January 30, 2011
If 1994 Magazine Ban Democrats Want to Bring Back Was In Effect, More Could Have Died in Tucson
As a group, politicians seem utterly unable to consider the "law of unintended consequences." They are quite good at reflexively throwing a new law up to address past events, but rarely consider the effects their laws will actually have.
A prime example is the magazine ban provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill. Most people remember the Ban on Scary-Looking Cosmetic Features and a ban on manufacturing magazines of more than ten rounds, but the media forgets that the immediate and unexpected reaction to that law was that gun manufacturers responded by making handguns limited to 10-round magazines as small as possible. The result was an entirely new class of subcompact handguns that packs a considerable amount of firepower into a much more concealable package. This gave concealed carry permit holders far more choices, and increased the possibility that they would leave home armed.
Increasing the number of Americans going armed in public was the exact opposite of the intention of those that passed the 1994 Crime bill, but that was the direct result.
The same politicians have not learned, and are now proposing that they bring back that flawed and ineffective law. They don't seem to grasp that the law they would resurrect very well would have made the carnage in Tucson far worse than it always was.
Anti-gun groups and the media were quick to seize upon the fact that Jared Loughner was able to empty a 33-round magazine in a matter of seconds. What most didn't tell you is precisely why his rampage ended.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik shed more light on how the gun was secured during the shooting. A woman grabbed a magazine of ammunition away from the shooter. The shooter, according to Dupnik, was able to grab another magazine - but the spring in it failed. As the shooter's second magazine failed, two men were able to subdue the shooter until law enforcement arrived.
Detachable firearm magazines are typically composed of four parts:
- the magazine body
- the baseplate
- the follower
- the spring
The more cartridges a magazine holds, the longer the magazine body must be and the longer the spring must travel. This increased movement means that larger magazines are generally more prone to failure.
This appears to be what occurred in Tucson.
It now appears that Loughner's second 33-round magazine suffered some sort of failure. If he had only the ten-round magazines that some politicians would force upon us, the odds are that he would have had to change magazines more times, but that takes just a second. Literally.
Of course, many people take longer to change magazines. For example, I don't have the time to practice regularly as I should, so it takes me 2-4 seconds.
The citizens that disarmed Jared Loughner had the chance to do so because his extended magazine failed, and he didn't know how to clear it. That gave them the time needed to make their move. If he had ten-round magazines—like those Eric Harris used to such devastating effect at Columbine in a firearm designed to comply with the Crime Bill—the number of dead and wounded could have been far, far higher.
Laws have unintended consequences. If Congress wants felons to have more reliable firearms, reinstating the 10-round magazine ban would be the most effective way to do it.