The gunman in the Tucson shooting rampage that killed six people and injured many others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, acquired his handgun legally, despite many warning signs to those around him that he was a very mentally unstable young man. In executing his plot, Jared Loughner used a Glock 19 with a high-capacity magazine. The purpose of such a magazine is to enable a shooter to fire a high number of rounds in a short period– to allow for maximum rapid fire without reloading. Loughner’s high-capacity magazine held twice as many rounds as a normal Glock magazine (30 rounds rather than 15). Recall that he was not neutralized by bystanders until he had emptied his first magazine and attempted to reload. Think of how things might have been different had Loughner only had a normal-sized magazine with 15 rounds. How many fewer people would have been killed or injured? This type of high-capacity magazine was illegal prior to the 2004 expiration of the assault weapons ban. Had Congress and the prior administration acted in 2004 to extend the ban, there would have almost definitely been fewer casualties in Tucson in 2011.
In the aftermath of the shooting, vehement gun rights advocate and former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that he would support a ban of the high-capacity magazine. In speaking of how to avoid such a tragedy in the future, Cheney pondered, “whether or not there’s some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with semi-automatic weapons, we’ve had that in place before. Maybe it’s appropriate to re-establish that kind of thing.”
This is both surprising and heartening to hear from a man who, while a member of the House of Representatives, was one of only a number of Republicans who voted against a measure banning detection-avoiding plastic guns and the infamous “cop-killer” bullets.
While vitriol and violent political rhetoric may not have led to the Tucson shooting, the availability of a high-capacity Glock magazine most likely exacerbated the incident. Maybe it’s time we re-enacted some common-sense restrictions on the most dangerous types of assault-weapons.
An informed debate on arms control and the 2nd Amendment should center around a discussion of what types of weapons are too dangerous for ownership by the general population. It’s all about where we draw the line.