Question of the Day: Do Magazine Capacity Limits Limit Lethality?


People who preach “common sense gun control” argue that limiting ammunition magazine capacity limits a killers’ ability to kill. Ipso facto. Notice I didn’t say “murder.” As John Grisham might say, there’s a time to kill. OK, “stop the threat.” When you or other innocent life are in imminent, credible danger of death or bodily harm you probably don’t want your lethality limited by a capacity-limited ammunition magazine. As the rabbi says, “no one ever finished a gunfight wishing he had less bullets.” As Nick would say, where’s the data? There isn’t any. Well, there is some . . .

Here’s an email from Greg, one of our readers:

“I’ve had a train of thought that the magazine capacity of the weapons used in a mass shooting makes little/no difference in the actual lethality of the event. While I’m no statistician, I started to use open source information to determine how long these maniacs are actively shooting, the number of shots fired and the overall lethality of the shots.

The events I looked into: Columbine, VT, the Wisconsin Sikh Temple, Giffords, Aurora and Sandy Hook. The data is quite interesting and opens up a substantial line of argument against high capacity magazine bans.

Average Time a Shooter is Active: 10.3 Minutes
Average Total Shots Fired: 89.8
Shooting Tempo: 8.7 Rounds/Min
Wound to Kill Ratio: 1 : 2.86

Given that anyone, with minimal practice, can do a magazine change in roughly three seconds, the data indicates that magazine capacity actually has almost no impact on the overall lethality of an active shooter.

Other data points bolster the case; the wounded : killed ratio is far higher than defensive shootings or police shootings, indicative of the fact that active shooters are not rushed and are (unfortunately) in complete control of the situation.

With the exception of the Giffords shooting (which is an exceptional case for a number of reasons, more of an open air political assassination than a typical mass shooting), the ONLY thing that has ever stopped a mass shooter is armed confrontation (more accurately, the notion that armed confrontation is close by).”

If our Sandy Hook Elementary School simulation goes well, we’ll tackle this question in another round of experiments. Meanwhile, what do you think? Do you think a “high cap mag” ban would have any effect on lethality? The bad guys’ or yours?