Involuntary commitment of mentally more effective than assault weapons ban in preventing murder

Clayton Cramer:
There is a drumbeat of demand for a new federal assault-weapons ban to prevent more tragedies like the one that happened in Connecticut. If we had not tried the experiment, you could honestly wonder if it would do any good. But the policy has been tried and found wanting.

In 1999, National Institute of Justice published a study by criminologists Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper, “Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994—96.” It examined the effects of the federal assault-weapons ban in its first two years of operation and found no statistically significant reduction in murder rates. “The ban did not produce declines in the average number of victims per incident of gun murder or gun murder victims with multiple wounds.” The study also was unable to find any clear evidence that it reduced murders of police officers. The reason was simple: So-called assault weapons were never commonly used for murders before the ban, and more conventional appearing weapons were effective substitutes for criminal misuse. Any assault-weapons ban that does not ban firearms that are equally lethal (such as those many Americans already own) is ineffective.

What does work? Professors Stephen P. Segal’s recent study of murder rates and mental treatment policy, “Civil Commitment Law, Mental Health Services, and U.S. Homicide Rates,” examined state-by-state murder rates and mental-health services and found that “less access to psychiatric inpatient-beds and more poorly rated mental health systems were associated with increases in the homicide rates of 1.08 and 0.26 per 100,000, respectively.” There was an even greater difference in the homicide rate between states with different involuntary civil commitment (ICC) laws. “Broader ICC-criteria were associated with 1.42 less homicides per 100,000.” In short, states where involuntary commitment was easy had roughly a third less murders than states where it was very hard to civilly commit a mentally ill person.
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Well you do have to be crazy to want to engage in mass murder.  The states show that in 2002 about 26,000 of inmates convicted of murder were mentally ill.  They appear to be a better target than assault weapons which are rarely used in crime.

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