In the aftermath of the Safeway Massacre, gun control advocates are making sure that they’re not wasting a good crisis. That’s assuming (as I don’t) that Jared Lee Loughner’s spree killing represents a systemic failure of American or Arizona gun laws. While the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence was first out of the gate—being the mainstream media’s go-to gun control group—Carolyn McCarthy is on the case. According to Politico, the New York Democratic Congresswoman has promised to introduce legislation targeting “high-capacity ammunition.” Uh, that would be “high-capacity magazines,” which hold ammunition. Let’s clear some of this up right now . . .

What is a magazine?

A magazine is a device that holds firearms cartridges (each of which contains a bullet, primer and powder). Semi-automatic firearms (one bullet per finger squeeze) and fully-automatic guns (continuous fire while the trigger is depressed) use magazines.

Revolvers don’t have magazines; the bullets fit into slots in a revolving cylinder called chambers. All semi-automatic handguns use magazines.

The number of bullets in a magazine depends on three factors: the size of the bullet, the design of the gun and the design of the magazine.

What is a high-capacity magazine?

Firearms enthusiasts use the term “high-capacity magazine” or “high-cap mag” as they see fit. Generally, they’re referring to magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges/bullets, or magazines that hold more than the magazine originally supplied by the manufacturer with the gun. Some states and municipalities have established a legal definition for the term. See below.

What are the current laws regarding high-capacity magazines?

Eight states have laws regarding high-capacity magazines. Either the state or municipal governments within the state prohibit the sale of magazines that hold more than a specified number of cartridges/bullets. There are a few caveats; some states allow older high-capacity magazines and some of the laws are gun and caliber (bullet size) specific. Here’s the basic breakdown [via handgunlaw.us]:

California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oak Park, Illinois – 10 cartridge limit
Chicago, Illinois – 12
New Jersey, Aurora, Illinois; – 15
Franklin Park, Illinois – 16
Maryland – 20
Denver, Colorado: – 21
Riverdale, Illinois – 35

What magazines did Jared Lee Loughner Use?

Jared Lee Loughner used a Glock 19 semi-automatic handgun that fires 9 mm bullets. It comes equipped with a 15-round magazine—what the company calls a “standard” magazine. Glock sells what they describe as “optional” magazines for the Glock 19 that hold 17, 19 or 33 bullets. Other manufactures offer extensions to existing magazines or large magazines that hold other amounts of bullets.

Loughner’s gun was equipped with a non-Glock magazine that held 30 bullets. He had another 30-round magazine ready to go and two more 15-round magazines on his person. As above, none of them were illegal.

Would there have been fewer casualties if Loughner had used a lower-capacity magazine?

Loughner shot 31 bullets (the “extra” bullet was stored in the gun’s chamber). He hit 18 people at least once.

It takes around seven seconds to empty a Glock 19’s magazine, firing as quickly as possible. Reports say that Loughner was shooting for around 15 seconds. That sounds about right for someone shooting more or less “indiscriminately” (i.e. not taking the time to carefully aim each shot).

If he’d started shooting with a 15-round magazine, Loughner would have been forced to reload to fire 31 shots. To do that, he would have had to drop the empty magazine (using a release button on the side of the gun) and insert a new magazine.

The amount of time it takes to replace an empty magazine with a full magazine depends on the availability and placement of spare magazines, and the shooter’s skill, training and “grace” under pressure. A well-trained, well-prepared shooter can swap magazines in one to two seconds.

That said, changing magazines is not a sure thing; shooters can make mistakes during this seemingly simple process. Swapping magazines also creates a pause—however momentary—that allows a counterattack. As it did in Loughner’s case.

In short, in all likelihood Loughner would have shot fewer people had he attacked the crowd with a Glock equipped with a standard-capacity (15-round) magazine.

Would banning high-capacity magazines reduce lethality, generally?

There’s no way to tell. There’s no data showing that shootings in states that ban high-capacity magazines are any more or less deadly than shootings in states that allow high-capacity magazines.

