The Costs And Benefits Of High Capacity Magazines

Dave Killion — January 21, 2013

Firearms are federally-regulated in Canada, and we already have the sorts of restrictions on high-capacity magazines that many in the U.S. seek: handguns are limited to ten rounds, and most semi-auto centre-fire rifles are limited to five. Proponents of such restrictions offer arguments like “No one needs a high-capacity magazine” and “It doesn’t take 7 rounds to kill a deer”. Now, it’s my view that no one’s rights should be subject to violation based on a cost/benefit analysis. However, since the utilitarian argument in favour of high-cap magazines is particularly strong, I don’t mind making it.

When a mass murderer acts, he is almost always attacking the unarmed and the defenceless. The victims are frightened, and attempting to hide or flee. Being defenceless, they offer little threat to the attacker, who can well-afford the 1-3 seconds it takes to eject one low-cap magazine and then insert another.The number of lives saved by criminalizing high-cap mags is likely to be zero.

On the other hand, someone who is using a firearm in self-defense will usually be facing someone else who is armed, or perhaps multiple aggressors. For the target, any interval during which he is unable to fire may cost him the upper hand, and could prove fatal.

The fact is, in most situations banning high-capacity magazines offers no impediment to bad guys, while disadvantaging the good guys a great deal. Banning them is a mistake for Canada, and it would be a mistake for the U.S., too.


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