Together with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO-1) I am reintroducing legislation to ban the high-capacity ammunition magazines that have enabled high numbers of casualties in almost every recent mass shooting in American history.
These assault magazines help put the ‘mass’ in ‘mass shooting’ and anything we can do to stop their proliferation will save lives in America. These devices are used to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible and we owe it to innocent Americans everywhere to keep them out of the hands of dangerous people. We don’t even allow hunters to use them – something’s deeply wrong if we’re protecting game more than we’re protecting innocent human beings.
The High Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, as the bill is formally known, bans the sale or transfer of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Such a standard was federal law between 1994 and 2004, when the assault weapons ban was in effect, and it is state law in many parts of the United States. Magazines are available today in capacities of up to 100 and even more.
Law enforcement officials and analysts have cited the direct role that magazine capacity plays in ensuring the high numbers of casualties in mass shootings. Often, as in the cases of Tucson, Arizona and the Long Island Railroad, the carnage ends when the shooters run out of bullets and stop to reload, at which point they are stopped by bystanders.
Unfortunately, the devices are still easily available to the public and have been used in every mass shooting in recent history, such as: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut; a shopping mall in Oregon; a temple in Wisconsin; a movie theater in Colorado; a Congressional event in Arizona; at schools like Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University; at a law office in California; and on a commuter rail car in New York. They were even acquired from the United States by mail order and used in the Norway shooting of 2011, where 69 people were shot to death.
In many cases, mass shooters intending to act don’t have access to a black market, but acquire whatever they can easily and legally, making a ban on high-capacity magazines a major obstacle for future mass murderers to carry out their plans.
The legislation had 138 House co-sponsors in the 112th Congress, under the number H.R. 308. One hundred and eleven House members signed on after its introduction after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona; two more signed on after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado; then 25 more signed on after last month’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The bill to ban high-capacity magazines was carried in the Senate in the 112th Congress by Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Sen. Lautenberg has helped lead the fight for safer gun policy for much of his decades-long career, writing the law to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence offenders and co-sponsoring the original Brady Law to establish background checks for handgun purchases, among other efforts.
Carolyn McCarthy is the representative of New York’s Fourth Congressional District. She was first elected in 1996.