There’s also no statistical information on the availability of prohibited high-capacity magazines in states or municipalities that ban them. Except for Hawaii, all of the states and towns where the magazines are not allowed border on states or towns that allow high-capacity magazines (e.g. Massachusetts and Rhode Island).

Why not ban high-capacity magazines?

Most [legal] gun owners don’t carry spare ammunition. With a high-capacity magazine, they can carry more bullets in their gun that they would otherwise. A high-capacity magazine also lets a [legal] gun owner shoot more bullets before reloading.

The same characteristics that made Loughner’s gun more lethal to his victims would aid a lawful owner defending his or her life.

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52 Responses to NY Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and The Truth About High Capacity Magazines

  1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but magazines hold cartridges. Bullets and cartridges are not the same thing. But you know that.

  2. I can’t comment on the jurisdictions outside of Massachusetts, but in the Commonwealth a LTC-A (license to carry, class A, unrestricted) holder may possess and use “high-capacity feeding devices” (pistol or rifle magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds) if they were manufactured, and were in the Commonwealth, prior to September 13, 1994. There are plenty of legal hi-cap mags available from dealers. Different and more lenient rules apply to internal (non-removable) tubular magazines on .22 cal. semiautomatic rifles.

  3. So where did Rep. McCarthy refer to “high capacity amunition? Your cite indicates she referred to “high capacity ammunition clips” which is perfectly acceptable and accurate jargon.

    You also neglect the fact that such magazine sizes were illegal until about 5 years ago.

    • Pistols use magazines, and “clips” are not proper terminology. It is neither acceptable nor accurate.

      High capacity magazines were NOT illegal until about 5 years ago. They were legal for as long as this country has been a country up until about 15 years ago when possession of new large capacity magazines by ordinary citizens (not LE) were banned in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Existing magazines remained legal. The ban was designed to sunset after 10 years which it did as it was totally ineffective against stopping crime. The ban, even if still in force would not have stopped this wacko, nor would have any law.

      • Nope, I’m right. It’s perfectly acceptable terminology. And as you note, indavertently, I’m correct such clips were illegal until aboutt 5 years ago.

        • Using the word “clip” is a sign of ignorance. Just because lots of people are ignorant does not make it acceptable.

          No, the 33-round magazines were NEVER banned. What was temporarily banned was possession of new ones. Those already in existence were never banned and always legal, but don’t let facts stand in your way.

        • It’s a distinction sans difference. The common usage of the terminology is interchangeable but you just need something to quibble about to deflect attention away from the fact of your shared culpability for Tucson.

          And I reamin correct about the larger clips.

        • Chastising others for using the word clip and not Magazine, is a sign of arrogance. I know the difference as most shooters do, but it basically means the same thing as they accomplish the same task. Don’t be so anal and so quick to play the “I know something you don’t know, so I am better than you” game. It is just childish.

        • PS. While we’re at it, why don’t we just limit car’s speed limits or possible rate of acceleration, I mean, if a car can’t accelerate from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds they wouldn’t be able to run over as many people right? (sarcasm)

        • For clarity: A “clip” is used to insert ammunition into a “magazine” (or “cylinder” in the case of a revolver) designed to receive it. It appears popular misuse came about because of returning soldiers using the term after using the M1 Garand, which used an en bloc clip. My father hated his because the enemy could listen for the pop and ring of the clip ejecting with the firing of the last round.

          As for “banned” ownership of high-capacity magazines, I have owned a 50 round drum magazine since 1981, and every year shot I-don’t-know-how-many hundred rounds fed from it on a range with a former neighbor who’s a (now retired) state police detective.

        • The only weapons that use “clips” are old school battle rifles like the m1 Garand, which uses an enbloc “clip” and has a “magazine” integrated internally.

          The term “clip” when used by a person to refer to a hand gun magazine is an indicator that they are ignorant of guns and anything they know about them comes from movies and video games.

          Clips are very different from Magazines.

          http://www.reoiv.com/images/random/clipmag.jpg

    • “High capacity ammunition clips” may be ‘acceptable’, but isn’t accurate, since a clip and a magazine are not the same thing.

