Debate Club

High-Capacity Magazines Are Needed for Self-Defense


In the wake of despair surrounding an evil act in Newtown by an ill person, some ask that we ban high capacity magazines. There are three serious issues with such proposals: definitional, practical, and constitutional.

Most gun owners don't strongly oppose banning actual high-capacity magazines, but that distinction lies in a very different place from current proposals. For rifles, a limitation on actual high-capacity magazines would be for those with more than 30 rounds and for handguns it would be somewhere north of 17 rounds . The most popular rifle in America, the AR-15, has come standard from the factory with 30 round magazines since it was introduced in 1963. One of the most popular handguns in America, the Glock-17, comes from the factory with a 17 round magazine. If legislators wanted to restrict 30 round magazines for handguns (which are primarily used for target practice) then there would be little resistance.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

However, the limits proposed are a more arbitrary 10 rounds and that limit faces two practical realities. First, the 10-round limit assumes that one is only defending against a single attacker. Last week a mother in Loganville, Ga. hid in an attic with her children to escape a home invader. Undaunted, the criminal came after them. She emptied all six rounds of her revolver, hitting him five times. He ran out of the house, drove a distance, crashed, and finally collapsed in a nearby driveway; police then transported him to a hospital for recovery. In the real world, one handgun round does not stop people like it does in the movies. This mother is very lucky she only faced one bad guy, and that being shot five times was enough for him to decide to leave her alone while he was still a threat to her and her children.

Second, a restriction to 10 rounds would have done nothing at Sandy Hook. The evil person shot almost 80 rounds, implying he had at least three standard AR-15 magazines. It takes the unskilled about 3 seconds to change a magazine. How is it that two magazine changes were not enough to stop the violence but seven would be? Breaking news underscores this reality as the Hartford Courant reported Sunday that the killer made many more than two magazine changes, leaving 15 rounds in discarded magazines. These magazine changes didn't stop the tragedy of the unarmed facing an armed lunatic. It took 20 minutes for police armed with AR-15s and 30 round magazines to arrive to end the violence.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Newtown shooting.]

Finally, a restriction on extremely common arms in regular use by lawful citizens is the definition of an infringement of the constitutional right to arms. Citizens own about a billion magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and the majority of widely owned firearms come standard from the factory with more than 10 round magazines. It is telling that law enforcement is excluded from these proposed restrictions. We don't issue 17 or 30 round magazines to our police to murder. If those larger magazines have no value for self-defense, wouldn't we prohibit them for law enforcement too?

Gene Hoffman

About Gene Hoffman Chairman of the Calguns Foundation

gun control and gun rights

Other Arguments

2,308 Pts
Infringing on Second Amendment Threatens Our Safety and Liberty

No – Infringing on Second Amendment Threatens Our Safety and Liberty

Erich Pratt Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America

-2,021 Pts
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy: Banning High-Capacity Magazines Will Save Lives
-2,021 Pts
High-Capacity Magazines Put the 'Mass' in Mass Shooting

Yes – High-Capacity Magazines Put the 'Mass' in Mass Shooting

Josh Sugarmann Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center

-2,029 Pts
Mass Shootings Have High-Capacity Magazines in Common

Yes – Mass Shootings Have High-Capacity Magazines in Common

Joshua Horwitz Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

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