For our more in-depth article on this topic, click here: Why Magazine Capacity Restrictions Don't Work.
States shown in RED have existing bans on magazine capacities. Hawaii's ban is on handguns only. Virginia doesn't have a ban; however, they only allow residents to purchase firearms that have a capacity of more than 20 rounds. Also, while Illinois doesn't have a state-wide ban, one county and several cities have local bans.
Summary for Magazine Capacity Limitations
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Why Are Politicians Calling for Magazine Capacity Limitations?
After the Newtown Conn shooting, in speaking of the need for magazine capacity limitation laws, then Senator Biden said, “Maybe if it took longer, maybe one more kid would be alive.”
There is a vocal group of people out there who call for capacity limitations because they feel us normal people (non-criminals) don't have any need for “high capacity” magazines. Perhaps they feel that of all the Draconian gun legislation they would like to pass, this is one is the easiest to enact.
Gun control is nothing new. Throughout world history, measures restricting the individual ownership of firearms proceeds restrictions of other individual rights, liberties.
As far as magazine limit restrictions specifically, In 1994 President Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The federal law went away after a failure to renew it in 2004. The legislation had a clause that prohibited the manufacturer and/or transfer of “ammunition feeding devices” with a capacity of over 10 rounds.
Contrary to what you may hear on Twitter, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban wasn't repealed by Pres Bush, or the NRA. The legislation was to be enacted for a period, and at the end of that time, an independent study was to be done to assess its effectiveness. The study, and others since, found the legislation had no recognizable impact on crime, and thus was unnecessary.
Some of the Claims You May Have Heard
Criminals would have to reload more often and would thus be easier to stop.
This sounds fairly easy to believe on the surface. If we limit magazines to only ten rounds (or any other low arbitrary number) then when the criminal hits that capacity, he will have to stop what he is doing and take a few seconds to reload. This is the moment where good guys pounce and stop further deaths. The problems with this argument are many.
- There is the whole thing about criminals getting big magazines even if they are illegal… (sorry had to say it)
- It takes less time than you think to reload. Even a poorly trained criminal with limited firearm experience can change magazines in only 2-5 seconds.
- Even if we limit the capacity of any particular magazine, we aren't liming the number of firearms someone can bring with them. Mass killing murders have shown that a common strategy for mass killing isn't in having endless large magazines… it is in having multiple firearms. When one runs empty, pick up the next one and start shooting.
- Consider the Columbine High School shooters. This mass killing took place during the 1994 federal ban and they went into that school without a single “high capacity magazine.” They just took turns reloading the large number of “low capacity magazines” they had on hand.
- Can anyone provide any examples of shootings where someone was able to rush the shooter when he paused to reload? I can only find one which was the 2011 Tuscan Shooting where the shooter did indeed have a 33 round magazine. It seems from my research that almost without exception, when someone is firing a gun at other people, those being fired on tend to run or hide… not rush the shooter. I'm not saying you shouldn't rush the shooter. If you're unarmed and that seems like the best way to stop him, it may be your only opportunity. But there are better strategies to stop a madman with a gun than rushing him unarmed.
Law-abiding individuals have no need for a magazine that can hold more than [fill in the blank] rounds.
Another argument that on the surface, may to some make sense. When I'm out in the woods shooting at deer to feed my family, I don't need a 30-something round magazine, right? Here are the holes in this common argument:
- Guns are for more than hunting and target practice. They are for lawful self-defense and, to borrow wording from the Constitution, for the security of a free state. This often requires over 5 or 7 or 10 or 15 rounds.
- Accuracy is low in life-threatening situations. While it may only take a few shots to stop a threat, it might take a large number to hit the threat a few times. Depending on what year and what city's report, police officers only enjoy 17 to 40% accuracy on the streets with their handguns (NY Times 1 2). Considering that most of us don't have the same level of training or experience (or reliable statistical data) as today's law enforcement, we might fare even worse. Limiting the number of shots you can fire dramatically decreases your odds of hitting the target when your accuracy drops because of the pressure.
- Criminals don't always act alone. It is often necessary to have enough ammunition to hold off multiple assailants. Check out this video footage from a home invasion in May 2015 (footage). How many rounds would you need for that? How about the 2015 San Bernardino shootings? Multiple assailants with multiple firearms. How about the Trolley Square SLC shooter in 2007? One officer with his one gun wasn't enough to stop the carnage.
Why We Shouldn't Support This Legislation
To pull the card out of the deck once more, let me remind people that laws only affect law-abiding people. Criminals ignore magazine capacity limitations wherever possible. Even if limiting access to “high capacity” magazine made it difficult for criminals to get them, we have to assume that all magazines would also be taken from existing owners. Wild proposals like that have been scrapped in favor of “grandfathering” in currently owned magazines, because proposals like these are entirely un-enforceable.
As mentioned above, as lawful gun owners, we cannot support any legislation that would cripple our own ability to defend ourselves and our families, and it is clear that reducing the number of rounds we can carry would limit our ability to do so.
While criminals who premeditate crime have an easy time remembering to bring multiple magazines and firearms to the scene, the good guys who respond in self-defense almost never have more ammunition than what is already in the gun.
No matter the arbitrary number, 5, 7, 10, or 15, none of these proposals are viable nor would they limit lethality. After all, what is the correct number to limit the capacity of a magazine to? Because no data exists to show a correlation between the number of rounds in a magazine and lethality, any proposed number is completely arbitrary. Unless we are to say that 11 rounds is exceptionally dangerous, but 10 rounds is not. On its face, this argument is absurd.
If we start with any magazine limitation at all… where will that lead us? Once a law has been passed, it becomes all too easy to change the number or add to the limitations. It becomes a slippery slope. Killings will continue with 10 round magazine limit restrictions in place. So the next step is to limit it to 5. When that doesn't work, the next step is to remove guns from law abiding citizens.
The grandfather clause is an illusion. The majority of proposed laws allow that if you already own said high capacity magazines, you can continue to own them and use them. This is the means to an end. Since the grandfather clause doesn't allow the owner to transfer ownership to another and doesn't allow companies to manufacture or import new magazines, the goal is complete elimination over time.
Again, I want to say, the legislation didn't work last time. All the research said the law had essentially no effect.
Research by John Lott found no impact of these bans on violent crime rates
The study by Christopher S. Koper, Daniel J. Woods, and Jeffrey A. Roth of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania found no statistically significant evidence that either the assault weapons ban or the ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds had reduced gun murders. However, they concluded that it was “premature to make definitive assessments of the ban's impact on gun crime,” and argue that if the ban had been in effect for more than nine years, benefits might have begun to appear.
A 2004 critical review of firearms research by a National Research Council committee said that an academic study of the assault weapon ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes.” The committee noted that the study's authors said the guns were used criminally with relative rarity before the ban and that its maximum potential effect on gun violence outcomes would be very small.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence did find in their research that the percent of firearm related deaths involving the firearms ban decreased. To this I say… duh, of course they decreased if the guns weren't available. But did the total number of gun-related deaths decrease? No. So criminals still killed people with guns, regardless.
States That Currently Have Magazine Capacity Limitations or Bans
States shown in RED have existing bans on magazine capacities. Hawaii's ban is on handguns only and while Virginia doesn't have a ban, they do only allow residents to purchase firearms that have a capacity of over 20 rounds. Also, while the state of Illinois doesn't have a statewide ban, one county and several cities have local bans.