      Most firearms have magazines, whether they are detachable or not. A clip is generally used to hold ammunition to be loaded into a magazine.

      • Jade, yes, its true that many people use the terms interchangeably, but that does not make it right. Calling a magazine a clip is wrong. If you insist on commenting on technical issues, you must use proper terminology. [edited for flames]

  4. They are right about the ‘magazine’- clip is better suited to describe how you load cartridges into an M1 Garand. But we all know what ‘they’ are trying to get at…

  5. JadeGold: You are misinformed on the topic.

    Sale of “high capacity” magazines defined as holding more than 10 rounds were illegal to sell to civilians from 1994-2004. They were still manufactured and sold to the military and police. Only high capacity magazines manufactured after 1994 were illegal to sell to civilians.

    Those exact same “high capacity” magazines owned by civilians prior to 1994 were still legal to sell and buy during the period between 1994 and 2004. Thus I could buy a 30 round magazine during the ban so long as it was manufactured BEFORE 1994.

    Many of the states that still have this ban on the books still allow for the purchase, sale, and possession of magazines holding 10+ rounds so long as they were manufactured BEFORE 1994.

    You are wrong.

    • “…as with nearly all other semi-automatic handguns…”

      Revolvers, of course, use cylinders, which can be set up to use moon clips.

  6. JadeGold, you are wrong about standard capacity magazines being “illegal until five years ago.”

    The so-called 1994 Assault Weapons Ban banned the sale of standard capacity magazines manufactured after the ban’s passage to civilians.

    Standard capacity magazines manufactured before the ban were plentiful during the entirety of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Not cheap, but plentiful.

    I know, because during the ban, I personally bought (counting on fingers, now toes) at least 45 such magazines for a variety of firearms.

    I bought every single one of those magazines legally, and mostly through mail-order retailers. Even Glock magazines of more than 10-round capacity were quite plentiful during that time.

    Sorry, but on this one, you are incorrect.

    Roy Hill

  7. Jade thinks that gun owners share culpability for Tucson. WRONG AGAIN. The ONLY person culpable is the killer, but liberals never place blame on the actors and must find outside influences instead of taking responsibly upon themselves. Personal responsibility and liberals are like oil and water.

    • I openly call myself a liberal. I also refer to myself as a progressive. I also have a concealed firearm permit issued by the sheriff of my county. I often choose to carry, and consider it a tremendous personal responsibility. I have chosen not to carry when depressed by the passing of a loved one, or when adujusting to sudden sensio-neuro hearing loss. I considered it the responsible thing to do. JadeGold is obstinate and a pot-stirrer. To color all liberals with the same brush can be as annoying as his tactics. The killer is culpable, but there are may others who may have influenced him, and I would be delighted to see legal action aginst those people. I refer to the hate mongers and rhetoriticians that populate the cable news world, and in some cases, politics. In my state we had a serious senatorial challenger who spoke of “second amendment remedies.” If some of the folks that make a very nice living out of inciting the incitable were held financially liable, I would call that justice.

        • But I am. I don’t think of liberal as a pejorative term. I associate it with tolerance. The element of tolerance evident in this blog is what makes it attractive to me. Tolerance, however, does not absolve personal responsibility.

        • Wouldn’t a liberal support the First Amendment? Our courts have held since the dawn of the Constitution that unpopular speech, controversial speech, is the speech that requires the most protection. And would it matter to a liberal that the shooter was a drug-using leftist? No offense, but he was.

        • I absolutely support the Firt Amendment. It doesn’t mean that you may not face consequences for what you say. Everyone does, whether it is at work, or in a mariage, or in a relationship with one of your children, or a friend. You may say anything you like. It may come back to haunt you.

  8. Rabbi, while I disagree with Rep. McCarthy, I cut her a lot of slack. Having one’s husband murdered, and son paralyzed, by a gunman is powerful beyond what we who haven’t experienced such can understand.

    • Were she a private citizen, I would cut her all the slack available. As a representative of the people, she is entitled to none.

