Earlier today, I was a guest on the radio show "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" of which the first hour of the show was titled "The 33-Bullet Magazine: How Much Firepower is Too Much?" This segment focused on high capacity magazines like the one used by the Tucson shooter earlier this month and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy's bill being introduced in Congress tomorrow that would limit magazine capacity to 10 bullets.
Other guests on today's segment included the Congresswoman herself; Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; and Robert Levy, co-counsel in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which led to the Supreme Court to uphold an individual's right to possess a firearm. A lot of heavy hitters and me as the citizen gun owner who supports the 2nd Amendment and who takes a more progressive view on gun ownership.
The basics on magazines: they are attached into a particular type of gun to provide an individual with a certain number of bullets without having to reload. A pistol, like the one I own, only has 5 in the chamber and does not use a magazine. If I use all my bullets, I have to reload in a hurry if I need to get more rounds off. For a weapon such as a Glock, there is the ability to use larger magazines than the clip that may come with the gun itself. You can purchase a separate magazine that has a larger capacity so if you expend all of your ammo, you take the magazine out and put in another one with very little down time.
Why the average gun owner needs more than 10 bullets in a magazine is beyond me. One question that I was asked during the show was if I was worried about a mob or riot outside my door (like in the Los Angeles riots back in 1992) and that I wouldn't have enough fire power to defend myself. First off, we're talking worse case scenarios to the extreme. My worse case scenario is someone actually breaking into my home while I'm here. No gun owner ever wants to use their gun to defend themselves, but I will definitely shoot to kill if someone enters my house to do me harm. But a riot or mob breaking into my home - odds are very VERY slim that will ever happen.
I've lived in two states (Oregon and Texas) with pretty large rural areas that I wouldn't want to be in without some firepower. But do I need a 33-bullet magazine to do that? Heck no - that's way too much firepower for what may face you out there - person or beast. Coming from a family of elk and deer hunters, no one would use a high capacity magazine attached to a semi-automatic gun to kill game. Worse case scenario may be a rabid bear, but a 10-round magazine should take care of that, esp. with a couple of kill shots to the head.
The other guests on today's show brought some very valid points to the table. Levy wasn't completely against the idea of this ban, but he wants to see some valid statistics that show this would curb violence. Helmke mentioned that previous items that have been banned, such as cop killer bullets and guns with plastic components that make them easy to pass through detection, with no impediment toward the general ownership of guns. The Congresswoman, who was personally impacted by a high capacity shooting in 1993 that left her husband dead and son critically injured, strongly defended her intent and reason for introducing this bill.
My take: this bill banning high capacity magazines will NOT prevent a legally-able person from owning a gun - period. It is not taking away someone's right to bear arms. It is very similar to a component of the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 - and a sensible component too. A high capacity magazine is a massive amount of firepower - not the type that is used for personal protection, hunting or target shooting. The intent of this type of equipment is to provide the user with some serious firepower such as for the military and law enforcement - definitely not for the common gun owner and user.
I don't see this as some slippery slope for future bans on smaller magazines or clips used in guns. We've had this provision before and it didn't lead to even smaller amounts. There will likely be a large uproar by the NRA and other pro-gun groups pushing for this bill to not see the light of day, but it's just good gun ownershop. Just as we're not able to have certain type of bullets or silencers for safety reasons, high capacity magazines need to fall into this same category. One possible consensus - maybe we can propose that high capacity magazines are treated the same way as silencers/suppressors - if your state allows them (only 38 of the 50 do), you have to go through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to register for silencer ownership and have it registered. It doesn't mean that you can't have one in your gun collection - it's just registered through the ATF.
While we can't regulate crazy, we can establish reasonable and sensible laws and procedures to protect the general public from people who should not own/use firearms. In addition to taking actions such as this bill, we also need to urge our lawmakers to make sure mentally ill people do not gain access to guns. Although mentally ill people probably don't care if they are abiding by the law, we still need to get those laws on the books. It's a complex issue with no easy solutions, but we need to start the dialogue now with the medical community to craft and pass the right legislation to protect the public.
I wish Congresswoman McCarthy the best of luck and will offer to do what I can to help make this bill law. It will be interesting to see what statements the NRA will make in countering this bill, and I'll plan to break those down as they come across the news lines. I hope others take today's show as an example of what is means to have a civil discussion about guns and use it as a basis to create sensible regulations that protect our rights to bear arms without giving too much firepower to those who should not have it.
Heck, it would be nice to see Washington and other talking heads in the news media today to have civil and rational discussions - imagine that. Civility and rationality on the airwaves - something to strive for.