The Smart Political Choice on Gun Safety: Ban High-Capacity Magazines
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the time to enact gun reforms is now.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project.
“How did this happen?” That’s the question we hear after every mass shooting in America, when gun safety quickly becomes a political issue. In nearly every other country, the question asked is why the U.S. hasn’t done anything to stop it; gun safety is viewed as a moral issue.
For Americans, gun safety is both a political and a moral issue, and the politics of inaction usually prevail. But that doesn’t have to be the case: Look at the gun reforms signed into law by Florida’s Republican governor just 23 days after the horrific 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
This legislation happened because students and parents were unyielding in their demand for action. They used the press, social media and every ounce of their being to force change. They may not have gotten everything they wanted, but they knew what was possible under the circumstances, and they achieved their goal: to protect lives.
In the wake of the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, now is the time to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines — it’s the best move both politically and morally.
There is no reason to have a device designed for the sole purpose of mass casualties and destruction.
I am a strong believer in the Second Amendment, and I find zero conflict in supporting background checks and bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Many people think that the easiest gun safety bills to get passed are comprehensive background checks and red flag laws. These are two different issues and, according to most polls, upward of 90 percent of Americans support them.
Background check legislation is meant, among other things, to eliminate the loophole that permits private-party sales, including those at gun shows, to be conducted without background checks. It also would prevent those on the terrorist watchlist from obtaining firearms. Red flag laws permit the police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or to themselves.
As sensible as such reforms seem, it’s unlikely that any meaningful reform will happen. That’s because the National Rifle Association, even as it faces internal turmoil, has its well-funded foot on the throats of many Republican lawmakers. It doesn’t mean that the fight shouldn’t continue, but it does mean that any bill that could potentially pass the Senate will be parsed and watered down, greatly limiting its effectiveness and doing little to prevent mass shooters from obtaining assault-style weapons.
So why not just ban assault-style weapons? I’m all for it — there is no reason for civilians to possess weapons of war. But the political will is not there. No Republican wants to be branded as a lawmaker who “wants to take your guns away,” a tried-and-true refrain used by the NRA. Furthermore, millions of assault-style weapons are already in circulation; it would take years to have them turned in or confiscated — as several Democrats running for president are proposing. Again, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek the ban, but we must recognize that it will be a very heavy lift and take years to come to fruition.
Now is the time to learn from Parkland and go after what is achievable and advocate for a ban on high-capacity magazines. Like bump stocks, high-capacity magazines are nothing more than a piece of hardware. There is no debating their purpose. The only thing they do is hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition and release bullets at lightning speed.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration banned bump stocks in response to the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. The logic was uncomplicated: There is no reason to have a device designed for the sole purpose of mass casualties and destruction. Certainly, a magazine clip holding 100 bullets that in less than 24 seconds killed nine people and injured dozens in Dayton, Ohio, should be deemed similar in nature.
Let’s follow Parkland’s lead and use all of the political strength that gun safety advocates have amassed to ban high-capacity magazines. According to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, 72 percent of Americans — including 61 percent of Republicans — support such a ban. This is a fight that is not only worth having but also could save lives.
And to all of those who oppose this idea citing the Second Amendment, I say: I am entitled to protect my life and property, but I can’t place land mines on my front yard to do it. And I’m OK with that.