to comply with the ban.”  And as we noted in last week’s Alert, that same year, the anti-gun Violence Policy Center called Feinstein’s bans a “charade,” because sales of the guns and magazines that Feinstein tried to ban increased while the bans were in effect.

In fact, though she may not realize it, even Feinstein herself has admitted that her original bans were ineffective.  That’s because ever since people started pointing out how ineffective her bans were, she’s been introducing legislation that wouldn’t just reinstate the bans, but which would instead go much further.

So far, Congress isn’t buying either Feinstein’s old ban or her new one.  You know the old expression.  “Fool me once, shame on you. . . .”  To be on the safe side, however, let’s make sure that we get every gun owner to the polls on Election Day, so Feinstein never gets the chance to see how effective her new gun ban might be.


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