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Gun Violence and Magazine Capacity - Part Two

Certain ideas, if repeated often enough, become memes and take on a veneer of plausibility even though they have never proven effective in reality.

Gun Violence & Magazine Capacity – Part 2

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” 

So wrote the real Thomas Paine 230+ years ago in “Common Sense” and both sides of the “gun control” debate understand this. The gun control lobby knows it has a small window in which to ride the emotional trauma hoping to pass their long-time, agenda driven restrictions. The law-abiding gun owners and shooting community know that as the emotional temperature lowers, the reasonable middle will understand that repeating gun control measures that have not worked in the path is not a logical step forward.

In the following, I continue to look at how a 30-year-old idea, the 10-round magazine capacity threshold between “acceptable” capacity and “evil” or “high capacity”, still haunts our gun control debate. It is a proof of Paine’s point that a thing “wrong”, if thought about long enough, will take on the “superficial appearance of being right.”

Part One examined magazine capacity limits and how they have little impact on the major causes of gun violence, injury or death. Suicide and accidents are, by necessity, single discharge (shot) events. Domestic or other “known shooters” are typically limited to a single or several shots. Criminals and illegal gun owners will ignore such limits. Thus, magazine capacity limits of 5, 7, 10 or 20 will have NO IMPACT on the potential injury or lethality of such gun-involved events.

Which brings us to the lowest statistical contributor to overall gun violence but undoubtedly the most public, visible and heart rending – the rampage shooter. While small in number, the media and public focus on them, especially when the victims are children. Yet, the odds of any person being impact by such random carnage are lower than nearly every other conventional cause of death or injury imaginable, including being hit by a NYC subway train.

As for rampage shootings, let’s all stipulate that the mere availability of magazines erroneously labeled “high capacity” will not deter a criminally insane psychopath from plotting, preparing for and launching a rampage shooting. To think that availability of magazines of a certain capacity will prevent the acts is beyond reason. But thinking so also ignores that devastating attacks have regularly happening under such laws, sometimes with law-compliant equipment.

This REDUCES the arguments for banning and potential forcibly confiscation of “high capacity” to a SINGLE HOPE: possibly limiting the carnage of some future rampage shooting where such magazine COULD be used.

In Part One, I pointed out that swapping magazines takes less than several seconds and that there is no “magical interval” between magazines when potential victims cowering for their lives can either attack the madman or try to escape. If you doubt this assertion see the videos attached.

Let’s also be clear that the current usage of “high capacity magazine” is semantic deception worthy of a Madison Avenue advertising campaign. The use of “high” allows the innocent reader, with little knowledge of guns nor magazines, to think something like “If 10+ or 7+ is “high” then why can’t gun folks get along with “standard” magazines?” But how valid is this statement and how real is its application to the current 2013 state of affairs. 

So, as I ponder how we can make our children and society safer, I can not help but wonder how such an ineffectual “solution” can garner so much support from those who know so little about firearms. I had to go back historically and find the original usage and intent of such a limit.

As best as I can ascertain, the origins of the 10-round threshold can be traced back to California’s Roberti-Roos Assault Weapon Control Act of 1989 (LINK). In the mid-1980s, police in many states and big cities were being out-gunned by political and ethnic gangs, drug dealers, biker gangs and were seeking ways of getting the most devastating weapons off the streets. There was talk of laws to further restrict guns but there did not garner enough support from the general public.

That changed in January 1989 following a tragedy similar to Newtown, the murder to five school children on a playground at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton California in January 1989 (over 30 were wounded). The rampage killer, Patrick Purdy, was a drifter who had a long history of family tragedy, criminal activity, drug abuse and mental health issues. Purdy, someone sympathetic to the Aryan Nation white supremacy group, used a Chinese-made variant of the Russian AK-47, both bought legally under the lax California firearms laws of the day. The emotions of that massacre move public opinion enough to pass Roberti-Roos through the California legislature by only a handful of votes.

Contemporaneous accounts from that time show that the Roberti-Roos act was crafted by political staffers of Democratic officials who had little to no knowledge of firearms, shooting, etc. A discussion by a California law enforcement official involved in the crafting recounts that the crafters had little idea of what they wanted to do and how they could do it. He points out that the 10-round limit was intended to apply to rifles like the AK/SKS/AR and machine pistols like the MAC-10 and TEC-9. What is instructive here is not only the firearms they were targeting, but also those that go without being mentioned, even in passing. That is:

NOWHERE IN THE LEGISLATION OR CONTEMPORANEOUS ACCOUNTS OF THAT TIME SUGGEST THAT THE 10-ROUND THRESHOLD WAS INTENDED TO APPLY TO TRADITIONAL SEMI-AUTOMATIC SELF-DEFENSE HANDGUNS.

