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Plausible, or Propaganda? The ‘High-Capacity Magazine’ Argument

What appears to be the gun-control crowd's most winnable argument is as irrational as the rest.

by
John Rosenberg

Bio

April 7, 2013 - 12:02 am

The Hartford Courant reports that on April 1, Connecticut legislators reached bipartisan agreement on what they say could be the “nation’s strongest gun-control bill,” and that easy passage is expected.

One of the bills provisions: scary-looking semi-automatic rifles (“assault weapons”) will now need only one frightening feature (such as a pistol grip or flash suppressor) instead of the current two to make the banned list. A second: future sales of “high-capacity magazines” of over 10 rounds will be banned. This is the one element of the pending legislation that has divided its supporters. The bill does not impose an outright ban on the newly illicit magazines, allowing current owners to keep them:

… if they make an official declaration by January 1 of how many they own and submit to restrictions on their use. The magazines could only be loaded with 10 or fewer rounds, except in their owners’ homes or at a shooting range, where they can be fully loaded.

Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy supported those — including many Sandy Hook parents — who had called for an outright ban:

Simply banning [the magazines'] sale moving forward would not be an effective solution.

One Sandy Hook parent — whose son was murdered — said:

I think it’s useless to register the magazines. How are you going to register them? I think it’s stupid. There’s no way to register them, there’s no serial numbers. … It’s just another law or regulation that’s not going to be enforceable.

According to Nicole Hockley, the mother of a six-year-old son who was murdered:

We learned, the way that no other parents should learn, that the most dangerous, dangerous part of an assault weapon is the magazine.

Vice President Joe Biden agrees with this statement. Hockley also claimed to have learned something else, an argument that has since become a staple of the gun-control argument:

The shooter carried 10 30-round large-capacity magazines. … We have learned that in the time it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape. We ask ourselves every day — every minute — if those magazines had held 10 rounds, forcing the shooter to reload at least six more times, would our children be alive today?

The argument that restricting magazine size will save lives by allowing intended victims to escape or onlookers to attack the shooter while he pauses to reload has become the most plausible in the gun controllers’ arsenal.

Unlike using cosmetics such as pistol grips or bayonet lugs to define “assault rifles,” outlawing what has been called “assault magazines” has an arguably rational relationship to the goal of reducing violence. Even some conservatives who are normally skeptical of knee-jerk “just do something!” responses to shocking events have expressed agreement. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan:

[I want] a quick, short, simple bill that would ban the use of big ugly monstrous high-capacity magazines [that would force shooters to] reload after seven or eight shots. It won’t hurt hunters, it won’t leave your house less safe, and in the cases of crazy people attacking children and mallgoers it will force them to reload, in which time someone might be able to knock them down or get the gun from their hands.

This argument seems plausible, supported as it seems to be by evidence from Sandy Hook and the attack on Gabby Giffords and others. Per Howard Kurtz:

Should Jared Loughner have been able to obtain 30 rounds of ammunition to kill six people and wound Gabby Giffords, or should there be limits on high-magazine clips?

The argument has moved beyond plausible to become an article of faith among the acolytes of gun control. However, there is good reason to doubt that it is persuasive per the actual events. Here is what is actually known or suspected on the magazine issue from Sandy Hook:

As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza’s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

Based on initial statements from surviving children and the fact that unfired bullets from Lanza’s rifle were found on the ground, detectives suspect that some students were able to run to safety when Lanza stopped firing, probably for a short period of time, the officials said.

It is possible that Lanza, who reloaded the rifle frequently, mishandled or dropped a magazine and unfired bullets fell to the floor, they said.

But it also is possible, they said, that the mechanism that fed bullets into the rifle jammed, causing Lanza to remove the magazine and clear the weapon. Unfired bullets could have fallen to the classroom floor during that process as well, law enforcement officials said.

