The Tucson Shooting and the ‘Magazine’ Gun Problem

While thoughtful folks point to recent, tragic events in Arizona, appealing for Americans to tone down the horrifically polarized rhetoric of recent years, we all can see the opposite going on. It seems that we have entered what Robert Heinlein forecast as “The Crazy Years.”One element to the Tuscon rampage that I haven’t seen mentioned, so far, is the role that was played by the gunman’s use of an insanely large capacity, 31-round magazine, which allowed him to spray a helpless crowd, killing several elderly bystanders, a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, and critically injure the district’s freely elected representative to the United States Congress, before he could finally be brought down, when his automatic pistol ran out of bullets.Let’s be plain here. The insistence of the NRA and other gun groups, on preventing any restraints on magazine size, or on the sale of assault rifles and automatic weapons, is not based on tradition or any legitimate personal need.

Their stance of utter resistance to any constraint, is defended on the basis of “slippery slope” arguments. They maintain that any legal restraint on gun ownership is inherently part of a plot to eventually eliminate all forms of gun ownership.

Now, lest anyone mistake me for a reflex lefty nannystater, let me avow that slippery slope arguments do have enough historical support to logically merit a proper place in any discussion. Firearm registration records in European countries, before World War Two, were later used by both Nazi and Communist tyrannies to strip the populace of registered weapons. This fact – recited ad nauseam – offers a core of justified fear that should be part of any reasoned discussion.

JEFFERSONRIFLEElsewhere, I’ve tried to analyze the central fear of gun rights supporters… a crux worry that is deeply American and that (indeed) many liberals share. I tried to logically derive a solution that could satisfy any reasonable person… even one who wants to keep secret the kinds of weapons that would be most useful in a mass insurrection against some future Big Brother tyranny.  See “The Jefferson Rifle.”

To be clear… right-wingers often repeat their mantra that “liberals want to take away our guns.”  But they cannot point to any mainstream (non lefty-dingbat) democrat or liberal voices who have made any such moves, in decades.  Indeed, most thinking people now know that the flood of guns and ammunition that has filled America is long past unstoppable. It has come in tsunami layerings that are by now almostsedementary, a layer so thck that future geologists will find fossils of glocks and colts in the very rocks!  Firefighters are asking for bullet proof gear, before they go into some burning homes, so sure are they that the closets -full of ammo will go off.

Liberals aren’t pushing for gun control.  Given the hot rhetoric of Culture War and violence pouring from men like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, more and more liberals are buying weapons of their own.

But no.  Even so. A line has to be drawn somewhere. If only because the world will not follow a Pax Americana that has gone insane.

A good place to start is with those 31 round magazines.  They are only good for one purpose, pouring a lot of bullets into a crowd of people, too fast for anyone to react. You cannot come up with another scenario for such  awful things. Even if you are in a B-Movie gun fight with a horde of motorcycle-riding zombies, that will take place over a period when you can change your freaking magazines. Heck, Lady Lara Croft does just fine with seven or nine-round clips.

Time and again, we have seen mass murdering gunmen brought down by brave citizen bystanders… at Columbine and when Reagan and Ford and Robert Kennedy were attacked… and in Tucson.  For the most part,  the take-down happened as soon as the bastard ran out of bullets!

This is one case where the slippery slope is all the nutters have. There are no other justifications for allowing Big Clips. If you can fantacize ever needing one… fantacize being part of the next unarmed crowd.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “The Tucson Shooting and the ‘Magazine’ Gun Problem

  1. Actually, you are being unfair to those of us who are responsible gun owners. The size of the magazine is not what matters. A good shot could have done the same damage with a standard magazine. The important point is that crazy people will do bad things, regardless of the law. Unfortunately, sane people have no way of stopping that, other than acts of goodness at the moment. That’s the fact of living in a world in which risk is the inevitable fellow traveller of freedom. I don’t want to live in a totally secure world–that would be a police state, and the sense of security would be a false one. Only those who submit completely to the state would be secure.

    Please understand that I’m not being merely paranoid here. History is filled with examples of dictators who offered security in replacement of freedom. History also shows that people can rise up against oppressors, even using small arms. Look at Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Look at America during our Revolution. In no way am I advocating armed revolt–we are no where near that kind of need. But we do face dangers on the streets and in our homes, and capable self defense is the right of free citizens. A handgun is just the right tool for that job.

    To return to the thirty-one round magazine, though, that’s not a good tool for concealed carry. It’s too long and too heavy. It really is an impractical device. That’s as may be, but I defend the right of responsible people to own one, if they so choose, just as I defend the right of free citizens to own the books of their choice, without any licences or government oversight, and for the same reason. Power is best left to good citizens, not the government. That’s a fundamental American value. Believing it doesn’t make one a nutcase. It’s what our Founders believed and what the good folks on the left and the right want for all of us.

  2. Thomas Emil

    It was actually reported on, on last night’s NBC Nightly News.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Tucson Shooting and the ‘Magazine’ Gun Problem | Contrary Brin -- Topsy.com

  4. If we are allowed to carry weapons, then where do we draw the line and why? If a 31-cartridge clip is OK, then what about a machine gun? Why not biological weapons (easy to make, hard to control)? Or chemical weapons (even easier to make)? How about letting me have that pony h-bomb I’ve wanted to build (no uranium needed)? Or should we go the way of Britain and try to outlaw long knives?

