Congress is poised to launch into a contentious debate next year over reinstating the assault-weapons ban.

In the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., already has vowed to introduce such a bill at the start of the session. President Obama is voicing support.

But crime trends over the past few decades offer a mixed verdict on whether renewing the ban would reduce the kinds of mass shootings that have spurred calls for its re-enactment in the first place.

Data published earlier this year showed that while the ban was in place, from 1994 to 2004, the number of mass shootings actually rose slightly during that period.

Add to that the fact that most gun crimes in America are committed with handguns, and the gun lobby enters this debate with some potent statistics.

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