      • I agree what happened to Rep, McCarty’s family is terrible, but that does not give her, or anyone, the right to stop me from protecting my family from the same fate.

  9. This argument about “clip” vs. “magazine” is nonsense. Let’s address the point. The gun, with a 30 bullet magazine, is far more dangerous than it would be ordinarily, especially in the hands of a nut. Clearly, he wasn’t so proficient at changing the magazine and his running out of bullets was the opportunity for those in the crowd to overpower him. It is not disputable that, had he possessed a smaller magazine, he could not have killed so many people. What we must do as a country is weigh the pros and cons of such high capacity magazines, taking into account the way all this hateful rhetoric affects a nut. As an aside, my 9mm is extremely heavy with a 14 bullet magazine. I can’t imagine how heavy that monster was with a 30 bullet magazine.

    • “What we must do as a country is weigh the pros and cons of such high capacity magazines”

      NO, we must NOT. Limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens does not effect crime in ANY way. If the lunatic thought that he could not reload, instead of a large mag, maybe he would just bring two guns. What would you do then, restrict the carry of two guns?

      You can not restrict violence by legislation.

    • First sensible comment I’ve seen.

      Let’s weigh the pros and cons of a 30 round clip.

      Con: Ability of lunatic, criminal, substance abusing terrorist to mow down lots of people.

      Pro: Ability to mow down hordes of zombies without reloading ala “Night of the Living Dead.”

      Hmmm…this is tough.

      • What is a 30-round clip?

        Several states ban 30-round magazines and it has not reduced crime. Maybe adding another state will do it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    • This argument about “clip” vs. “magazine” is nonsense.

      Except it is not.

      Words have meanings, and if a person is too ignorant on a topic to use the appropriate words, or too emotionally invested in the topic to avoid maliciously misusing the words in question, they are probably not the kinds of people who should be making laws about the topic.

      Regarding the rest of your comment, the shooter killed six people – it is highly “disputable” that he could have killed that many people with a 15-round magazine, or even a 10-round magazine. So should the maximum number of rounds a law-abiding citizen be permitted to carry in his or her firearm be dictated by the highest number of fatalities at the most-recent mass shooting?

      The Assault Weapon Ban, with all of its various limitations on firearm ownership, produced no discernable affect on the crime rates in America, as even admitted by the administration that passed it – what is different now?

  10. Joe is 100 percent about the “clips” vs “magazines” Jadegold is wrong as usual because she has very little knowledge about ANYTHING to do with firearms or magazines.

  11. Dawn, a 30 “bullet” magazine or any magazine holding only “bullets” won’t work in any firearm. Now I’ll explain why. A “bullet” is only a projectile that must be contained in some sort of case{usualy brass or steel etc.) Now you take this “case ” and add some “gun powder and a primer” and then you will have a “cartridge”. Let’s review this:1) you need a bullet (also know as a projectile) 2) then you need the case that holds the bullet and gun powder and primer. 3) when you combine the bullet with the case that contains gun powder and a primer then you have a “cartridge” These”cartridges” can now be inserted into a “magazine” (not a clip). So what have we learned here? Well your magazine full of “bullets” is useless because a bullet is only a projectile and is useless by itself (unless you would like to throw it a someone LOL.) Now both you and jadegold need to learn about how firearms really work and then come back.

  12. Banning high capacity magazines does nothing. Giffords was shot once to the head by a crazed lunatic. This means he could have theoretically had no magazine in the gun.

    This piece of crap is no better than a suicide bomber. He just happened to use a gun.

    Also, remember that Rep Giffords was pro second amendment and would more than likely have voted against a ban on high capacity magazines.

  13. Suggesting that gun owners are culpable for any crime involving firearms is like saying people who own cars (you don’t have to drive it, just merely owning it will do, apparently) are culpable for crimes committed with a vehicle (whether it involves a death of a person(s) or not.

    There is overwhelming evidence that alcohol consumption severely affects a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle (among other things, as well). Because of that, most (if not all?) states have fairly stiff penalties for the person who is arrested for DUI (for example). Fines of several thousands of dollars, jail/prison time, loss of driving privileges, and higher insurance rates are all consequences for violators of these laws.

