As we talk about a new ban on large-capacity magazines, let’s consider the history. Back during the 1994-2004 “assault weapons ban,” Congress never banned large-capacity magazines. It banned their manufacture and import. If you had one, you were as free as can be to use it and even sell it. Between the time Congress passed the law and the day the law went into effect — and even during the debate over it — manufacturers cranked them out by the gazillion to get them grandfathered in. It’s entirely possible that the “ban” put more large-capacity magazines on the street than would have been there without the ban.
We could increase the penalties for using a high-capacity magazine in a crime, I suppose, but if someone is out to commit murder, a law like that isn’t going to dissuade him.
Look at the crime stats for the ten years of the so-called “assault rifle ban” and you find no change in the percentage of killings or assaults committed with rifles v. handguns. That’s the practical problem: a new “ban” wouldn’t do anything to reduce violence or save lives.
What you would create is a gigantic political problem that the Democrats don’t need right now. High-capacity magazines aren’t just for mass-murderers. “Practical shooting” is a pretty big sport — people running through a kind of course shooting at targets against the clock. They use big magazines to save time. Well, that’s a small constituency, you could say. But another attempt to ban these things will be well covered by the gun press and the gun bloggers, and all gun guys are going to feel dissed and abused, whether they engage in practical shooting or not.
If such a ban would actually do some good — i.e. save some lives — we could argue about whether it’s worth taking some heat from the gun guys over it. But politics is a cost-benefit analysis: What are you going to get vs. what you’re going to lose. In this case, Progressives have a tremendous amount to lose, and almost nothing to gain.
What the talk of a new large-magazine ban sounds like to the gun people is the liberals desperately looking for a way to use this disaster to trim back gun rights a little. It reinforces the toxic narrative that the Democrats are the enemy of regular guys.
Again, we aren’t going to gain anything by such a new law. But we’re sure going to lose a lot.
[Dan Baum is a respected author and TTAG commentator. Please visit his website www.ourgunthing.com so that we can convince him to cross-post here regularly.]