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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

 
Only murderers need high-capacity magazines

by David Atkins

One of the many problems with talking about "gun control" is that every person means something different when they say it, and there are few agreements even among supporters about where one should draw the line on a ban. Banning all guns is pretty much a non-starter politically as well as practically. Without an all-encompassing ban, figuring out where to draw the line can be difficult. The Brady Bill was a good one, and shame should dwell eternally on every single individual, Republican and Democrat, responsible for allowing it to expire without renewal. But even the Brady Bill had some illogical inconsistencies in terms of what was allowed and what was not in terms of firearms.

But where firearm control lacks clarity and consistency, ammunition and magazine control does not. Little beyond a total ban on gun sales will prevent an individual from murdering a handful of people in psychotic rage with a standard handheld firearm. But wounding and murdering dozens at a time requires a weapon with decent aim (unlike a handgun) and more importantly the ability to shoot dozens of rounds without the need to stop and reload, which takes considerable time and puts the attacker at risk. The first part of that equation would be covered by traditional firearm control, which is somewhat messy. But the second part is accomplished with a simple ban on high-capacity magazines, as a bill introduced by Frank Lautenberg would do. The Assault Weapons Ban included such a proscription, and it is virtually guaranteed that the massacres in Newtown and Aurora would have been far less devastating, if undertaken at all, without these instruments of death.

Let's be clear what is meant by a "high-capacity magazine" for those unfamiliar with guns: it means a bullet container (colloquially and wrongly called a "clip") that can hold a lot of bullets. How many bullets? At least 60 to 100 at a single time. When paired with a semi-automatic rifle (a gun that can fire one bullet per trigger pull without reloading until the magazine runs out, as opposed to the mostly already illegal fully automatic "Rambo-style" gun that can fire an entire magazine with a single long trigger pull), that means a person can fire 60 to 100 shots without even stopping to reload. Standard capacity magazines, by contrast, range anywhere from 5 to 30 rounds, usually on the lower end. Several states including California already have regulations of varying strength against high-capacity magazines.

Let's be clear: the only reason any civilian needs more than 10 rounds in a semi-automatic rifle is to murder large numbers of people. There is simply no other reason.

One can make a good argument that there is no other reason to own an assault rifle as it is. But even granting the specious Wyatt Earp argument that one needs a gun for self-defense that is as potent as the potential assailant's, there is simply no need to be able to fire more than 10 rounds without reloading. Not even in a Wild West scenario.

There are only two non-military scenarios requiring such a device: 1) becoming a mass murderer assailant at a school, movie theater or similar location; or 2) preparing to massacre the post-apocalyptic heathen hordes attacking one's home.

That second scenario, unfortunately, is what is mostly going through the minds of hundreds of thousands of self-styled John Galt gun enthusiasts just waiting for the chance to mow down scores of "moochers" and "looters" once society starts coming apart at the seams. It is, as I have said before, a form of (usually racist) mass murder fantasy role play.

If morally disturbed, prejudiced people wish to hold those views and perspectives on the future, that is their right. But there is no need for federal weapons policy to cater to their delusional whims by allowing the sale of tools of mass murder.

The very least we can and must do is ban high-capacity magazines. It's simple, it's easy, and the only people it would disturb (beyond the bottom lines of firearms manufacturers) are those already actively planning to engage in mass murder.


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