    Most would agree that such consequences are fair and just, especially in light of the consequences for the accident victims involved in vehicle crashes where alcohol was a contributing factor. Some would say that the penalties for driving while intoxicated don’t go far enough. After all, what price can be put on the life of a loved one who is lost? How drastic a change is there for a friend or relative who is forever affected and challenged due to injuries sustained at the hands of an intoxicated driver?

    Somewhere about now, the insightful reader will be saying “Hey Bob! …we’re talking about gun control …we’re talking about those crazy gun nut Schwarzenegger wannabees who need big clips and “shoulder things that go up;” not drinking and driving! …and I would say, “Ahhh, you are correct grasshoppa! You are to be commended for your insight! But you lack the wisdom to understand why taking away matches will not rid the world of forest fires.

    In spite of the fact that intoxicated drivers kill, maim, or injure thousands of innocent people each year, alcohol continues to flow and cars continue to roll off assembly lines. In the case of someone breaking the law by driving, the focus of cause is never placed on the instrument of the crime, but the perpetrator of the crime; namely, the drunk driver. In spite of such dangerous people, we neither live in a time of prohibition, nor is this country returning to the days of the horse and buggy (all due respect to the Amish, notwithstanding).

    Cars and alcohol are familiar enough to most people that, even if one chooses not to own a car or drink alcohol, they’re generally accepting to those who do. Firearms, on the other hand, are less familiar to many people and, often, just the mere mention of a gun will conjure up memories of a friend of a friend who had a brother whose neighbor’s cousin’s mother was worried her son would shoot his eye out if he ever got a Daisey Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas.

    While that may be far-fetched, and quite facetious, to those who are not familiar with firearms, the argument is one of emotion, rather than logic. For what it’s worth, Hollywood’s portrayal of firearm physics, while sometimes impressive, is neither accurate nor, often-times, even possible. While I don’t intend to imply that those in favor of gun control are entirely emotional void of logic and/or wisdom (though, I can only speak for myself, others may hold different views), I’d only suggest that supporters of gun control apply the same logic contained in their legislation to the issue of controlling the intoxicated driver, for example. I would imagine AAA would develop a much stronger lobby as a result.

    • Ummm..the obvious difference, of course, is that AAA fully supports stiffer penalties against drunk driving and they support initiatives (such as alcohol-ignition interlocks) to prevent drunk driving. In fact, they offer free rides for those who think they’ve had too much.

      Unfortunately the NRA has fought every bill which might prevent guns from getting in the wrong hands.

      The car analogy doesn’t work well for gunloons because as a result of Govt intervention–cars have gotten safer and passengers have been better protected and roads are safer.

      • The NRA is very vocal on punishing criminals. My understanding is that they do not in any way fight any legislation designed to punish those who use firearms in the commission of crimes.

        People who are educated in the use of firearms do so outside of the presence of drugs and alcohol. When the beers come out, the guns get put away. Just the opposite happens in the well educated public when drinking and then driving.

        I suspect that any number of appropriate groups would assist you were you to find yourself intoxicated and in possession of a firearm.

        To correct Jade’s analogy, the entire population of the world is complicit in supporting drunk driving, since nobody is putting forth any legislation to limit the accessibility of either guns or alcohol. Any existing legislation only kicks in once the two have already been mixed. (It is not a crime to carry car keys while intoxicated, nor is it to sit on private property in a vehicle while intoxicated. The laws only speak to operating a motor vehicle in a public area.)

        The NRA’s political action record is clear and has a laser-like focus. Theirs is the interpretation that the second amendment says that there shall be no law passed that interferes with a law abiding citizen’s ownership of any firearm that he or she may wish to own. You can debate all day whether or not that’s the correct interpretation, but they are merely one of many lobbyist organizations in Washington, and one of only very few who so clearly focus on their issue.

        Arizona, being a “conservative” state, would be among the last to adopt any gun legislation. Certainly in this single case a limitation on magazine size would have altered the attack, but it is pure speculation what the assailant would have done were such large capacity magazines not available.