Based on his experience and his analysis of Sandy Hook, Marshall K. Robinson, the forensic scientist for the Bridgeport Police Department who also works at the state police forensic lab in Meriden, believes that banning “high-capacity” magazines would have no effect on gun violence. He testified:

High-capacity magazines have been “banned” before. … It proved nothing and the ban was lifted a few years ago.

Regarding the Gabby Giffords shooting, CNN misrepresented the events in a manner that supported the burgeoning magazine argument:

Authorities said the suspect, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was tackled by two men when he tried to reload his pistol — while a woman in the crowd, Patricia Maisch, took away the fresh magazine Loughner had dropped.

That version of what happened was widely repeated:

New York Times: “Onlookers tackled and restrained him when he paused to reload.”

NBC News: “‘He had emptied the first magazine and was trying to reload when he was tackled,’ said one law enforcement official.”

Time: “As Loughner fumbled to load a second clip, one of the 20 victims wounded by gunfire — a woman whose name has not been released — approached the assailant and was able to wrest the clip away. Loughner subsequently loaded a second clip, but its spring jammed. He was then tackled by two ‘brave, quick-thinking individuals’ who pinned him until authorities arrived.”

Associated Press: “[Loughner] was reloading when a woman in the crowd, already wounded, attempted to grab the gun from him. He finally changed the magazine and tried to fire, authorities said, but the gun jammed. Meanwhile, two men from the crowd grabbed him and subdued him, according to officials.”

As with Sandy Hook, however, it seems that “what we learned” is incorrect. The picture of what happened, per those who actually painted it, is subtly but significantly different. An ABC News headline — “Woman Wrestled Fresh Ammo Clip From Tucson Shooter as He Tried to Reload” — reflected the magazine argument, yet the reporting did not:

[Patricia] Maisch, 61, effectively disarmed the shooter as several men pounced on him and threw him to ground.

She considered trying to run away, she said, but thought that would make her more of a target, so she laid down on the ground. But then something unexpected happened.

“Then he was next to me on the ground,” she said. “The gentleman knocked him down.

“I kneeled over him. He was pulling a magazine [to reload] and I grabbed the magazine and secured that. I think the men got the gun, and I was able to get the magazine,” she said.

[Bill] Badger, a 74-year-old retired army colonel living in Tucson, told Pottsville, Pa.’s Republican-Herald: “I turned and saw him running down the line of people on the chairs. He ran between me and the store. Someone hit him with a chair and he flinched a little. That’s when I grabbed his left arm. Someone grabbed his right arm and we got him to the ground.”

“The other guy put his knee into the back of his neck and I grabbed him around the throat. We held him until police got there.”

So: according to the actual participants, there was no “pause to reload.”

Whatever combination of gun jamming or reloading happened in Tucson or at Sandy Hook, the time and risk to the shooter of reloading magazines has been absurdly overstated by gun-control advocates and compliant media. In reality, it takes no more than a second or two to replace an empty magazine in a semi-automatic weapon.

These videos of average shooters reloading Glocks clearly demonstrate this.

Dave Kopel points this out in his “Rational Basis of ‘Assault Weapon’ Prohibition”:

In one firearms demonstration, a police shooter emptied a thirty round magazine attached to a banned Colt rifle in 5.9 seconds. The officer then fired a fifteen round magazine attached to an unbanned Glock pistol, changed magazines (2.25 seconds), and then fired another 15 rounds. The same thirty rounds were fired by the Glock in 8.92 seconds.

Using 10-round magazines, requiring two reloads, would add about two seconds, bringing the time to fire 30 rounds to about 11 seconds. But if the shooter had more than one handgun, there would have been no practical difference between rate of fire of the Glock (or any other semi-automatic handgun) and the 30-round rifle.

In addition to the fact that limiting the capacity of magazines would have little if any practical impact on the lethality of mass gun violence, there are many other reasons why such a legal ban would be impractical, bad policy, and arguably unconstitutional.

