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Before The Smoke Had Even Cleared

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About 70 to 80 percent of new handguns these days are semi-autos. A very large percentage of them have standard 11- to 19-round magazines. Contrary to the impression given by the media, a typical person who has a gun with a 13-round magazine is not a homicidal maniac. Rather, he or she is an ordinary gun owner using the magazine that his or her handgun was built to use.

Extended magazines of 20 to 30 rounds are available for many semi-auto handguns. They can be a good choice for people who do not have dexterity to make a quick magazine change, such as some elderly people, or people with diseases or handicaps that impair fine motor skills.

People who know nothing about guns insist that nobody “needs” a magazine with more than 10 rounds. All that these people know about real-life self-defense is disinformation from movies and television, in which the bad guy always falls down after a single hit.

The reality of a 115-pound woman defending herself against a 250-pound attacker is quite different—especially if the defender misses at first, or the attacker doesn’t stop immediately.

And if the single attacker has a few thugs with him, the need for standard capacity magazines (which they wrongly call “high-capacity”) becomes all the greater. Even among everyday street crimes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about one-third of robberies and aggravated assaults involve more than one attacker, and about one-sixth of the time there are four or more assailants. Even larger-scale attacks can also occur, as in recent “flash mob” violence or in the chaos in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Prohibitionists also demand a ban on guns like the AR-15, which they falsely call “assault weapons.” According to the prohibitionists, the only reason that a person would buy an AR-15 is because he or she is intent on committing mass murder.

That is a mean-spirited, bigoted and ignorant slander of the millions of law-abiding Americans who own the AR-15—the best-selling rifle in the United States. Such rifles are popular for hunting, although usually not powerful enough for very large game. They are used for the highest-level target shooting including the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. Because of the AR-15’s relatively low recoil, it is often chosen for self-defense—especially by persons without a lot of upper body strength.

Also, it’s not an automatic. Like every gun other than machine guns, it fires only once each time you pull the trigger.

Nor is the AR-15 more powerful than other guns, as the media would lead you to believe. As far as rifles go, it’s intermediate. For example, the diminutive .17 Remington might carry 801 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, while a big-game cartridge, like the .444 Marlin, might have 3,040 foot-pounds. For the AR-15, a typical caliber is .223 Rem., and a common cartridge would have 1,395 foot-pounds of energy.

While the gun-ban lobbies push for laws that will harm lawful gun owners, can we find genuinely constructive reforms instead?

Professor Clayton E. Cramer points the way in his new book, My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill. Cramer explains that during the 1950s and 1960s, when there were many fewer gun control laws, mass crimes such as those in Aurora and Oak Creek were extremely rare. Back then, people who suffered from dangerously violent mental illnesses were institutionalized and given treatment. In recent decades, while so much of the rest of government has bloated, treatment capacity for the mentally ill has been drastically cut.

As Cramer details, almost all mass killers fit the same profile: men in their late teens and early twenties (the typical age of onset for schizophrenia), who are intelligent and socially isolated. Fifty years ago, they were institutionalized or carefully supervised in outpatient programs. Today, a few of them commit sensational crimes that attract global media coverage, and many more of them kill one or two people at a time. Restoring appropriate funding, as well as appropriate legal tools to put such people where they cannot murder anyone, ought to be a top priority in every legislature next year.

Note, too, that sometimes the licensed carry of a concealed handgun can stop a mass murder. For example, in December 2007 an evildoer attacked a megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colo. New Life Church volunteer security guard Jeanne Assam was lawfully carrying a licensed handgun and she quickly shot the attacker. According to pastor Brady Boyd, “She probably saved over 100 lives.”

Sadly, Century Theaters has a corporate policy of being a pretend “gun-free zone.” The theater forbade patrons from the licensed carry of firearms—even by the four members of the u.s. armed forces who were attending the film. Simultaneously, the theater did nothing to prevent an armed criminal from entering. Having intentionally created the hazardous situation of patrons being defenseless, the theater then failed to have even a single armed security guard present for the midnight Batman screenings.

Mayor Bloomberg, appearing on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight on July 29, suggested that police should threaten to go on strike to blackmail the legislature into enacting anti-gun laws. He apparently forgot that police strikes are illegal almost everywhere in the United States.

Bloomberg was also oblivious to the fact that every poll shows that the vast majority of police support handgun ownership for law-abiding Americans. The police know that guns in the right hands enhance public safety. (Details are in my Heller brief, available at

But billionaire Bloomberg has all the money he needs to spend lavishly on lobbyists, and his prohibition campaign gets literally tens of millions of dollars in free publicity from anti-gun media. Against them, fighting on behalf of the Constitution, the American people and the police, is the National Rifle Association. The November elections will determine which side prevails.

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