As lawmakers across the country and in the nation’s capital debate possible restrictions on high-capacity magazines, one question emerges: Are these ammunition feeding devices, which allow a shooter to fire many times without reloading, in fact commonly used by mass killers? We examined the data from Mother Jones’ continuing investigation into mass shootings and found that high-capacity magazines have been used in at least 31 of the 62 cases we analyzed. A half-dozen of these crimes occurred in the last two years alone. (With some of the cases we studied, it remains unclear whether high capacity magazines were used; for more details, jump to our data set below.)
In the shooting that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Jared Loughner emptied a 33-round magazine in 30 seconds, killing 6 and injuring 13. Inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes used 40- and 100-round magazines to injure and kill an unprecedented 70 victims. At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Adam Lanza used high-capacity magazines to fire upwards of 150 bullets as he slaughtered 20 kids and 6 adults.
“It turns a killer into a killing machine,” says David Chipman, who served for 25 years as a special agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Outlawing high capacity magazines won’t prevent gun crimes from happening, Chipman notes, but might well reduce the carnage: “Maybe three kids get killed instead of 20.”
Despite supporters’ hopes that this time it’s different, President Barack Obama’s new call for restricting some semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines will face deeply entrenched resistance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and could be a long shot even in the Democratic-led Senate.
Any gun legislation sent to the House “is going to have to pass with most Democrats and a few Republicans,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. “This would be an even more high-profile bill.”
Read the proposals
And Obama’s call for Congress to reinstate the federal ban on military-style rifles that expired in 2004 “is a further reach than some of the other proposals that are being tossed around,” Gonzales said.
The Obama administration is formulating a broader strategy for gun control as it looks to reduce U.S. gun violence, those privy to the discussions say.
Rather than just pursuing the reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a White House working group led by Vice President Joe Biden is looking at a multi-prong approach that would include universal background checks for gun purchasers, creation of a national database to track guns, strengthening of mental health checks, and tougher penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, sources told The Washington Post.
The newspaper reported Saturday the administration also is coming up with a battle plan to defuse the National Rifle Association’s expected counter-attack. One source told the Post that could include recruiting Walmart and other gun retailers to support measures that would benefit their businesses.
“They are very clearly committed to looking at this issue comprehensively,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who has been in on discussions where there has been “a deeper exploration than just the assault-weapons ban.”
President Obama created the working group last month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, mostly young children.
The Post said leaders of various interest groups have discussed options for a wider approach with Biden and other top administration officials.
“Simply coming up with one or two aspects of it really falls short of the magnitude of the gun issue in the country,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum who was among the law enforcement leaders who met with the White House group.
Read more: upi.com
Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut appeared to prompt a renewed effort by lawmakers to curb gun rights, as a top Democrat vowed Sunday to introduce new legislation on the first day of the new Congress next year.
The massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. — which left 28 dead, including 20 students, seven adults and the suspected shooter — has led proponents of gun control to redouble their efforts to seek new regulations. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate of gun control, said the issue should now be atop President Barack Obama’s second term agenda.
To that end, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D, said she intended to introduce a gun control bill on the first day of the next Congress. Paired with a twin version in the House, Feinstein’s law would take aim at limiting the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with the capacity of high-capacity magazines.
“It can be done,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The senator, a proponent of gun control, said she expected Obama to offer his public support for the law.
A federal ban on assault weapons, first passed in 1994 and signed by President Bill Clinton, expired in 2004. And while Obama has said he favors its reinstatement, the administration has hardly thrown its weight behind such a proposal during his first term.
The especially grisly shooting in Connecticut — which follows several other high-profile shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. or outside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin — might now serve as a catalyzing moment in that dormant gun debate.