The millions of magazines currently in existence infer that any new legal restriction would restrict only the law-abiding. This is bad policy, because civilians need high-capacity magazines as much as — and for the same reasons — as the police. Legal scholar Randy Barnett pointed this out in a letter to Senator Ted Cruz:

Will some citizens — such as current or retired members of law enforcement or government officials — be privileged in the means by which they can protect themselves over others?

If an American citizen who is employed to protect the safety of others, or an active or retired police officer, requires a certain type of weapon, with a certain rate of fire or capacity, to protect him or herself or others, why does not a law abiding citizen of the United States require the same sort of weapon for the same lawful purpose?

A commenter on the Arms and the Law site pointed out:

These restrictions would have marginal effect on a determined would-be mass shooter, since he could prepare in advance by carrying multiple smaller magazines on his belt, in sports vest pockets, etc. and train himself to exchange them quickly. The civilian defender against an attack, on the other hand, is not going to be so attired and likely will have only what ammo is with his defensive firearm when he grabs it. Magazine size restrictions, therefore, would disproportionately hinder defense relative to attack, shifting the balance of power towards the criminal.

And then there is the Constitution, which can get in the way of ill-considered schemes. Some measures, such as New York’s hastily passed restriction of magazine capacity to seven rounds, are almost certainly unconstitutional. Since there are no seven-round magazines produced for most of the 9mm and .40 caliber Glocks, Springfields, Smith & Wessons, Heckler & Kochs, etc. widely owned by civilians, the New York law would turn those perfectly legal weapons into expensive paperweights. This runs afoul of the Heller v. District of Columbia prohibition of banning firearms and magazines that are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

An added reason to be highly skeptical of restricting magazine capacity: the lead sponsor of legislation in the House, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), the Democrats’ chief deputy whip, quite literally doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

At a forum this week, the Denver Post revealed, “the senior congresswoman from Denver appeared not to understand how guns work”:

Asked how a ban on magazines holding more than 15 rounds would be effective in reducing gun violence, DeGette said:

“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”

What she didn’t appear to understand is that a magazine can be reloaded with more bullets.

She is the lead sponsor. You can’t make this stuff up.

Other than perhaps violating the Constitution and depriving millions of gun owners of something they believe is desirable and necessary, the primary, and just about the only, effect of passing restrictions on magazine capacity would be to make the restrictors feel as if they had accomplished something.

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"We learned, the way that no other parents should learn, that the most dangerous, dangerous part of an assault weapon is the magazine."

This is the most ignorant and useless of emotionalism. As sad a I am that innocent children were brutally murdered, it is not the weapon that's at fault, ever.

When arguing against gun control, conservatives first have to be aware of who they're arguing against. Largely, they are overly emotional bastions of ignorance, even the supposedly intelligent ones. Their arguments are still that "guns kill people".

People kill people and again, I have to use the now ofte-mentioned statistic that the hammer is the preferred weapon of choice in murders in the US these days.

The other facet of society that's blame-worthy is the lack of parenting and the former hand-in-hand support the education system used to provide for bringing up youngsters on how to deal with their emotions. Petulant teenage rage has always been there. But I noticed in the 70's in high-school, it was largely under-control by authority figures who wouldn't tolerate an outburst by a teenager, and the teenage population would ostracize any peer who did so because it was "very uncool".

Boundaries are learned, re-learned and reinforced that way.

Lanza had a mental problem and it was probably aggravated by mood-altering medications. That's the new methodology the liberals want to "control evil white men" before they become "evil white men". So how's that working out?

The liberals also made the government close 99% of all funny-farms because of the supposed violation of crazy peoples' rights. Yes, it's better to have them out free in society killing people than locked up in an asylum where they can not only get the help they need but also not hurt anyone, least of all children...so another FAIL for national socialist "progressivism".

