HR 308: Yet another bad idea

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D- NY) has introduced HR 308 also known as the “Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act”.

The current text of the proposed bill can be read at govtrack.us.

What is wrong with people? Do these politicians live in a fantasy world? There is no law that would have prevented the recent shooting in Arizona. The perpetrator in this shooting was already breaking our society’s strongest taboo; the killing of another human. Multiple times.

Do you really believe that the possibility of an additional 10 years in prison and a fine will prevent someone from committing a crime that potentially already carries either the death penalty or multiple life sentences? I would submit to you that it will not.

But I’ll tell you what it will do; it will create a lucrative black market for these magazines, it will make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens, and it will be an inconvenience for many other law abiding citizens.

How do I know this? We’ve already had a national ban on these magazines. From 1994-2004 under the “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act” (now that was a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one), the sale or purchase of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds was illegal across the country. Once that ban was lifted, these banned magazines were purchased by the millions.

So we now have millions more of them already in the hands of citizens than we had in 1994, which will not magically disappear once the new ban goes into effect. What happened last time we tried this? The price of these magazines went from approximately $20 each to upwards of $120 each. And that was for legal to transfer magazines. The new ban would prohibit the transfer of these magazines, so we can assume that the cost to obtain one will increase significantly (because now the seller is facing a 10 year prison sentence for the act of selling legally owned property).

But that will not stop the very lucrative black market for these items that will pop up virtually overnight (much as the war on drugs has not had any effect on the ability to obtain them).

But ok, let’s go one step further and assume that none of the millions of existing standard capacity magazines will ever change hands, and no one will ever illegally import more into the country. Let’s look at how this would have effected some of the other spree shootings recently.

Columbine

The proponents of gun control legislation (or victim disarmament, either term is 100% valid) love to trot this one out every time they want to find a new way to further infringe on gun owner’s rights. Here is what wikipedia has to say about the firearms used in the Columbine shooting:

In the months prior to the attacks, Harris and Klebold acquired two 9 mm firearms and two 12-gauge shotguns. A rifle and the two shotguns were bought by a friend, Robyn Anderson, at the Tanner Gun Show in December, 1998.[18] Harris and Klebold later bought a handgun from another friend, Mark Manes, for $500. Manes was jailed after the massacre for selling a handgun to a minor,[19] as was Philip Duran, who had introduced the duo to Manes.[20]

With instructions from the Internet, they also built 99 improvised explosive devices of various designs and sizes. They also sawed the barrels and butts off their shotguns in order to make them easier to conceal.[4] The two perpetrators committed numerous felony violations of state and federal law, including the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968, even before the massacre began.

During the shootings, Harris carried a 12 gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-actionshotgun (serial no. A232432) and a Hi-Point 995 Carbine9 mmsemi-automatic rifle with thirteen 10-round magazines, fired 96 times. Harris’s other weapon, the shotgun, was fired a total of 25 times. Harris committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with his shotgun.

Klebold carried a 9 mmIntratecTEC-9semi-automatic handgun manufactured by Navegar, Inc. with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine. He also carried a 12 gauge Stevens 311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun (serial no. A077513). Klebold’s primary weapon was the TEC-9 handgun, which was fired a total of 55 times. Klebold would later commit suicide via a shot to the left temple with the TEC-9.

So, seeing as how at that time we already had the 1994 “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act” preventing the sale of new high capacity magazines, the shooters bought the “Large Capacity” magazines that they could obtain, and then supplemented with 13 ten round capacity magazines. Hmm, now a logical conclusion is that since they could not get “Large Capacity” magazines, they just brought more.

The article goes on to state that Harris fired that 9mm rifle 96 times, using 10 of the 13 magazines (those were all 10 round reduced capacity magazines). Klebold on the other hand, had three “Large Capacity” Magazines for his TEC-9, and fired it only 55 times. Making the assumption that he started with the largest capacity magazine that he posessed, he only used two magazines (unless he only used a portion of the rounds in each magazine which does not make sense), yet he fired 41 fewer rounds than Harris did, who was using the reduced capacity 10 round magazines.

This should clearly demonstrate that terrible crimes will happen with or without “Large Capacity” magazines, and that when the perpetrators cannot obtain “Large Capacity” magazines, they will just bring more of the 10 round reduced capacity magazines that they can obtain.

Virginia Tech

This one was more recent, occurring after the 1994 AWB had sunset in 2004, and it was once again legal to purchase magazines with a greater than 10 round capacity. I have not been able to find a detailed report of the magazine capacity used in this shooting other than that Cho had purchased at least five 10 round .22 magazines, there were 17 expended magazines found at the scene, and he fired approximately 174 rounds. Since we know that 50 of those were .22 (five 10 round magazines), that leaves approximately 124 rounds of 9mm divided among 12 magazines. If he had used only 15 round standard capacity magazines he would only have needed 9 magazines (not the 12 that he used) so clearly at least some of those magazines were 10 round capacity magazines.

I’ve seen claims that only two of the 9mm magazines were of a greater capacity than 10, and this would make sense (starting with 124 total rounds; 2x 15 rounds = 30 rounds, 10x 10 rounds = 100, for a total of 130 rounds in 12 magazines, leaving 6 rounds in one magazine unfired), but I cannot verify that as fact, however it is clear that some of those magazines were 10 round magazines.

So logically it seems sound to deduce that a ban on magazines would not have prevented this crime or reduced the number of rounds fired, at best it would have induced Cho to carry one more magazine.

Conclusion

Banning (again) “Large Capacity” magazines will not stop anyone from going on a shooting spree, clearly it will just force them to buy more magazines.

One of the common reasons I hear being given for limiting capacity to 10 rounds is that in cases like those mentioned above, it will take time to reload, and someone can tackle the gunman during the reload. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it is just not gonna happen (in the recent Tuscon shooting, one of the shooter’s magazines jammed, and that is when people were able to wrestle the gun away from him).

Someone who has even moderate familiarity with firearms can change a magazine in about 2 seconds (there are plenty of examples of this on youtube), and a skilled shooter can do it considerably faster. Couple that with the natural inclination to run away from shooting rather than towards it, and you see where this becomes a fallacy. First you must recognize that the shooter is changing magazines, lets say you are super human and your OODA loop (the process of Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action that is widely recognized as the process you must complete in a fight) only takes 0.5 seconds. You’re now down to 1.5 seconds before that shooter becomes active again. How far can you travel after making a 180 degree turn at speed in 1.5 seconds? 10 feet? 20 feet if you’re really fast?

And how close will you be to someone that just spent at least 3 seconds emptying a 10 round magazine, when you started running away at the first shot or two? Fight or Flight. Those are the two options, and there are very few civilians whose natural reaction to the sound of gunfire is Fight. That response is one that needs to be trained. The simple facts are that unless you are Law Enforcement, Military, or a CCW holder that has put in the training, your likely response is going to be Flight.

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