“Assault Weapon” Bans Do Little to Save Lives

Ask almost anyone and they will tell you that their dog is a beloved member of their family. However, 53 people were killed in the United States by dogs in 2021 alone1. Of those 53 deaths, 31 of them involved pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Pit bulls were originally bred to be muscular attack dogs, suitable for taking down and killing large bulls in fighting pits. A pit bull bite is also more deadly than any other dog.

Pit bull owners, especially, will tell you that their dogs are the sweetest most loyal dogs you would ever meet. There are an estimated 4.5 million pit bulls in the U.S., or 6% of the entire dog population. Despite this, in 2021 they only accounted for 31 deaths in the U.S. Accounting for the fact that some of those deaths were from multiple pit bulls working together (about 51 total, based on 2021 reports) the killings were done by 0.000013% of the total pit bull population. Because of the media, and more so due to anti-pit bull activists, people are led to believe that all pit bulls are vicious killers and should be banned. It’s because of this sensationalized information that 25% of Americans dislike pit bulls and over 50% feel that families with small children should not own one. In fact, 10 states, as well as numerous cities, have Breed-Specific Legislation specifically banning or severely restricting pit bulls. Many other breeds are banned in other cities and states throughout the country.

Other dogs, such as German Shepherds, are specifically bred and trained by the military and police forces as effective attack dogs. In fact, dogs have been a part of military forces since 600 B.C. Despite this fact, German Shepherds are also cherished members of millions of families in the U.S.

However, as stated, dogs were responsible for 53 deaths last year. Of those deaths, 19 of them were children under 7-years-old, with over half of them under 2-years-old. (The youngest was an 8-day-old infant). Therefore, in order to save lives should we ban all dogs unilaterally that are bred to kill? Or should we step back and look at the reasons these dogs kill and prevent that?

Nearly all dangerous dogs are due to humans abusing the dog. Most of the dogs involved in deaths were the result of humans abusing them or training them to fight. Both of which are already illegal. Additionally, most of the dogs had exhibited aggressive behavior prior to killing anyone.

By that same token, there were seven active shooter incidents in 2021, resulting in 54 deaths. (See my article on “Mass Shootings” to learn the difference between an “Active Shooter” event versus a more generic “Mass Shooting”.) However, of those seven only two involved “assault weapons”. The rest were all committed with handguns.

Also, of these 2021 active shooter incidents, all of them had several red flags from the shooters days, weeks, even years before the actual shooting happened. Had some of the warnings been heeded perhaps these deaths and injuries could have all been avoided. Banning guns of any type would not have prevented these killings, nor will it prevent them in the future.

“Assault Weapon” and “Assault Rifle” themselves are terms misappropriated by gun-control advocates to try and make guns they don’t like sound scarier. In fact, the U.S. Army, arguably the highest user of “assault weapons” and an expert in their use and design, defines an assault rifle as “short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges”. U.S. citizens are not even allowed to legally purchase any assault rifles that were manufactured after 1986. Those that are privately owned are not only incredibly expensive (typically in the $25,000+ range), but they are all registered with the ATF. The modern sporting rifles sold today, such as AR-15s and AK47s, are not select-fire and are only capable of firing a single shot with one trigger pull.

These modern sporting rifles are popular because of their versatility in multiple situations in multiple environments. With just a simple swap you can change an AR-15 from a 20” barreled hunting rifle that shoots larger caliber bullets, to a pistol that shoots cheaper pistol-caliber rounds for having fun target shooting at the range or outdoors with friends. For even more fun, you can pop on a “Can Cannon” that lets you fire soda cans, tennis balls, golf balls and even t-shirts to your heart’s content. Yes, it is entirely possible to use this same weapon to kill and injure a large amount of people at once, but so can a car.

Forbes claims that the U.S. has at least 20 million “assault rifles”. Despite this large number, only two of the active shooter incidents last year involved them. Of the other 65 mass shootings in 2021 (incidents involving 3 or more murders) almost all of them involved handguns. The most recent data from the FBI is from 2019, but it shows that of the 10.258 crimes committed with firearms only 364 of them involved rifles. This doesn’t even mean 364 AR-15s or AK47s, as there are numerous other types of rifles that don’t fall under the media’s “assault rifle” definition.

So, of the estimated 20 million “assault weapons” in the U.S., less than 0.00002% were used in crimes. That means that, exactly like pit bull owners, pretty much all “assault weapon” owners are responsible users. Despite this, the actions of a minute fraction of a fraction of bad actors ruins the responsible owners’ reputations in the eye of the public.

You would never dream of banning dogs just because some of them can be used as weapons of war or are responsible for hundreds deaths and injuries a year. In fact, most of you probably value dogs for the fun and joy they bring to your family and friends. You would be devastated if you had to give up your cherished companion just because a few assholes out there give dogs a bad name. That very same dog might even save your life if you were ever attacked, or someone invaded your home. Therefore, why would it be justifiable to take away something from someone else’s life that gives them a source of fun, sport, social interaction, and protection?


1. Data was compiled from combining (and verifying with news reports) the statistics in https://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2021.php and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_United_States.