The Price of Pleasure

Tony Comstock has a really excellent post up on the Tucson shootings, gun control, and the thirty-round magazine:

Buried in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban’s meaningless restrictions on cosmetic features was a ban on magazines of over a 10-round capacity.

The ban was porous. It did not include magazines manufactured before the ban, and such magazines were widely available. It was derided by gun-rights advocates as a meaningless imposition on the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.

But the 30-shot magazines carried by Loughner were not manufactured before 1994. The 30-shot magazines Loughner carried were manufactured after the AWB sun-downed in 2004.

Glocks are popular with law enforcement and as military sidearms. But 30-shot magazines for them are not; people who really own semi-automatic pistols for law enforcement and self-defense find the protruding magazine an encumbrance that is more trouble than the added firepower is worth, even in a life-or-death situation. For a Glock, or any weapon outside the battlefield, a 30-shot magazine is a novelty, an amusement; a chance to make a lot of noise and smoke and send a lot of lead down range. I have a 30-shot magazine for my Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle.

It’s fun. You set up a bunch of cans down range and then knock them all down — firing off 30 rounds just as fast as you can pull the trigger.

After the Tucson shooting, I wondered how things might have been different if, instead of focusing on things like pistol grips and bayonet mounts and flash-suppressors, the proponents of the ban had simple stuck to one thing: the abolishment of high-capacity magazines for civilian weapons.

I don’t think such a ban would stop a determined person from acquiring a high-capacity magazine. Certainly such a ban would not have stopped Loughner from acquiring a semi-automatic pistol, and there’s nothing to suggest the sort of ban that would have stopped Loughner from acquiring a weapon is something this country is willing to consider any time soon. As Jim pointed out in his post “What We Take for Granted”, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does. Here in America, we like our guns and tolerate the mayhem that comes with them.

But if the high capacity magazine provision of the 1994 AWB had not sun-downed in 2004, I believe Loughner would have fired only 10 shots, not 30, before being wrestled to the ground.

And I believe that would have made a difference.

Read the whole thing. I’m not typically swayed by a lot of gun-rights arguments. Reasonable limits are necessary and prudent, and the notion that people should be allowed to own any weapon they want because we have the right to bear arms in our Constitution is not only silly, it’s not true. You don’t see a lot of people driving around in tanks, or going out to the range with rocket launchers. And taking away 30-round magazines doesn’t infringe on the right to bear arms at all – just the right to bear 30-round magazines which, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t in the Constitution. I think it’s a lot more about pleasure than about liberty in cases like this. Nobody needs a thirty-round magazine. But it’s a lot of fun to fire off that many shots without reloading.

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36 thoughts on “The Price of Pleasure

  1. From what I understand (and, *PLEASE*!, correct me if I’m wrong!), Loughner was tackled when his magazine jammed. A 30 round magazine.

    10 round magazines don’t jam as much as 30 round magazines do. It’s a pity his first magazine didn’t jam… but he was able to reload after the first magazine, it’s not impossible to wonder if he’d have been able to reload a 10 round magazine and fire it off… and then again. And again. And again.

    We’ve very much in woulda coulda shoulda territory here, of course.

    But he was tackled after his magazine jammed and I think it’s reasonable to say that a 10 bullet magazine wouldn’t have.

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  2. “And taking away 30-round magazines doesn’t infringe on the right to bear arms at all – just the right to bear 30-round magazines which, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t in the Constitution”

    The internets aren’t mentioned either.

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    • In fact, no specific weapon is called out in the Constitution. Should we infer that the “arms” described by the Second Amendment don’t actually include any type of firearm at all?

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    • Don’t laugh.

      Here’s from theusconstitution.org/blog.history/?p=2281

      Mocking Justice Scalia’s approach, Justice Alito shot back, telling California’s Deputy Attorney General that “what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games” and if “he enjoyed them.

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  3. Excuse me for being slightly OT on this observation, but one of the things that I kept hearing from those advocating for stricter gun control immediately after this latest shooting episode was, “These high capacity magazines are not needed by hunters” as if the 2nd Amendment is there to protect the right to hunt. I am a gun-owner myself as well as someone who sees the importance of reasonable gun restrictions. California passed a number of bans and restrictions that were about cosmetic features or origins of the manufacturer rather than actual lethality.