    I don’t know where the line should be drawn, but I do know that every argument that I’ve seen for drawing it in any particular place has boiled down to “because I said so”.

  5. The principle of the Second Amendment is that we have the right to carry small arms–in other words, the sorts of weapons that one person uses in self defense against another. That was the understanding of bearing arms at the time of its writing. There were crew-served weapons–field artillery, for example–but that’s not what the amendment addresses.

    There is a misconception that many have regarding “machine guns.” A machine gun, properly speaking, is a full-power rifle caliber weapon, usually requiring several person to operate. The cartridges that such a weapon uses are of significantly greater power than the pistol cartridges used in submachine guns or machine pistols. The latter weapons shovel out 9mm or .45 rounds, but they aren’t easy to control in fully automatic fire and are of little value beyond that of a standard handgun that fires one shot per one squeeze of the trigger.

    Again, what the shooter did on Saturday could have been done by a competent person using ten-round magazines.

    • A strict constructoinist would disagree. The Second Amendment says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Notice how there is not one word in there about the caliber of the arms?

      Looking at the Federalist papers (the nearest thing we have to a gloss on the Constitution), we can see that the authors felt that the “militia” in the Second Amendment would have arms similar to those of the federal government (e.g., paper 46).

      All that you are doing is drawing the line in a different place than Dr. Brin or I might. So why is your place the right place?

      • Exactly right–the amendment doesn’t specify caliber. It names arms only. This is the same as the First Amendment naming the press or speech. That’s not limited to political speech or religious speech. It’s just speech. Banning or licensing one type diminishes the right to any type.

        Understand that the Constitution does not give us rights. It names specific rights that the Founders thought important to identify, given the events that led up to the Revolution. Why else would we have the Third Amendment? Our rights come from our existence as human beings.

        This is not a “just because I said so” argument. The idea that free citizens have the right to small arms goes back through human history. The extraordinary thing about America is that we decided to call all of us free. Arms and political power are not limited to the nobility. Arms and political power are the possession of the people, one person at a time.

  6. Mark Cook

    Boy, did *my* respect for Mr. Brin just take a massive hit! He clearly didn’t bother to validate many of his claims before writing this article. First, there’s his reference to Loughner’s handgun being an “automatic pistol”. The only “automatic” pistol made by Glock is the Glock 18 and that model is very tightly controlled by the BATFE. The pistol used by Loughner was a “semi-auto”, and there’s a BIG difference.

    Then there’s the fire fighters asking for “bullet proof gear”. What hyperbole! Fire fighters repeatedly verify that their standard turn-out coats, pants, and helmets will stop a heat-activated cartridge just fine (even rifle caliber cartridges.) I grant that a loaded gun, if it cooks off due to heat, can produce a lethal injury. Assuming that loaded magazines by themselves, or just boxes of ammunition pose the same level of threat is laughable. They (fire fighters) are more likely to be injured by an exploding propane tank.

    As for no one making a move to “take away our guns” in decades, does the phrase “Clinton Gun Ban” ring a bell? The “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act”, which was a part of the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act” of 1994 specifically banned 19 different semi-auto firearms which were arbitrarily declared to be “assault weapons” (a phrase that didn’t exist prior to that point.) It also arbitrarily banned all firearms that had two or more of a half dozen different features, none of which, by themselves or in combination, did anything to increase the lethality of the firearm in question.

    Mr. Brin wants to ban hi-cap magazines because “They are only good for one purpose, pouring a lot of bullets into a crowd of people, too fast for anyone to react” Wrong. They are only good for “holding a lot of ammunition.” Anything else is strictly the result of misuse by the possessor. It is akin to banning certain types of hammers because they are capable of completely destroying your thumb, if used improperly. And if all of this sounds like semantics, consider: saying that the hi-cap magazine in question is only good for that one function is as ludicrous as saying (back to the hammer analogy) a claw hammer is only good for driving 16p galvanized nails.

    I own several of the magazines Mr. Brin wants to ban. I am a life member of the NRA and a certified NRA firearms instructor. I also own machine guns and submachine guns (fully licensed and vetted by the BATFE.) I have never used ANY of them to the detriment of another human being (unless you count thrashing someone in an SMG competition.) Now, because of the deranged actions of a single man halfway across the country, I’m expected to give up those magazines?

    The gun control faction always uses the phrase “Can’t we just compromise?” when trying to extract concessions from the pro gun faction. The problem is, when we (the pro gun faction) “compromise”, we always end up given up something… and THAT’S a slippery slope.

  7. Bob Wakefield

    “We the People of the United States” are sovereign, each and every one of us, in the same way the the kings of Europe were. Like them, we must answer only to our peers for our actions. In our case that means trial by jury.

    The second amendment is a recognition that without the right to bear arms we become subjects, not citizens.

    I must disagree with Greg Camp. There is no security in complete submission to the state, only helplessness. Ask any French peasant.

    Anyway, you would restrict the rights of a vast majority in an attempt to prevent crimes committed by a tiny minority. There is something wrong with this picture.

  8. I do agree that complete submission gives only illusory security, dependent only the whims of those in power. I ought to have put quotation marks around “secure.”

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