In the mid-1980s, the predominant self-defense handguns in the hands of the general public were either revolvers (the cowboy gun or ubiquitous police gun from TV and movies between 1950 and 1980) or 1911-style semi-automatic pistols (the ubiquitous sidearm of every military movie commonly referred to as the “Colt 45”). There were others but these two styles were the dominant handguns. In the case of revolvers, they do not have a removable magazine and their capacities are typically 5, 6 or 7 rounds, depending on caliber. For 1911s, their detachable magazines are the “single stack” variety (bullets load and sit in a straight vertical line) and were usually limited to 7, 8 or 9 rounds, depending on caliber and pistol size.

Thus, in the mid-1980s when the California concept of weapon bans were first discussed, the 10-round threshold would seem to be aimed (pun intended) at the rifles and machine pistols of the day.

Hang on shooters, yes, at that time there was the very popular Browning Hi-Power available from WW2 to today and it did hold 13 rounds of 9mm ammo. And yes, it was impacted by the magazine ban though owners of this pistol were allowed to keep their 13-round “pre-ban” magazines. However, nowhere in any of my reading have a found a single reference to this pistol, nor any other pistol capable of holding 10+ rounds in its pistol grip, discussed as a concern in the drafting of Roberti-Roos.

So, it can be reasonably argued that the 10-round threshold was intended to address certain rifles and machine pistols, not conventional handguns, because the impact would be minimal back in the 1980s.

However, in the subsequent three decades, the nature of handguns has changed dramatically with the introduction of the “double stack” magazine in the 1990s and its huge popularity today. Pistols designed with a double stack magazine have handgrips that are a bit wider than the 1911-style to accommodate a wider magazine. In these magazines, the bullets are staggered off-center increasing the available volume resulting in a larger capacity. Depending on caliber and pistol size (height of handgrip), magazine capacities of some of the most popular handguns today can range from 12 to 17 rounds all contained in the pistol’s grip.

Now, if we take the words at face value, anything that is “high capacity” has a capacity that is somehow greater than what we can call “standard capacity”. But, while in the mid-1980s “standard capacity” was 9 rounds or less, in 2013, “standard capacity” is now 17 rounds or less for most pistols.

Further, “standard” features of things like cars are what they come with from the factory without any embellishment. Add a larger engine, beefier wheels, upgraded sound, etc., and you end up with a “high end” configuration, relatively speaking. Applied to firearms – standard capacity magazine are those for which the firearm was designed. That is, the manufacture designed the model to optimally hold a certain number of rounds and sold that firearm with “standard” magazines. Unlike cars, firearms are usually only available with the standard capacity magazines and anything higher than that has to be purchased separately (yes, I am ignoring ban-compliant lower capacity configurations which are “custom” relative to “standard”).

Rifles are a little more complex when it comes to “standard capacity”. Even though the Stockton school playground massacre was the catalyst for Roberti-Roos, the origins of the effort lies in protecting law enforcement in Los Angeles, Compton, Watts, and other cities with serious crime and gun problems. The 10-round magazine capacity limit was aimed at M16 rifles, various submachine guns and machine pistols (“street sweepers”), the preferred street guns of street criminals. This was an anti-crime effort first and foremost. On the national scene, this effort to support law enforcement became the basis for the federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994, authored and introduced by Diane Feinstein.

Today, most modern sporting rifles of the Armalite Rifle style come “standard” with 30-round magazines, except in jurisdictions where there is a 10-round restriction. Available capacities on such rifles are 5, 10, 20 and 30 rounds or more, and the “or more” is where we have trouble as I will discuss in a moment.

However, given that the detachable magazine of an AR or AK style rifle sticks out of the lower receiver, stating that there is a “standard” is more difficult than with pistols where the handgrip length is a natural limiter.

Thus, if “standard capacity” in pistols is now up to 17 rounds and rifles up to 30 rounds, what is a current definition of “high capacity”. In my opinion, the term “high capacity” is now tainted and carries negative connotations, I suggest we instead adopt “extended” and “massive” capacity.

In handguns, if standard capacity is the number of bullets that fit in a magazine contained within the pistols handgrip, then any magazine that sticks out of the bottom of the butt of the pistol grip should be considered an “extended capacity” magazine. This was the type of magazine used by the shooter of Gabby Giffords in Tucson where he used a 33-round magazine that sticks out of the butt of the pistol. Note, while the press and gun control crowd are prone to claim that the Giffords shooter was tackled while changing magazines, his pistol actually jammed which allowed him to be subdued. It was the malfunction, not the magazine change that allowed a long enough lull to take him down.

So “extended capacity” magazines are those intended to increase the capacity of any pistol beyond its design or standard capacity.

