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January 3, 2013 - 12:34 am
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Regarding the devastating power of the .223, Kleinfield adds, with unwitting humor that disqualifies him as a reliable reporter on gun matters, that “[s]ome of the bullets fired inside the [Sandy Hook] school, according to a law enforcement official, ‘penetrated the glass windows of the classrooms and went into vehicles in the parking lot.’” Of course any bullet from virtually any pistol or rifle — including the lowest powered .22 and even many air rifles — would easily penetrate “glass windows.”

He adds that “[t]he .223-caliber bullet is a small, high-velocity round that has been used by Western military forces for decades, in part because it inflicts devastating wounds.” In fact, as a writer on Military.com notes, the .223 (or 5.56mm NATO) was selected “because it offered soldiers more ammo carrying capacity” than the larger .30 caliber rounds that had been in use. Moreover, as this thorough Military Law Review article on the controversy over hollow-point ammunition points out, the military has actually avoided the use of ammunition that causes the most “devastating wounds,” not only for humanitarian reasons but also because military “weapons and [their] ammunition were (and remain) ‘designed for incapacitation rather than lethality’ — which supported the prevailing doctrine that ‘wounding enemy soldiers increased the logistical burden on the enemy.’”

Virginia and other states actually ban the use of .223 rifles in deer hunting — not because it is too powerful and causes such devastating wounds, but because it is too small and weak to ethically harvest deer. According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Deer Project Coordinator Matt Knox: “We could argue ‘til the cows come home, but we err on the conservative side of achieving humane and ethical kills.”

Kleinfield does helpfully point out that the police found “‘numerous’ empty 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster rifle” and “a number of magazines for both pistols” (a 10mm Glock and 9mm Sig Sauer) Lanza had, but he doesn’t seem to realize that the presence of all these magazines with their “hundred of unfired bullets” strongly suggests that a limitation on magazine capacity would have had no effect on the lethality of Lanza’s carnage. True, he did use 30-round magazines, but Ms. Goode quoted the medical examiner’s observation that Lanza had fired “up to 11 bullets into each victim’s body.” Since there were 26 victims, it’s obvious that Lanza had no difficulty changing magazines.

Of course the shooter wasn’t rushed, since according to CNN’s timeline the police didn’t arrive until 20 minutes after the shooting started. All a high-capacity magazine ban would accomplish (assuming it would accomplish anything except driving up the price of the 30 million already in private hands) is that shooters intent on mass slaughter would bring more weapons (Lanza had three) and/or magazines. Indeed, a perfectly predictable but unintended consequence of banning high-capacity magazines would be to decrease the appeal of 9mm handguns and increase the popularity of more the powerful and lethal .40 and .45 caliber and .357 Magnum, since the main appeal of the 9mm has always been its higher-capacity magazines.

Kleinfield also helpfully quotes Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who said “Mr. Lanza had killed himself as police officers entered the school, suggesting that he was prepared to take more lives had they not arrived.” Malloy added that “[w]e surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently, at that, decided to take his own life.”

It thus seems likely that the slaughter of unarmed innocents, both students and staff, could have been ended much sooner if Lanza had been confronted much sooner with armed opposition. All things considered, attempting to combat mass shootings by emulating Australia’s experiment with prohibition would be rather like attempting to eliminate drunk driving by banning bourbon.

More: Illinois Democrats Move to Ban Most Modern Firearms

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John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.
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