Would a ban on “high capacity” magazines really be any smarter than a ban on modern sporting rifles? According to the editors of the Tampa Bay Times, the answer is yes. In a new editorial, the paper argues that while “technical issues can tangle up discussions of assault rifles,” when it comes to banning magazines, the answer is simple.
But high-capacity magazines are easy to define. Simply count how many bullets it can contain, decide on a definition and ban those that hold too many. People might debate whether 10 is too many, but who could argue that 20 isn’t high capacity? Either way, lawmakers can decide on a number and act.
Banning high-capacity magazines won’t solve America’s gun violence. But it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s an easy, effective fix that should become law now.
I appreciate the paper’s acknowledgement that the term “high capacity” is a meaningless phrase that’s defined by the person who uses it. As the editors write, one person might think ten rounds is too much, while someone else may set their limit at 20 rounds, or 30. Ultimately as the paper notes, it’s an arbitrary term. Of course, they see that as a good thing, but for most gun owners it simply demonstrates the problem. If you can’t even define “high capacity,” how could imposing a ban on those magazines be an easy fix?
To bolster their argument, the paper relies on an “investigation” by the Washington Post that “suggests that bans on high-capacity magazines are effective, countering the argument that if the government makes buying high-capacity magazines a crime, only criminals will have high-capacity magazines.” As it turns out, the investigation is actually more of an infographic showing that, during the ten year period from 1994 to 2004 that the federal “assault weapons ban” and magazine ban was in place, the percentage of guns with ammunition magazines that could hold more than ten rounds that were seized by police in Virginia declined from 13% in 1994 to 9% in 2004, before rising to 19% five years after the ban had expired.
Rather than proving the effectiveness of the ban, the Post and the Times have demonstrated that these magazines aren’t actually seized by police all that often, even though they’re commonly owned by legal gun owners. As the Supreme Court has said, arms that are in common use for a variety of lawful purposes are protected by the Second Amendment, and that would absolutely include the more than 100-million handgun and rifle magazines that can accept more than ten rounds.
Leaving the constitutional issue aside for a moment, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has noted that an actual study conducted by the CDC couldn’t find any evidence that the ban on magazines had reduced crime or homicides. In fact, after the federal ban on “high capacity” magazines expired in 2004, violent crime in the United States continued to drop, falling by more than 20% from 2004 to 2019.
The editors at the Tampa Bay Times claim that a ban would be both “easy and effective,” but they fail to tell their audience that criminals could easily bypass any ban on the sale of magazines by printing their own. With just a few dollars worth of plastic, a simple metal spring, and a cheap 3D printer, anyone (criminals included) can make their own ammunition magazines. That technology didn’t exist back in the 1990s, when the Biden gun and magazine ban was first put into effect, but it’s fairly commonplace tech these days.
A ban on ammunition magazines would be neither easy to implement or effective at reducing violent crime. It would turn millions of American gun owners into criminals simply for keeping the magazines that they already own, while violent criminals could easily bypass the restrictions via the black market or through 3D printing. There’s nothing smart about the idea of trying to ban our way to safety, and that includes a ban on ammunition magazines arbitrarily defined as “high capacity.”
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