Over at ammoland.com, they’ve posted gun writer Alan Korwin’s article Talking Points for Winning The Gun Magazine Size Debate. While it sounds like a how-to guide for trash talking firearms enthusiasts who favor “happy sticks,” it’s actually a “how to make liberals apoplectic” guide for gun rights guys and gals arguing against legislation aimed at limiting firearms magazines to ten bullets. As with most Korwin productions, it’s a shotgun blast of information looking for a rhetorical choke tube. I count 41 bullet points. As someone who respects puts the First Amendment first, far be it for me to suggest restricting online magazines articles to 10 bullet points. ‘Cause I would argue for a maximum of three. So, with all due respect, here are three facts you need to share with potential or actual supporters of a high cap mag ban . . .
1. It takes a lot of bullets to kill someone
Do you know how many bullets it takes to stop a person from attacking you? No one does, really. It depends on a huge number of variables, including the size of the bullet, how many bullets hit your attacker, where the bullet or bullets hit them, what sort of physical condition they’re in, what sort of drugs they may have taken and more. You can stop someone in their tracks, kill them even, with a single, small bullet. You can fail to slow someone down even after shooting them with seven humongous bullets.
Guns are not death rays. Shooting someone isn’t easy. Even if an attacker stands still, even if you’re not shaking from adrenalin, even if the light’s good, the distance isn’t too great and you don’t have to worry about hitting an innocent bystander, the chances are you’re going to miss. A lot. Studies show that police—trained professionals—hit their target about 30 percent of the time.
Is it possible to try and shoot someone who’s attacking you or your loved ones and miss them ten times? Absolutely. Happens all the time. That’s why thousands of American police officers carry a gun called a Glock 22. It fires a large bullet (called .40 caliber). It holds 15 of them (with an option for 17 rounds). Police officers usually carry two spare holders (called magazines, not “clips”). So the average policeman is carrying 45 large bullets or “rounds.”
That’s a lot of bullets. But then the police have to plan for the worst case scenario. They have to assume that they’re going to miss. A lot. They also have to assume that there’s going to be more than one criminal. If a cop’s firing a gun at three criminals, 45 bullets is 15 bullets per person. Is it possible to shoot at someone 15 times and miss? Happens all the time.
Now they could carry even larger bullets and carry less of them. Or they could carry smaller bullets and carry more. The police have weighed-up the pros and cons (literally) and decided that a 15-round gun with fairly large bullets offers the best possible chances of survival in an armed confrontation.
So if that calculation’s good enough for the police, why isn’t it good enough for law-abiding citizens? Why should we pass a law that says that a law-abiding citizen can’t buy a 15-round gun for self-defense?
Of course, we could flip that around. Why not restrict the number of bullets in a gun to 15 rounds? Remember that the police carry two spare magazines with an additional 15 rounds apiece. So, if you think about it, the police have a 45-round gun.
The key factor: the cops have to pause after the fire the first 15 rounds and swap out magazines. In other words, they have to get rid of the empty magazine and replace it with a “fresh” one with 15 more bullets.
People who want a law limiting magazines to ten bullets argue that this need to swap out magazines is a good thing, not a bad thing. They say spree killer Jared Lee Loughner was only stopped because he was changing-out a 31-round magazine. The pause supposedly saved further loss of life. If he’d been forced to reload his gun sooner, after ten rounds, there would have been less killing.
Maybe so. But there’s never been a single study establishing actual real-world safety benefits (to victims) of attempting to restrict criminals to guns with smaller vs. larger magazines. Not one.
Even if we assume that it’s true, here’s the problem: restricting the number of bullets in any given gun to ten also creates a disadvantage for a law-abiding gun owner trying to save his or her life or the lives of their loved ones from an attacker, maybe even a madman like Loughner.
An earlier pause for reloading—that may have saved lives in Arizona—could also result in the death of a law-abiding gun owner and his or her family, as the gun owner struggles to reload their self-defense firearm while he or she’s under attack. Which reminds me: there’s one thing you need to know about swapping magazines . . .
The plain truth is that swapping magazines is extremely difficult under stress. It requires two hands. You have to eject the empty magazine with a single finger, bring the fresh magazine to the hole where the old magazine was, insert it properly and prepare the gun to fire. There’s lots of ways this can and does go wrong. And it takes time, in a situation where a law-abiding gun owner may not have time.
Or a fresh magazine. Cops carry spare magazines. Most gun owners do not. You can certainly argue that civilians should carry extra bullets. Given the chances that, like the police, they will miss their attacker many times, or have several attackers, it only makes sense to carry “spare” bullets. But they don’t. Perhaps because spare magazines are bulky and heavy. Or perhaps because they know they’re not going to be able to reload under pressure.
In any case, what’s in their gun is what they’re going to use, and nothing more. Which is why some people carry guns with smaller bullets. There’s a popular gun made by Springfield which carries 19 smaller (nine millimeter) bullets. When they carry that gun, most owners feel confident that they won’t have to reload in a life or death situation. They consider that a good thing, not a bad thing. And that’s because . . .
3. You can never have too many bullets
We can spend a lot of time debating how many bullets are too many for any given person, and how many are too few. It’s a pretty complicated business that has a lot to do with personal skills and preferences.
For example, some people prefer a gun with the largest possible bullets—which limits the number they can carry. Some people can’t handle the larger bullet’s recoil (the force on the gun generated by a bullet when fired)—but they don’t want the bulk of a gun that carries a large number of smaller bullets. Some people prefer five or six shot revolvers, which don’t use magazines.
The plain truth is that someone who’s just finished saving their life or the lives of their loves ones with a firearm never looked at their gun (or unused spare magazines) and said, “Darn it! I brought too many bullets!” Generally speaking, if you’re going to use a gun for self-defense, you want as many bullets as possible, with the least amount of hassle re: loading and shooting.
But what about magazines that hold 31 rounds like Loughner’s? Surely that’s just ridiculous. For most people, it is. A 31-round magazine is too large to be practical. But again, cops carry 45 bullets. What’s more, a lot of shooters like high capacity magazines because they can use them to practice on the range without constant reloading.
Besides, there’s a wider point: where do you draw the line? Thirty-one bullets may seem ridiculous, but what about twenty? And if twenty’s OK, why not twenty-one? Twenty-five? Thirty-one?
There are two ways to look at the whole issue of magazine capacity: from a criminal’s point of view or from the perspective of a law-abiding gun owner. But you can’t change the nature of guns for one without changing it for the other. If you restrict magazine capacity to hamstring criminals, you’ll hamstring law-abiding gun owners.
That said, if you make high capacity magazines illegal, you’re not wiping them off the face of the earth. They will still be out there, somewhere. Law-abiding citizens won’t use them; they’re law-abiding. Criminals will; they’re criminals. That doesn’t sound sensible or fair, does it?