Finally, it's the operator of the weapon; Not the weapon itself. Let's just suppose for a moment that Lanza crawled into the screwel with several sticks of dynamite. (I'll leave to the imagination as to how he got it) or, he set sodium nitrate (fertilizer) bombs all over the school and detonated one every five minutes and then killed himself?

As to the "link" regarding violent video games, some people are more impressionable than others. Again, parents, teachers and society used to take on the role of guide to indicate what is and is not real and not to be taken seriously. The fact that the video games and movies and such seem so real is immaterial. Except, of course, to the freak-show nutjob which, sadly, we will always have in society.

99.999% of all gun owners are law-abiding people. Gun control fascists think that anyone who owns a gun is a potential terrorist and has cast their faith in "the system" to protect them and keep them from harm. If you think about it, that's the genesis of seat belt laws among other things where the fascists want the law enforcers to intervene instead of appear after-the fact to apprehend the wrongdoer(s).

In other words, they desperately seek thought-police and, barring any as-yet unknown technology to stop people who are thinking bad thoughts and wishing them into the cornfield, they are after the next-best-thing. Behavior control, word-control, and doing everything they can to control everything and anything that they think might be dangerous.

But you can't. Any more than you can control climate. (sound familiar?)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Two years ago today, April 7, 2011, Wellington Oliveira used a .38 revolver and a .32 revolver to murder 12 children and would twelve others at Tasso da Silveira Municipal School in Rio de Janerio. Brazil has strict gun control including restrictions on magazine size.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
sinz54: It's YOUR job to have the training and means to protect yourself, in a worst case scenario. Don't expect even the police to be there to protect you. The courts have decreed they have NO legal duty to do so. And, they will not be there when the worst happens to you. If you are unwilling to defend your own life, by all means be a victim. Just don't work to disarm me and make me a victim. With more legal firearms carrying Americans, the chances increase that someone else will be there to save your sorry ass.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (90)
All Comments   (90)
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"""The bill does not impose an outright ban on the newly illicit magazines, allowing current owners to keep them:

… if they make an official declaration by January 1 of how many they own and submit to restrictions on their use. The magazines could only be loaded with 10 or fewer rounds, except in their owners’ homes or at a shooting range, where they can be fully loaded."""

It is so very comforting to know that mass killers will now only be allowed to load ten rounds into their thirty round magazines. I'm sure this law will be most effective.......NOT !
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In response to the gun-control proponents claiming these are "reasonable" restrictions, I never see the follow-up question of "When this doesn't prevent the next massacre, what's your next "reasonable" restriction to the ownership of firearms as guaranteed by the Constitution?" My guess is national registration, which obviously will do nothing to prevent additional mass killings, but will make their real goal much easier to attain.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Magazine capacity is very significant in "fighting with guns". In a deadly force argument with a living, breathing, thinking adversary. In a time critical competition over distance, time, space, and angles magazine capacity can be critical. This is illustrated by the advantage given to a magazine fed semi auto pistol over a revolver (all other factors being equal). The semi can sustain "offensive and defensive" operations over longer periods of time. The revolver puts the operator into a defensive or "logistics" mindset if but three rounds are fired.

But - I would submit that is not whats going on in mass killings. The variable is how long it takes the mob of victims to react, and how they react. . . . or the arrival of the cops. It's not a fight. . . it's an ambush of unprepared and helpless. You are not in a competition with an adversary you are overwhelming the shocked and amazed victims. You could do that was 6 round speedloaders, truly.

There would be only a small difference in between the time it took to empty three glock mags of 17 rounds or 7 1911 single stack .45 mags of 7 or 8 rounds a piece.

All that law has done is make it harder for someone who does resist the killing in progress to do it effectively. It won't do a thing to stop the attack.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If, If, If; Facts, the mother bought and stored the guns in a safe in the son's bedroom. No one check for permits at the shooting range. The shooter did not have an assault rifle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The first police presence at Sandy Hook was reported as 20 minutes from first shots fired. TWENTY F%$@(*G MINUTES!!!!

