In the coming days, CBS’s 60 Minutes is going to air an interview with parents who lost a child in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. One of the issues that cropped up during the discussion is Connecticut’s recent decision to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
“The legislature has decided to limit the size of magazines to 10 rounds in Connecticut,” said Television Journalist Scott Pelley to the group, “The gunman at Sandy Hook was using magazines holding 30 rounds; now, I’ve heard the argument made that you can change these magazine clips [sic] in these rifles in less than two seconds, so what difference does it make?”
One of the fathers responded by saying, “Well, there was one instance where it wasn’t two seconds. And it allowed 11 kids to get out of a classroom.”
“Tell me about that?” asked Pelley, in a quick follow-up.
“Well, it’s simple arithmetic,” the father continued. “If you have to change magazines 15 times instead of five times, there’re three times as many instances where something could jam, something could be bobbled, you just increase the time for intervention, you increase the timeframe for kids to get out.”
“There’s 11 kids out there today, that are still running around on playgrounds at lunch time,” the father concludes.
“Who escaped from these classrooms,” Pelley clarified.
It was a powerful moment. And in the eyes of many gun control proponents, it slammed the door shut on any counterargument to a ‘high’ capacity magazine ban.
Timing. It’s all about timing. The longer it takes a deranged gunman to fire off rounds at a crowd of innocents, the better. The more potential there are for delays, the more potential there is for someone to interdict, the more potential there is for children to escape. The bottom line: large capacity magazines make it easier for deranged gunmen to kill.
I don’t disagree with that logic. In fact, I think it is spot on.
But as every gun owner knows, there’s another side to this equation. That is to say, by the same logic one employs to argue for a ban, one can use to argue against the ban — with equal, if not greater, efficacy.
Again, it’s a matter of timing. For example, the longer it takes for a single mother of two to fire off rounds at several home intruders, the worse it is for that mother.
Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s late at night. It’s dark. Three career criminals are breaking into the home of a single mother. She has a full size 9mm handgun with a 10 round magazine (or if she lives in New York, with a 10 round magazine that only contains seven rounds, as it’s against the law to put 10 rounds in a 10 round magazine in the Empire State under the NY SAFE Act) instead of what would be the standard 19-round magazine.
She fires off a few rounds to scare off the intruders. They don’t back down. They continue their pursuit inside her home. She fires in their general direction until the magazine is empty. She hits one, but misses the others. She goes to reload, but her hands are shaking. She’s panicking. She fumbles the other magazine and loses it on the dark floor.
What happens now?
For skeptics who don’t believe these types of self-defense scenarios are real or that they happen to everyday people, I’d refer them to an incident that happened a few months back when a Georgia mother fired six shots from a .38 revolver to protect her children from a home invader. She hit the man five times and managed to escape. However, the man was still ambulant. He actually fled the scene after the mother left.
What if he wasn’t alone? What if he had an accomplice?
See, as most gun owners know, standard capacity magazines and guns are tools. When put in the right hands, they can be used to save lives and protect personal property. When put in the wrong hands, they can be used to take the lives of innocent people, sometimes children.
Consequently, our goal as a society shouldn’t be taking these tools away from law-abiding citizens. Our goal as a society should be keeping these tools from falling into the wrong hands. As it’s been said before, if we continue along this path of outlawing guns and so-called large-capacity magazines, well, then only outlaws will have ’em.
There are other arguments against banning standard capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Well, for starters, there’s this pesky little document called the Constitution that contains the Second Amendment. There’s also the fact that many school shooters carry multiple firearms.
Additionally, there are practical challenges to banning ‘high’ capacity magazines. I’d invite pro-gun control advocates to consider Greg Ridgeway’s report on the subject. Who is Greg Ridgeway? He is the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice, an independent research arm of the Department of Justice.
Here’s part of what he had to say on the matter (to view his full report, click here):
The 1994 ban on large capacity magazines had limited effectiveness because 1) Large capacity clips are a durable good 2) There were an estimated 25 million guns with large capacity magazines in 1995 3) The 1994 law exempted magazines manufactured before 1994 so that the importation of large capacity magazines manufactured overseas before 1994 continued through the ban 4) while the price of the clips increased dramatically (80 percent during the ban) they were not unaffordable. A 2004 study of the 1994 law found: “because the ban has not yet reduced the use of [large capacity magazines] in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.” The 1994 ban essentially did little to affect the supply of large capacity magazines.
In order to have an impact, large capacity magazine regulation needs to sharply curtail their availability to include restrictions on importation, manufacture, sale, and possession. An exemption for previously owned magazines would nearly eliminate any impact. The program would need to be coupled with an extensive buyback of existing large capacity magazines. With an exemption the impact of the restrictions would only be felt when the magazines degrade or when they no longer are compatible with guns in circulation. This would take decades to realize.