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Smart gun control? Ban high-capacity magazines | Editorial
It’s one measure that could start to stem mass shootings.
Shoppers are evacuated from a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., after a gunman opened fire on Monday.
Shoppers are evacuated from a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., after a gunman opened fire on Monday. [ CHET STRANGE | Getty Images North America ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Mar. 24
Updated Mar. 24

Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.

And high-capacity magazines hold more bullets, so a shooter can squeeze off many more rounds before reloading. More bullets equals more potential for mayhem and death. After yet another mass shooting in America — this one in Boulder, Colo., that killed 10 people, including a police officer — limiting the size of magazines is one common sense gun safety rule that everybody should be able to agree on.

A decade ago, a gunman shot Gabby Giffords, then a congresswoman, in the head. With an extended magazine that held 33 bullets, he shot 18 others in a Tucson suburb, killing six, before he fumbled when trying to reload, and a bystander tackled him. A limit on magazine capacity could have limited the carnage.

The attack this week at a Boulder grocery store was the seventh mass killing this year in the United States, according to a database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. Last week, eight people were shot dead at three Atlanta-area massage businesses.

Florida has witnessed two of the worst mass shootings. On Valentine’s Day three years ago, 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The gunman used a semi-automatic rifle and, according to the exhaustive investigation led by Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, “eight 30- and 40-round capacity magazines were recovered from the scene.”

And five years ago, a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the time the worst mass shooting in modern American history. He used high-capacity magazines.

A Washington Post investigation suggests that bans on high-capacity magazines are effective, countering the argument that if the government makes buying high-capacity magazines a crime, only criminals will have high-capacity magazines.

On last month’s anniversary of the Parkland mass shooting, President Joe Biden called on “Congress to enact common sense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” Reacting to the tragedy in Boulder, he somberly reiterated his call on Tuesday, saying, “This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue. We have to act.”

The president has sound ideas, and there is solid support among Florida voters for universal background checks of gun buyers, bans on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity gun magazines.

Unfortunately, technical issues can tangle up discussions of assault rifles. Does a semiautomatic rifle become an “assault rifle” when it has a pistol grip? When it “looks” like a military weapon? People will disagree. But high-capacity magazines are easy to define. Simply count how many bullets it can contain, decide on a definition and ban those that hold too many. People might debate whether 10 is too many, but who could argue that 20 isn’t high capacity? Either way, lawmakers can decide on a number and act.

Banning high-capacity magazines won’t solve America’s gun violence. But it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s an easy, effective fix that should become law now.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.