My husband and son both hunt deer on our land. Many people deplore the idea of hunting, but I eat meat, wear leather, deplore the ecological damage of an outsized deer population, and trust the wisdom of our hunters. But the fact that our family buys gun licenses every year doesn’t mean that I sympathize with the National Rifle Association propaganda that gets sent to our house. I’ve yet to agree with them on any presidential or other candidate, and they’ve recently redefined the meaning of irresponsibility with their staunch defense of high-capacity gun magazines.
The tragic killing rampage in Arizona by a man with a 33-round magazine in his Glock semi-automatic pistol has profoundly shocked and distressed the nation. Most of us were horrified by the killing of innocents and the ferocity of the rampage. The tragedy has prompted valuable soul-searching about some politicians’ inflammatory rhetoric and the divisive politics that plays to the nation’s least noble instincts.
Then there’s the National Rifle Association, whose take-home from this tragedy has been to defend the kind of high-capacity gun magazines that allowed the killer in Arizona to fire his gun repeatedly without reloading.
Two members of Congress — Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York — are amassing co-sponsors for legislation to reinstate part of the federal assault weapons ban, which for a decade barred the manufacture and sale of gun magazines holding more than 10 rounds at a time. The ban expired in 2004. McCarthy, a leading champion of gun control, ran for Congress after her husband was killed and her son seriously injured in 1993 by a man using a high-capacity gun clip.
As Lautenberg says, “The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market.” Lautenberg pointed out that it was during the Arizona gunman’s pause to reload that he was restrained and that had he not had access to the high-capacity gun magazine, lives could have been spared.
However, the NRA disagrees, arguing that such gun magazines are “standard equipment for self-defense handguns and other firearms owned by tens of millions of Americans,” who choose them to “improve their odds in defensive situations.” Personally, I haven’t heard of any homeowners who have needed to use guns with a high-capacity magazine to defend their home against robbers or assailants. But I have heard of lobbying associations that defend indefensible behavior of their clients. The gun manufacturing industry should not be allowed to make our nation’s streets and shopping centers vulnerable to an unstable gunman with a pistol and 33 rounds of ammunition.
Fortunately, not all champions of Second Amendment rights are toeing the NRA’s line on this issue. For example, the sheriff in the Arizona county where these shootings occurred and a lawyer who supported gun rights in the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller case are concerned about high-capacity gun magazines. “I don’t see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines,” said Robert A. Levy, a senior fellow at the right-wing Cato Institute and a prime mover behind the Heller case.
The NRA says that it’s only people on the nation’s coasts who care about gun control. This is a good time for ordinary people who hunt and people who keep a pistol in their closet to come OUT of their closet and speak up for a ban against weapon systems no person in a civilized country should be able to purchase, conceal and carry to the mall.
Margaret Krome of Madison writes a semimonthly column for The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org