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Another Magazine Ban in the Works

Friday, May 9, 2014

Legislation to ban ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, with no exemption for those already owned, is one step closer to becoming law in New Jersey.  The Wall Street Journal reports that on Tuesday “the state Senate’s influential law and public safety committee supported a bill that would reduce the ammunition capacity of gun magazines to 10 rounds from the current 15.  The 3-2 vote ran along partisan lines, with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposing it. . . . The bill now faces a vote in the state Senate, controlled by Democrats.”

Meanwhile, the Star-Ledger reports that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Gloucester), says that “large capacity magazines are not needed for hunting or for self-defense” and that “[i]f a gunman has to stop to reload, it offers a critical window of time to take down the shooter.”

Weinberg is wrong on both counts, however.  First, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are designed specifically for self-defense and they are preferred by millions of Americans for that purpose.  For these reasons, their ownership is protected under the Second Amendment standard articulated by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).  In that case, the court struck down D.C.’s handgun ban, stating, “Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.” (Emphasis added.)

Second, in the vast majority of high-profile shootings of the type that gun control supporters pretend would be prevented by a magazine limit, perpetrators have not been “taken down” by victims or bystanders when attempting to reload.  For example, during the worst mass shooting in American history – at Virginia Tech in 2007 – the perpetrator used 10-round and 15-round magazines to fire 174 rounds, requiring numerous reloads not interrupted by his would-be victims.  Because of that, the official report on the crime stated that having a magazine ban in place “would have not made much difference” in the crime’s outcome.  Armed students or faculty, on the other hand, might have brought the killing spree to an abrupt end.

New Jersey’s bill follows other restrictive laws on magazine limits imposed last year.  These include Colorado’s new 15-round limit, Maryland’s lowering of its magazine-capacity limit from 20 rounds to 10 rounds, Connecticut’s imposition of a 10-round limit, and New York’s lowering of its limit from 10 rounds to seven rounds. New York, however, was forced into an embarrassing about face when the governor was informed that seven-round magazines do not exist for most firearms, meaning many otherwise legal pistols would have been rendered useless.  The legislature then tried to require 10-round magazines to be downloaded to seven rounds, but this requirement was rebuffed by a federal court, which noted that it gave criminals an advantage over law-abiding citizens.  California, Hawaii and Massachusetts also have 10-round magazine limits.

Of course, between 1994 and 2004, a federal law written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) banned the manufacture of magazines holding more than 10 rounds and the importation of newly-made such magazines.  Suggesting how far she would like to have gone, Feinstein tried to defend the “assault weapon” portion of her legislation by saying that it did not ban any firearm holding three or fewer rounds.

The steady march toward increasingly smaller magazine limits illustrates what those who follow the gun control debate know already:  today’s restrictions merely lead to tomorrow’s more stringent regulations.  Civil disarmament proceeds one step at a time.  Those who think they’re “safe” for today because the latest regulation doesn’t reach their own firearms may well be in for a rude awakening in the future.  

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.