It seems to me that well intentioned people have been misled in their attempts to ban or, in the case of Beto, force buybacks or confiscate so called “assault rifles.” All that needs to be done to cut down on the carnage is to ban high-capacity magazines.
Many modern rifles, pistols and shotguns, including “assault rifles” are semi-automatic weapons – they fire a round every time the trigger is pulled. And any rifle, pistol or shotgun capable of accepting large capacity magazines results in a weapon that works exactly like what most people think of when the term “assault rifle” is used – generally an AR-15, M16 or an AK-47.
Yet if you remove the magazines from all of the semi-automatic weapons mentioned above, what is left is a single-shot rifle, pistol or shotgun.
Let me illustrate the point with the following graphic.
Shown first is a Remington Model 8 – one of the first commercially available semi-automatic rifles. It had a capacity of four or five rounds, depending on the caliber, but didn’t enjoy much success when it was first offered for sale around World War I.
Shown below it is a Remington Model 81, an upgraded version of the Model 8 – essentially the same rifle but improved to handle large capacity magazines.
(I digress but the Remington Model 81, produced until 1950, was the rifle Texas Ranger Frank Hamer used in the 1934 Louisiana ambush of Bonnie and Clyde.)
What I’m suggesting, then, is that people who want to limit the killing power of assault weapons would be better served to focus on banning high capacity magazines.
California and several other states have done that. California limits magazine capacities in most firearms to 10 rounds. It also requires owners of existing high capacity magazines to have them permanently blocked (as in drilled out and riveted) to prevent them from carrying more rounds.
Curiously, most states limit magazine capacities in shotgun hunting to three rounds. One of the first things game wardens check in the field when a hunter has a semi-automatic shotgun is whether the magazine is plugged to accept no more than three rounds.
I have a nephew in the Marine Corps based out of Camp Pendleton. Anxious to comply with California law, he boxed up his 30-round mags and sent them to me – not that I have any particular use for them.
Personally, I don’t see why civilians need 30-round mags. While they are used in some competitions, they are not necessary for hunting or target practice and they have not always been legal.
In 1994 the federal government enacted a 10-year ban on magazines that could hold more than ten rounds. The act expired in 2004, and attempts to revive it have so far been unsuccessful.
No less a prominent gun maker than the late Bill Ruger, whose company produces huge quantities of firearms under his name, argued for a ban in 1992, suggesting that “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun.” He subsequently wrote every member of Congress urging such a ban, which was enacted, albeit for just 10 years.
Ruger also pointed out that with “a simple, complete and unequivocal ban on large capacity magazines, all the difficulty of defining ‘assault rifle’ and ‘semi-automatic rifles’ is eliminated.”
A great many Second Amendment supporters will continue to oppose any restrictions on magazine capacities using the “slippery slope” argument that if anti-gun lobbyists get an inch they will go for a mile. Whether the recent tragedies in El Paso and Dayton will change that remains to be seen.
One other point: Some people mistakenly refer to assault rifles as “machine guns.” Machine guns fire multiple shots with a single trigger pull and keep firing while the trigger is depressed. Yet machine guns have been banned in this country since 1934 when the National Firearms Act was passed.
U.S. civilians, dealers and collectors who meet certain qualifications can still possess a machine gun, but it takes a lot of paperwork, a special license, each weapon is registered and the owner is held responsible for tightly controlling their custody.