Notes About the Aurora Murders, Guns, and the Political Aftermath

Here I offer assorted reflections about the political discussions involving guns that followed the horrific Aurora murders.

I’ve written a couple other pieces on the general topic. My major article is “Thoughts on the Aurora Murders and Armed Citizens,” in which I argue that citizens with guns stop and deter many crimes and that both “assault rifle” bans and magazine restrictions do little to impede criminals but limit people’s ability to defend themselves from criminals.

In a follow-up for my own web page, I further discuss magazine restrictions, and I answer some of the Denver Post‘s claims and arguments.

I’ve had a variety of other thoughts on the general subject, so I figured I’d round them up.

Standard Gun Magazines

As I’ve noted, the term “high capacity magazine” is nonsense, at least when applied to every magazine that holds more than ten rounds. (I will grant that a 100 round magazine is “high capacity.”)

Generally, the appropriate size of magazine is the one that fits the gun. Whereas a 20 or 30 round magazine often works great in a rifle, usually a pistol functions best with a 10 to 17 round magazine, depending on the size of the gun and its ammunition. Every semiautomatic that accepts detachable magazines comes with factory standard magazines. Such magazines should not be called “high capacity”; they should be called “factory standard.” And you can know that anybody who refers to a factory standard magazine as a “high capacity magazine” is trying to score political points by clouding the issue.

It occurred to me that it might be useful to describe typical magazines for the benefit of ignoramuses who presume to write the nation’s gun laws. The standard Glock .40 comes standard with a magazine that holds 15 rounds; an “optional” magazine holds 17. The standard Glock 9 mm comes standard with a magazine of 17 rounds; I will concede that the optional 33-round magazine is “high capacity” relative to that type of gun. A standard Glock .45 comes standard with a 13-round magazine.

As I’ve explained, if we care about people’s ability to defend themselves from criminal attack, then it is very important that we protect their right to buy magazines with the optimal number of rounds, as evaluated by the gun owner. (A peaceable person should have the legal right to buy a 33-round magazine, even though that typically isn’t very useful for self-defense.)

The Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle comes standard with a 30-round magazine. A rifle is larger and built for carrying around on a sling or against one’s shoulder, so it can typically handle larger magazines. Plus, this particular rifle shoots the relatively small .223 cartridge (or 5.56 mm cartridge), so more rounds can fit in a magazine.

The crew on the Denver Post‘s editorial board might ask themselves if they’d rather criminals shot a much more powerful .30-06 round, because, after all, fewer fit into a magazine.

The reasons why it’s a good thing to protect people’s rights to buy rifles that come standard with 30-round magazines lies beyond the scope of this post. Here I wanted to convey the fact that is obvious to any gun owner: an eleven-round magazine is in no reasonable sense a “high capacity magazine.” It is a low capacity magazine for most guns typically used for self-defense.

As stupid as it is to ban truly high capacity magazines, it is even more stupid—even more damaging to the right of self-defense—to ban low capacity magazines, which is precisely what the Denver Post advocates.

My note to journalists is this: if you refer to an eleven-round magazine as a “high capacity magazine,” then you are either a moron or a hack dishonestly pushing your political agenda.

Obama’s Dishonest Campaign

Our Glorious Leader referred to an AK-47 in order to argue that citizens should not be legally allowed to own semiautomatic rifles.

What’s wrong with his remarks? As Wikipedia points out, the AK-47 is typically a fully-automatic rifle (though semiautomatic versions exist). Perhaps Obama hasn’t noticed this, but full autos are subject to a special restrictive tax courtesy of the 1934 National Firearms Act.

But perhaps we should excuse the President for this; after all, he seems not to be able to keep track of guns very well.

About that .40 Caliber. . .

Jacob Sullum claims the murderer had a 40-round magazine for his .40 caliber gun. That factoid seems suspect to me.

Sullum cites a KDVR article claiming that an unnamed “law enforcement source” said that the “handgun also had an extended magazine that held 40 rounds.”

Until a reliable, named source verifies that, I’ll remain skeptical. I checked around the internet, and even called up one gun supplier, and the largest magazine I found for the Glock .40 holds 31 rounds. But maybe there’s something on the market I’m not aware of.

The Jammed Magazine

It’s a little ironic that, because the murderer chose such a large magazine for his rifle, that caused his gun to malfunction. If he’d used only ten-round magazines, he likely would have caused even more mayhem and death.

Every gun enthusiast I’ve talked to says magazines that are actually “high capacity” tend to frequently fail. For more, see discussions by John Lott and Clifford Davis.

A Victim Disarmament Guide for All Occasions

If you advocate gun restrictions—more realistically called victim disarmament laws or criminal empowerment laws—then I have created a handy guide to help you respond to a variety of scenarios.

If a criminal uses small caliber rounds in relatively large magazines, you say:

“We must ban high capacity magazines!”

If a criminal uses large caliber rounds in relatively small magazines, you say:

“We must ban large-caliber guns!”

If a criminal uses a pump-action shotgun and a semiautomatic to perpetrate a crime, you say:

“We must ban high capacity magazines!”

If a criminal uses a gun that you happen not to like, you say:

“It’s an assault gun! Ban it!”

However many restrictions fail to stop a particular criminal, you say:

“Obviously that proves we need more such laws!”

If an armed citizen uses a gun to save lives, you say:

“My the weather is pleasant today!”

If a woman without a gun is raped and murdered by a criminal with a knife, you say:

“My the weather is pleasant today!”

Alternate response, “Hmm… Maybe we should ban knives.”

Creative Commons Image: Smarterlam