For rifles, sub-machine gun-styles and machine pistols, the concept of “extended capacity” is less clear given the design. Instead of splitting hairs with rifles magazine capacities, I would suggest we introduce the concept of “massive capacity” which for rifles we will say is anything over 30 rounds. Over the years, third-party manufacturers have created all manner magazines in excess of 30 rounds. These include magazines of 40, 50, 90 or even 100 rounds, which, IN MY OPINION, have neither a valid sporting nor home-defense purpose. Some gun folks will argue with me about that but I believe we need to draw a line somewhere.

My flight is on final approach and this has gotten too long as it is so it is time wrap up this post.

My base position is and remains that magazine capacity restrictions of 7, 10 or 30 rounds will have little impact on mitigating all forms of gun violence. The only impact that MIGHT be arguable is reducing the potential carnage of a rampage shooting of innocent and unarmed innocents. However, even in this type situation, the speed of magazine changes makes little impact on that potential rate of fire.

Here is my proposition if we must discuss magazine capacity limitations:

  • Separate the discussion of handgun capacities from rifle, subgun and machine pistol capacities.
  • Center the discussion about handguns maximum capacity to either the design capacity of the pistol (what can fit in the pistol grip) or 18 rounds, whichever is less.
  • As noted, rifles, subguns and machine pistols are more complicated and I would argue that 30 rounds are standard but I could see the rationale for a 10-round limit on such rifles. I might not agree with it but could see that if it separates handguns from the others.

 

