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Limited Magazine Capacity as the Solution to Mass Shootings

With the magazines you see above I could hold my neighborhood in an iron fist.

Well, that's what I heard anyway.

About a week ago the website Thought Catalog ran an article by a purported AR15 owner entitled (creatively enough) I Am An AR-15 Owner and I've Had Enough. It was different enough from the bulk of TC's indulgent woe-is-me relationship articles that it would have attracted attention anyway; that it was on the topic of gun violence and Orlando guaranteed it.  The premise — that restricting rifle magazines to 10 rounds nationally would solve the problem of mass shooting.

The author, Daniel Hayes, starts out well enough, making what come across as pro-gun statements.”There’s an argument that goes on continually between gun control advocates and people who believe there should be very little or no gun control. That argument is that the bulk of gun murders are committed with illegal weapons and that the people using them never submit themselves for a background check. The argument is that no gun laws would prevent the vast majority of murders committed among criminals in the commission of crimes. Most of the guns used to take lives in places like Chicago and Seattle are obtained illegally, either stolen or purchased from what are known as ‘straw purchasers'. This is fact.”

A little later he continues,

“There are people who believe in confiscation. There are people who believe in making gun owners pay for insurance for firearms. There are people who believe in required psych evaluations prior to purchasing a firearm. These ideas are bad and they are unworkable. They will not happen. They are also all illegal under the U.S. Constitution and changing the Second Amendment would be so divisive that to even try and implement any of them could cause bloodshed.”


He goes quickly off the reservation, however, in a way that belies any claim that he's familiar with long guns (or in touch with reality for that matter).

“Orlando is different. Shootings at schools are different. These events are acts of execution, not battles. They are no different from the guillotine, one lined up after another and sent to the next world.

And they are that way for one reason. Capacity.

I can go out right now and buy a 100 round magazine for my AR-15. It costs only $119. I could buy two. For barely over $300 I could buy three and carry 300 rounds on me attached to a tactical vest. I would barely ever have to reload. I could hold off police. I could shoot anyone who charged me and tried to stop me. There would be no respite and break where I would have to take a few seconds to stop and change magazines. If they were close enough together then I could kill hundreds in minutes.”

His solution is to limit rifle magazines to 10 rounds. That would put a dent in the casualties. He guarantees it.

“For those who haven’t fired an AR-15, you can’t underestimate the importance of this. Extended magazines are the reason the San Bernardino killers were so brash and confident in the attack they carried out. They knew that no one could get near them, that there would barely be a moment when they would be vulnerable to an unarmed person grabbing them and stopping them.

Give me three 100 round drum magazines and I could hold my whole block hostage for a day. Give me thirty 10 round magazines and someone will be able to stop me.”


Remember, for any gun control measure to work it must be practical, pragmatic and constitutional (more to that point here). That's an inconvenient fact many in favor of gun control can't seem to grasp. It's easier to vilify gun owners and go for the feel-good solution.

Here's the problem — this is the sort of tripe people want to hear, and it comes under the guise of compromise. Keep your guns — they are your right under the Second Amendment. We're just saying you can't have ‘high capacity' magazines.

Limited magazine capacity, says Mr. Hayes, will deter murders from attempting mass shootings. Such a change would, he avows, deter the insane or fanatical.


Well meaning, reasonable people see an argument like this from someone who is (he says) pro-gun, and jump on it like a duck on a junebug. Thought Catalog isn't exactly a shining example of quality writing and journalism (as best I can tell they will publish damn near anything), but they do have a large number of readers — as in, hundreds of thousands of readers, mostly Millenials. They naturally latch onto this “confessional” as a possible solution to gun violence, and the rest of us are left trying to explain why their seemingly simple solution won't work.

“And yet, the Orlando gunman fired over 200 rounds at Pulse and over four dozen mothers lost their sons and daughters. Four dozen, in one day, in only a few hours.”

Yes Mr. Hayes, we know. You said so at least three times. If you're serious about this, put your time, energy and reach into something more constructive than platitudes and ineffectual measures. Give us a solution that is practical, pragmatic and constitutional.

Forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared to explain — in civil discourse — why this proposed solution is a callow and ineffective one. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Edit: The reaction to this article was predictably a strong one. Most everyone from the RECOIL audience (predictably) agreed with me. The article was lacking, however, and one of our readers called me on it


Much as I hate to admit it (because boy, do I like to be right, Mr. Boyle is correct. It's actually even worse than how he describes it. This wasn't just any article — it was one where I was taking someone to task, on a matter that always generates a visceral response. While my intention was to show that his “solution” was anything but, that it did not meet the test of practical, pragmatic and constitutional, I failed miserably to demonstrate how.

Figurative raspberries and jerkoff motions are cathartic (I'll admit, I enjoyed writing this piece) but they don't do anything to solve problems. So, I was going to add in a couple sentences to clarify and atone…but it sorta took off on me.  This isn't me temporizing — that article will run in a complete piece as soon as I am finished.

In the meantime, I'll say this: a magazine restriction would not, could not possibly prevent a mass casualty event. Set aside the “speed of reload” argument. While correct, it just makes you sound pedantic and desperate, same as quibbling over the distinction between a Sig MCX and an AR-15. We've already seen terrorist attacks and mass shootings in places where such restrictions already exist (San Bernardino is the obvious example of this). Millions of standard capacity magazines are in circulation, and even if they weren't, damn near anything can be obtained with the will to do it. Consider the weapons used in the Paris attacks; Paris, the capital of France, which is a country with far more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Weapons and materials will always be obtained by the people who want them.

What happened in Orlando was a well planned, professional attack, conducted by someone who was prepared, committed and clearly knew what buttons to push to direct law enforcement response. He put significant effort into the attack, expertly developed the situation within and was likely in communication with one or more others assisting him from outside the club.

But set all that aside –there's another point almost no one is talking about. Hayes' entire argument (that lower capacity magazines would deter attackers because their victims would have a better chance of fighting back) presupposes a willingness on the part of victims to fight. Think about this for a minute: a single man with a rifle held 300 some odd people hostage while he worked his way through the building killing them. Three hundred people. At no point he turned his back? His weapon never malfunctioned? He was never distracted by his conversations with crisis negotiators or whomever else he was talking to? There was nothing to throw at his head? No liquor bottles or chairs or barstools? Nobody had a belt buckle big enough to beat this asshole to death with, or a boot with heels heavy enough to crush his skull?

Nobody was at least willing to try?

Only a fraction of the population has it in them to fight, in no small part because as a society we've raised a generation of victims (and we're well into raising the second). Passing a law to limit magazine capacity isn't going to change that, any more than it would keep “high capacity” magazines out of the hands of criminals or terrorists.

This brings me full circle. Show me a practical, pragmatic, constitutional way of stopping these attacks with a new gun control law and I'll support it.  That's not melodrama or sensationalism, I mean it. Otherwise, quit distracting people from the truth. Quit trying to disarm them. We're at war folks. Evil people exist. Some of them are sociopaths. Some are religious zealots. Many are probably both. All the feel-good measures, misdirection, violence-isn't-the-answer public school policies, sit-down protests on the floor of Congress and redaction of 911 transcripts in the world won't change that.

More soon. Mr. Boyle I hope I have in some small part redeemed myself, even if you disagree with me.

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