By: Teresa Mull

Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidency, says he would implement a mandatory buyback program of so-called “assault weapons.”

“I was asked how I’d address people’s fears that we will take away their assault rifles,” O’Rourke tweeted. “I want to be clear: That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell their assault weapons. All of them.”

Fox News reports:

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in a recent interview with Vox, said he believes there should be an “outright ban” on assault weapons and, like O’Rourke, wants a "mandatory" turnover program.

“I know this is something that ultimately we [need to] get the Democratic Party on board with, but I would like to see a buyback program and a mandatory turnover,” he told the outlet last month.

Politico reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also supports a mandatory program.

Other Democratic candidates – including former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock – have voiced support for some sort of buyback program, albeit a voluntary one.

The U.S. has already dabbled in an “assault weapons” ban, and reminds us:

What nobody seems to want to acknowledge, however, is that the very ban being proposed by Democrats was in effect for 10 years — from 1994 to 2004.

So, did the previous "assault weapons" ban work?

It turns out that various independent studies came to the same conclusion: the ban had no measurable impact on the number of shootings or the number of shooting deaths while it was in effect.

A 2005 report from the National Research Council, for example, noted that "A recent evaluation of the short-term effects of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes."

A 2004 study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice found that while the ban appeared to have reduced the number of crimes committed with "assault weapons," any benefits were "likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics."

As a result, the Justice study found "there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury."

The main reason the failure of the ban to make a difference: "assault weapons" account for a tiny share of gun crimes — less than 6%. Even among mass shootings, most didn’t involve an "assault weapon" in the decade before the ban went into effect.

Mass shootings didn’t stop during the ban, either — there were 16 while the ban was in effect, which resulted in 237 deaths or injuries. In fact, it was while the ban was in effect that the Columbine High School massacre happened, in which 13 students were killed and 24 injured.

What’s more, gun deaths have steadily declined since 1994, even though the rate of gun ownership has climbed.

Democrats pushing for an "assault weapons" ban today know that getting it approved in an election year by a Republican-controlled Congress is a fantasy. This is nothing more than a political ploy.

What’s more, we needn’t look any further than modern-day New Zealand to see how well gun buyback programs work.

The Press Herald reported earlier this year:

Growing opposition from New Zealand’s pro-gun groups has complicated efforts to round up the now-banned firearms under a buyback program. Lawsuits are threatened.

Gun-control advocates argue that compensation rates may not be fair and warn of a possible spike in black-market sales.

The government, meanwhile, is faced with a sobering set of challenges over how to enforce the new law.

There is no national registry for many of the weapons targeted by the ban, including the AR-15 – a semiautomatic rifle that has been used in mass shootings in the United States and is often at the center of American gun-control debates.

As a result, estimates of the numbers of newly banned weapons vary widely. So far, about 700 firearms have been voluntarily surrendered.

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at