10 round magazines would not have saved one freaking life. The extra 10 seconds maximum to drop, reload, and keep firing may have allowed some kids to get away, but the shooter would have just transferred his attention to other kids.

OTOH, putting nutbags like the shooter into forced medical incarceration BEFORE they go over the edge very well may have saved EVERY kid who was killed. A trained teacher with a concealed pistol could very well have put one in his diseased brain before he got done with the FIRST magazine.

Anti-gun nuts have no acquaintance with logic or critical thinking. They don't have an argument based on anything other than pure pandering to emotionalism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The information about Sandy Hook is not complete, but it looks like the shooter may have had a problem with one of his 30-round magazines. Maybe that's when the 11 children were able to escape. I'm not a big gun person (I have a few for self-defense, but I'm not an enthusiast), but even I know that large magazines are more prone to malfunction than small ones. So, maybe if he had been using 10-round magazines, he wouldn't have had a problem and more children would have died. This argument cuts both ways.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In Colorado, the idiots have banned magazines of "over 15 round" capacity in order to totally eliminate that deadly 16th round.

This is the sort of crap you get when people who are completely ignorant about firearms (Like Dianna DeGette) pull stupid laws out of their butt$ that will only impact the law abiding among society.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"This is the sort of crap you get when people who are completely ignorant pull stupid laws out of their butt$ ."

Period.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The sooner conservatives stop kidding themselves, the better: today we all live in a Bizarro World designed and controlled by the far left, where open deceit based on Appeal to Emotion fallacy is accepted as "truth", while irrefutable facts are discounted as "heartless" or "irresponsible".

It's not possible to reason with people who fall for this insanity.

So trying to poke holes in their "arguments" is a complete waste of time, energy and bandwidth. Look how many testified in Hartford before this abomination was passed. Their facts and reason counted for NOTHING in a State dominated by one-party rule.

At some point we need to stop engaging in these pointless exchanges and come to grips with the FACT that - in BANNING the firearms most likely to be used to oppose a tyrranical government - the Statists have no interest in protecting defenseless children against violence. If they did, they wouldn't be focusing on firearms and magazines that are used in only a tiny percentage of criminal acts resulting in deadly violence.

Until this idiotic law is challenged and defeated in court, CT has now unlocked and will hold open the door to nationwide gun registration. And everyone knows what registration implies. The People - each free individual - will have the choice either to submit or to resist. There is no third option, because there is no reasoning with tyrant mentality.

And to "Bill Western" and ilk: the only thing that will stop bad guys with guns is good guys with guns. This is an unfortunate FACT of life that you have obviously NOT had the misfortune to learn first-hand. Grow. Up.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As it was, Lanza made 6 magazine changes during his shooting spree.

We don't even have any tangible proof that 11 kids escaped as a result of one of the magazine changes. All we have is the quote of a parent who wasn't there. It's not from a police report, as far as we know, and it's not from first hand observation.

Even if we assume that the claim is accurate, that leaves the question...what about the five other magazine changes?

If the key to survival for the kids was the magazine change, you'd expect that during each of the six changes kids would have escaped.

But it happened only once.

One of out six implies that there was something else happening at the time that the kids escaped, like someone opening a door.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The scariest thing about those big scary magazines on scary semiautomatic (!) rifles is that they'd give scary citizens too much firepower against the legitimate forces of a legitimate tyranny--hence the focus there at a time when (so we're told on occasion) mass shootings have actually declined, while rifles remain used in homicides much less often than other weapons.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The entire argument that making a spree shooter reload more often is some huge opportunity for victims to jump him is specious.

Gun control activists who want to prohibit our ability to defend ourselves with an effective weapon, want to congratulate themselves on the idea of giving an unarmed victim an opportunity to screw together the courage to attack an armed spree shooter. Brilliant.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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