About to land at JFK so signing off for now. Reasonable and respectful comments are welcome.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jlo January 28, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Good points as always TP. I agree that we have no need for 100 round drums, and 30 round handgun magazines that protrude 6" below the grip. I would support limiting capacity for rifles to 30 rounds and capacity on handguns to 15 or 20 and think that is a reasonable and defensible middle ground. The problem I have with 7 or 10 round limits is that they would make no difference in the case of a mass shooter attacking a bunch of unarmed folks, but they could make a huge difference in the case of an armed citizen having to defend him or herself from other armed attackers. If someone breaks into my home at 3am I don't want to be worrying about having only 7 bullets to protect myself.
Thomas Paine January 31, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Agreed so how can we get the elected officials in Hartford to change the paradigm and look at a two-track path on magazine capacity?
Thomas Paine March 02, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Need evidence of the futility of mag limit laws, consider the following. A demonstration conducted under the supervision Sheriff Ken Campbell of Boone County, Indiana, shows that magazine limitations have little or no real effect on a shooter’s ability to deliver fast aimed fire. In the video, Sheriff Campbell says, “One of the reasons that magazine restrictions are being proposed is the perception that if the active shooter has fewer bullets in magazines, he will have to reload sooner and this will create an opportunity for someone to tackle him during the reload.” In the demonstrations, that notion is proven to be FALSE. Under the Sheriff’s supervision, two shooters—an experienced male shooter & a novice female shooter— repeatedly fire 30-shot strings at three targets, using 15-, 10- and 6-round magazines, all in under 30 seconds. The male demonstrator fired 30 rounds from a pistol, first with two 15-round mags, in 20.6 secs. Then he fired three 10-rounders in 18.0 secs and five 6-round magazines in 21.4 secs. The woman fired the same magazine sequence, emptying two 15-round magazines in 22.9 seconds. She then fired three 10-rounders in 25.5 secs and five 6-round magazines in 26.9 secs. In addition, the man then fires 20 rounds from an AR-15 rifle using a single magazine, in 12.2 secs. He then fired 20 rounds using two 10-round magazines in less time, 10.73 secs. Interesting! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2Upjn5DR0o&feature=player_embedded
Cliff Cuming March 02, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Will the pols in Hartford and DC take the time and make the effort to become informed before passing laws. Albany obviously failed to do so.
Thomas Paine March 02, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Adam - I am of two thoughts on this. The first is that the Dem majority does not care about facts and efficacy and wants to pass an onerously restrictive gun bill because they have a triple super-majority in Hartford and that is what their ideology and base demands. That Malloy has presidential ambitions and does not want to be out-gun-controlled by Cuomo, another 2016 hopeful. I believe that is how they entered this process certain they could excute CAGV's wish list in full. But then reality set in and legislators started to hear from the people. That 1,100+ gun-rights supporters showed up the day of the Gun Violence Task Force hearings (outnumbering the gun control advocates by 10:1) took many Dems by surprise. That the arguments laid out by those folks were both fact-based and compelling, pointing out the lack of efficacy of such laws was not lost on those listening. That the Hartford pols have seen the 15% popularity hit Cuomo took and have seen other polls and realize there is a political cost to onerous restrictions. And then there was a judges threat of injunction last week in neighboring NYS that threatens the entire NY SAFE Act which the Dems want to emulate. And lastly, there is the issue of federal law because the Hartford folks said they would take guidance from whatever the Feds did in the wake of Newtown and that now appears to be nothing on AWs and magazines (so say Blumenthal and Murphy).
Thomas Paine March 02, 2013 at 11:37 PM
So, the second is that so much education is going on that the actual firearms language of in the omnibus bill may be a problem. I believe the Dems do not want to pass an omnibus bill strictly on party lines and were seeking something approaching a compromise. I also think they do not want to produce a bill that stands a high risk of being overturned based on a state or federal constitutional challenge. Unlike NY, Connecticut has a state right to bear arms for self-defense and that makes it easier to be challenged. The SCotUS Heller decision and the "in common use" language makes it problematic to ban rifles or mags that are owned in the tens or hundreds of thousands across CT. all these things are why I thing the mid-February target came and went other nothing from Hartford. Thus, I think Malloy stepped up with his own proposal because his moles on the GV Task Force were telling him he was not going to get his Cuomo-worthy bill causing Dannel to throw a tantrum. The Gov felt the emotions giving way to reason Ad his oment to score national points slipping away. I could be wrong on this but I something is going on in Hartford. Maybe the firearms restrictions are written and they are stuck on the mental health issues? I don't know but I DO believe that our elected officials are more educated now than they were three months ago, I just don't know if it will make a difference.
Connecticut15 March 03, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Beg to differ on who is smart and who is dumb...too many examples to the contrary of your assertions, AZ
Minnitoka March 03, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Well... if banning the larger magazines doesn't make a difference, then the only other option is to ban the guns all together. Why do we pussy foot around with this, getting caught up in semantics of bullet cartridge sizes. Just ban guns altogether. Be done with this. The gun lovers blew it. They wanted it all. They wanted their guns with no restriction ever for anyone. It backfired. Now it's time for the pendulum to swing back the other way. Ban all guns. If there is one thing I'm convinced of after reading all these posts for the last few months, my worst fears about gun lovers are true. I think they are exactly the kind of people who should not have guns.
Thomas Paine March 04, 2013 at 01:05 AM
Another first-time commenter to be ignored. But just one question Minnitoka, how are you going to get the guns away from the criminals, you know, the ones responsible for 85% of the gun injuries and death? If they own the guns in an illegal way now and the police don't take them under current law, why would new laws make a difference to criminals? Sad that you fear law-abiding gun owners more than you fear criminals. Good luck with that life view.
gerald frank March 04, 2013 at 02:22 AM
please undrstand If a mob comes at me I need the 30 /round clip... remember that the cops said they did not have the fire power to match the criminals. we the poeple should and do have the right to protect or homes.
gerald frank March 04, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Four days of rioting throughout the sprawling city left 55 people dead, more than 2,000 injured and property damage totaling $1 billion. Entire blocks of the city were reduced to cinders by fires the rioters had set. Gates came under intense criticism from the mayor, fire chief and others who said his officers were slow to respond to the violence. Mayor Tom Bradley said Gates had “brought Los Angeles to the brink of disaster just to satisfy his own ego.” Gates shrugged off the criticism, calling his department’s response to the riots “beautiful” and blaming underlings for what errors he did acknowledge. An investigative panel later faulted him for failing to properly prepare the department for such trouble. so when the cops do not show up what are we to do?
Donald Borsch Jr. March 04, 2013 at 04:26 AM
Thomas, You seem to have upset AZ. Shame on you, sir. Please make amends and give yourself a frontal lobotomy so you can join the think-tank anti-gun brigade of trolls who pollute Patch.com and vandalize The Constitution for lack of knowledge.
Cliff Cuming March 04, 2013 at 11:13 AM
If there were extreme civic unrest, do you think cops will hang around to protect your family or go home to protect their own families?
Thomas Paine March 04, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Adam - Another fact of modern life, at least in upscale communities, is that the cops are no longer residents of the communities and some commute many miles to work. In Greenwich, less than 20% of the GPD force lives in Greenwich or Stamford, some live outside of Fairfield County or in upper Westchester. Things may be different in Wilton or Darien or Westport but the days are gone when most of the local constabulary were your neighbors. Which gets to your point, cops will not hang around if the situation leaves their families at risk. We saw that in Katrina where some of the cops actually went rogue and looted, but I think that the exception. I have spoken to my LEO friends about this and they were all unequivocal, family first. One went as far as to say that his service Glock, his patrol car weapon (ironically, a Colt LE6920 "AR-15") and his active shooter response kit (ie 4 30-round AR mags, 4 15- round Glock mags, blow-out kit) would all go home with him. What could lead to mass "blue flu" or outright desertion? Something that leads to civil unrest, lawlessness and looting. Without getting into doomsday scenarios, the most likely though improbable would be something that causes power to got out for weeks in a wide ranging area. A hacking of the grid, nuclear plant mishap, massive solar Carrington Effect or an EMP attack. Think the Sandy power outages spread over the entire Eastern seaboard for three or more weeks. Read "One Second After" is you want a taste.

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