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Aborn: A commonsense gun restriction
A recent major gun bust in Brooklyn exposed yet again how criminals exploit lax laws in Southern states to buy large amounts of weapons, reselling them in New York with shocking ease.
The cache included some of the most lethal guns -- Uzis, TEC-9s, MAC-11s and an AR-15 rifle. But even more dangerous than the guns are their large-capacity ammunition magazines. Such magazines have no practical purpose, make guns more powerful than those carried by law enforcement, and allow mass murderers to wreak much greater havoc. For instance, an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine was one of the guns used to murder 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut.
In a new nationwide analysis of incidents since 1984, my organization identified more than 30 mass shootings -- the killing of four or more victims in a public place, unrelated to another crime -- that involved a large-capacity ammunition magazine. That was about half of all mass shootings during that time.
Overall, the shooters who used large magazines were far more destructive than those who didn't. From 1984 to 2012, assailants who used large-capacity ammunition magazines were able to shoot 161 percent more people and kill 78 percent more victims than those who used a weapon holding 10 bullets or fewer.
Though the number of those hurt or killed by a mass shooter using a large-capacity magazine is but a small portion of American gun casualties overall, it is an eminently preventable type of mayhem -- so preventable that a failure to limit the size of magazines is plainly reckless.
Yet only eight states, including New York, continued to limit ammunition-magazine capacity after a prohibition set by the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. That means those big magazines are now easy to procure.
Opponents of a large-capacity magazine ban question how effective it would be in preventing malicious use. But the database statistics are striking. We found that, in the decade before the ban, more than twice as many people were killed or injured by shooters using large-capacity magazines than in the decade during the ban. In the decade since it expired, casualties have nearly tripled.
There are other common-sense reasons to prohibit large magazines. First, if criminals need to reload, that creates an opportunity to stop them. Indeed, that was how the gunman who shot then-Rep. Gabby Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, was disarmed.
But here's an even more basic point: Why would a law-abiding citizen need to fire more than 10 bullets at a time? Even hunters in many states have had limitations on ammunition for years.
There will always be dangerous people with no regard for life. We have to limit their ability to maim and kill as best we can while protecting personal freedoms.
For years, a majority of Americans has supported a ban on large-capacity magazines -- including after the most recent effort failed in the U.S. Senate last year, and in a CBS News-New York Times poll conducted three months ago.
New York's Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement Act significantly increased enforcement of the state's 20-year-old ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines. But we are still left unprotected while other states don't have such measures in place. The Brooklyn gun bust showed that.
Congress should limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Americans want it. Common sense demands it. It's time to reinstitute the federal ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Richard Aborn is the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City.