Saturday, April 7, 2018

Thoughts on gun violence Part 3: magazines

One of the proposed "common sense" gun laws is the restriction of magazine size. First off, what is a magazine? A magazine is a box, usually made of plastic or metal, with a spring in it. Cartridges are loaded into the magazine, and the magazine is used to feed the cartridges into the gun's receiver. When the magazine is empty it is reloaded or in some cases can be replaced by another magazine. Virtually all firearms that fire cartridge ammunition have magazines.

What is a "high capacity." In the military or firearms industry this means a magazine that holds more than the standard capacity magazine the weapon was designed to use. In the case of the Colt 1911, for instance, a high capacity magazine would be one that holds more than 7 rounds. For a Colt AR-15 a high capacity magazine would be one that holds more than 30 rounds. Various states define "high capacity" as being any magazine holding more than 15, 10 or 5 rounds, regardless of the firearm. So the state's definition of "high capacity" is an arbitrary term.

Now onto the law itself. I would like to list the pros and cons of this law, but I honestly can't find any pros. There are claims made that the law would save lives by allowing people to rush a mass shooter while he is changing magazines, but there are no instances of this occurring in practice. On the contrary, many mass shooters (such as the recent Parkland murderer) have chosen lower capacity magazines because they are more readily concealed. In fact, a case can be made that it is better if mass shooters have large capacity magazines because they are more prone to malfunction and because they relied on a single magazine they can't replace it with a working one, as they could with multiple smaller magazines.

The only concrete statement on justification I can find is this statement by William B. Ruger:
"The best way to address the firepower concern is therefore not to try to outlaw or license many millions of older and perfectly legitimate firearms (which would be a licensing effort of staggering proportions) but to prohibit the possession of high capacity magazines. By a simple, complete and unequivocal ban on large capacity magazines, all the difficulty of defining 'assault rifle' and 'semi-automatic rifles' is eliminated. The large capacity magazine itself, separate or attached to the firearm, becomes the prohibited item. A single amendment to Federal firearms laws could effectively implement these objectives."
So the real goal is to ban firearms in a simpler way. This magazine ban was implemented in the US in 1994 as part of the federal "assault weapons" ban. In 2004 the law ended, after it was determined it had no effect on crime. Despite this, anti-gunners consider this a big part of fighting gun violence, and sadly there is a lot of public support for it, even in the face of evidence otherwise.

Here is a video worth watching, as it shows actual experiments on the effects of magazine capacity on a shooter.

To find the rest of the posts in this series, click here.


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