    My Ruger Mini-14 has the firepower of the M-16 of old (short of being fully auto) but looks like a ranch rifle rather than an assault weapon (not mean enough looking – no pistol grip, carry handle, flash suppressor,…), even with a 20 or 30 round magazine.

    Sad to say, it seems to be an arguement made based on feelings over facts. Weapons need to be kept out of the hands of criminals and crazies (umm…people with reality, stability, and anger issues) and the wisespread availability of personal small arms makes that very difficult despite the laws already on the books. I find it interesting in the debate, it largely ignores that at the time of the founders, it allowed for the public to have access to the most modern and technologically advanced small arms of the time. Yes, times have changed, but should the latitude for interpretation itself change with the tides as well?

    I find this piece on the ACLU and individual gun rights interesting.
    http://www.ccrkba.org/?p=1478

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    • Interesting. But only mildly.

      I mean, the major contributors to the ACLU probably care about all the other things the ACLU does than gun rights. In fact, a large number of ACLU donors probably are in favor of some gun restrictions. And really, the NRA has the gun’s rights lobby covered.

      I’d rather the ACLU keep suing to stop the warrantless wiretapping, the airport x-ray machines, and dozens of other particular battles than to turn around and start trumpeting gun rights.

      Not because I’m anti-gun in any way shape or form. I just don’t think it would be a good use of their resources, and it would piss off a bunch of their donor base. Who fund the organization’s goals that ought to be fought.

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      • The point I think is that civil liberties are not to be protected buffet style. Whether it’s Nazis marching in Skokie, illegal wiretaps, being held without due process, freedom of or from religion, or the rights of the individual to keep and bear arms, the ACLU would do much to assure people of their commitment to the entire Bill of Rights, thereby helping to sensibly counter the NRA’s stranglehold on the gun rights issue. I would compare it to how J-Street is helping to counter AIPAC’s hegemony

        How sad if they only championed the rights of the donor base. I remember that the Skokie suit lost them a lot of financial support for a time. But as far as resources go, it seems that a clearer position on what limits are Constitutional would not break the bank. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to say that the much of the Bill of Rights is protected by the 2nd.

        “Catch-22 means people have the right to do to you anything which you cannot prevent them from doing to you.” ~ Joesph Heller

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  4. Unless he is very well practiced, it takes a bit to change magazines under pressure. Most people are not that cool under chaotic situations. If he had to keep changing clips, he would have been more vulnerable. Enough to make a difference? Who knows?

    Being a wheel gunner, I only get 6 tries. Seems like it should be enough under most conditions.

    Steve

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    • As I stated above, it doesn’t take much practice, and I’ve done it in competition settings where I was shooting against another for time & accuracy (first one to hit all their targets wins).

      Alternatively, he could have just purchased multiple firearms. Or he could have just drove through the crowd with a truck, or planted a bomb, or half a dozen other ways to commit mass murder.

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  5. Robert Nozick has a really interesting passage in Anarchy, State, and Utopia that seems applicable here. It’s usually applied to questions of animal rights, but it’s really more about utilitarianism. And about the tradeoff between slaughter and pleasure.

    He asks — going on memory, my Nozick is at work — suppose you could gain a small bit of pleasure by tapping your fingers to some agreeable music. But in doing so, 10,000 livestock animals would die.

    Do you do it?

    The human case is pretty obviously a fortiori.

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    • The growing segment of bastards who drive by with their boom cars blasting are killing me slowly with each thump but they get to emit their “air pollution” at will. I’d rather have that daily and very real sonic assault dealt with more than I worry about gun crazies. As was mentioned elsewhere, someone out to kill and maim large groups at random has many options, particularly with motor vehicles. It wasn’t that all long ago that an unstable man purposely drove up on the sidewalk through a crowd in Westwood CA killing and injuring dozens of people. If lawmakers responded in a similar fashion, cars would be limited to only enough gasoline to allow them to travel 30 feet at a time and the cars themselves would be manufactured by Nerf(tm).