        It is my humble opinion as a hardcore left wing socialist and lifetime NRA member that we would be better served as a nation if everyone was educated in the use of firearms. I fully believe that things like this would be less likely to happen were the population more generally educated about firearms. I grew up in a household where there were guns in almost every room of the house, “you never know when they’re going to come in.” I was taught from an early age to respect the firearms (I had several stored under my bed when I was 10 years old), and I never accidentally or intentionally killed anyone, nor did anyone else in my family. Indeed, I had the fear that merely touching one of them would result in killing my brother, so I stayed the hell away from them.

    • Your analogy with the car and drunk driver is interesting. Perhaps we need to limit fuel capacity in cars too?;

  14. Can anyone point me to a news article where it stated the shooter fired 31 shots and used non-Glock 30+ round magazines? And was that 30, 31 or 33 round magazines?

    Did he start out with a 15 round magazine (was there an extra one in the chamber) then was tackled while going for a reload?

  15. He could have easily had a second gun to use to hold off an assailant while he reloaded. Or he could have executed a tactical reload, leaving one round in the chamber and ready for use against somebody trying to tackle him. Banning high capacity magazines hasn’t stopped mass shootings in the past, there is no reason to expect it to in the future.

  16. I agree with “Tom” mostly. I too am a socialist, “Gun nut” as any working class educated person should be.

    The problem is that we haven’t had pay increases in 30 years, jobs have been sent overseas, and illegal aliens are allowed in in hordes. This has reduced personal incomes and taxes due the nation as well. Anyone born during the 50’s is appalled by the loss of infrastructure. Mental hospitals, parks, public facilities of all sorts.

    There is a liberal attitude current in society that favors keeping nutjobs in society where they belong. Combined with tax pressures mental institutions have been closed all over the country. My state, during the 60’s and before, had 4 state mental hospitals. Despite a 3-fold increase in population, we are now down to 1. In any clear thinking society crazy people unable to take care of themselves should be confined.

  17. Your Comments On…
    Random act of violence claims man’s life
    Bill Mitchell was the kind of man who stepped up instead of shying away, the kind of person who would help someone even if he didn’t know them, his friends and family say.

    By Theola Labbé-DeBose

    Comments
    brucerealtor@gmail.com wrote:
    NEVER SCREW WITH ANYONE UNLESS YOU HAVE A 30+ MAGAZINE IN YOUR GLOCK 19.

    AND FOR THOSE SEEKING TO LIMIT MAGAZINES TO 10 ROUNDS ONLY, KEEP IN MIND THAT 15 OR 17 ROUND MAGAZINES ARE SOP FOR SEMI-AUTOMATIC PISTOLS TODAY AND ++++ THAT IS THE TEST ++++ NOT HOW MANY FIGURES DO YOU HAVE ON BOTH HANDS.

    YES, I WAS ONCE CHARGED WITH POSSESSING A ++++ SUBMACHINE GUN IN DC WHEN I WAS EVICTED AND A RUGER 22 TARGET PISTOL WAS FOUND IN A DRESSER DRAWER WITH 10 ROUNDS IN THE CLIP THAT COULD HAVE ARGUABLY HELD 13 ROUNDS IF THE GUN WAS GUARANTEED TO JAM.

    STOP TRYING TO ‘GET OVER’ ON THE PUBLIC AS TO WHAT PROSECUTORS COULD AND WOULD DO.

    THE FACTS ARE THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT NEEDS NO MORE ROUNDS IN THEIR CLIPS THAN THE LAW ABIDING PUBLIC NEED IN THEIRS.
    1/22/2011 4:07:49 AM
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  18. Body count could have been higher with a sword & a little training. The
    The hate & phsyco level were certainly enough for it. Guns with all their clips, magazines, chambers, breaches, shells, cartridges, & projectiles & for that matter all weaponry has leveled the playing field
    Throughout the ages… And with the bullets that go in ’em will be worth more than gold by the time Washington & Wall Street are done ruining
    This country!

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