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  6. Beyond the fact that I basically agree with Tony here (though I’m not sure the benefits of a ban on high cap mags would be reaped more than once every couple of years), I just want to add that it’s incredibly refreshing to see someone writing a gun control piece at a mainstream outlet- even if just on a blog- who actually firearms technology and laws.

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  7. “Nobody needs a thirty-round magazine”

    Probably not. But you could spend a lot of time substituting words for “thirty round magazine” and come up with statements that are equaly true. Nobody needs magazines with boobs in them. Nobody needs WASP albums with naughty words. Nobody needs marijuana.

    At best, it’s a non sequiter.

    You say, but someone was hurt with a thirty-round clip. Someone replies, how many exist? How many people have been hurt? The percentage seems low. Some people are hurt dreadfully by drugs, by porn, by booze.

    Again… I just don’t see how “they don’t really need it” has any impact on anything. And as someone who is so eager to end the Drug War, I would think you might be a little more leary about making those kinds of arguments.

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    • “And taking away 30-round magazines doesn’t infringe on the right to bear arms at all – just the right to bear 30-round magazines which, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t in the Constitution”

      It’s not a non-sequiter, it’s policy done with a Constitutional back-stop. I was in favor of moving toward an individual right to bear arms just for this reason: it stopped the debate about “is it about militias?!?!” and moved it toward constitutional standards of reasonableness. Those standards sound fuzzy, but they are durable and long-lasting, as the First Amendment protections show.

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      • Well of course the part about whether or not its in the Constitution has a bearing on its constitutionality. The question I brought up was the one of “need.” Nobody “needs” to carry a Free Mumia placard. Nobody “needs” a copy of the Anarchist Handbook. Nobody “needs” most things apart from a few basic material resources.

        Pick any political controversy. Poke around it long enough and you can come up with a handly little “nobody needs ______” phrase that will support either side. Nobody needs a fast food restaurant in their neighborhood. Nobody needs to dance with Kevin Bacon. Nobody needs to cross county lines to watch strippers at Porky’s.

        I admit that nobody needs any of these things. But I still think that they should be allowed. What’s “need” have to do with it?

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  8. You know, we have states where the ban on both 30 round and standard-capacity Glock magazines is still in effect via state law, and states where magazine size is unrestricted. It should be pretty easy to match demographically similar areas and see if there is any demonstrable effect of a magazine capacity limit.
    It seems to me that any proposals to restrict freedom in the name of safety need to be on the basis of objective data rather than feelings or bigotry. If we don’t have the data, then do the law with a sunset provision so that freedom is restored if the restriction doesn’t have the desired effect.
    I’m reminded that Canada and many European countries find restrictions on freedom of speech to be reasonable and prudent, especially if that speech is criticism of religion.

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  9. I think this is an example where the answer is in the question. Chasing a couple links, you see Fallows’ correspondent claims that 9mm have “absolutely no even arguably legitimate purpose”, contrary to the millions of Americans who collect them or use them as personal defense weapons.

    The comprehensiveness of the desire for gungrabbing obviously makes gun owners paranoid.

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  10. So, just to play devil’s advocate here – if .45 rounds are more dangerous than .38 rounds, why not ban the former because shooters can still enjoy their sport with the lower caliber? Maybe force hunters who theoretically need higher calibers to go through additional licensing that would (hopefully) weed out the psychopaths?

    Additionally, to draw a clumsy analogy, let’s say that once a year some crazy person drives a very heavy truck into a crowd of people. Do we ban heavy trucks because they have a higher capacity for destruction?

    The reason targeted bans are silly is because they are arbitrary and allow people to take false comfort in the new law. It’s no different than the motions that the TSA goes through in airports. I don’t think I’m being alarmist to suggest that a ban on 30-round magazines wouldn’t eventually be replaced with a ban on 15-round magazines, then 10 and so on.

    Want to end gun crime? Target gun trafficking, which is how gangbangers get their guns and pray every night that the next sociopath that wants to kill a bunch of people gets help first.

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