Large-capacity magazines for firearms are becoming a focus for gun-control advocates following Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others.
The magazine -- also known as the "clip" -- of a firearm is a spring-action stick of ammo that allows multiple rounds to be fired quickly from semi-automatic guns. (With a semi-auto, one bullet comes out each time the trigger is squeezed. Fully automatic machine guns keep firing while the trigger is held down.)
Jared Loughner's Glock had a clip that held 31 rounds, which is a big reason he was able to shoot so many people, so quickly. He was tackled before he could reload his weapon with another 31-round clip he was carrying.
Two Democratic officials, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York are reacting to the shooting with plans to introduce bills that limit magazines to an arbitrary number of bullets.
Under the 1994 federal assault-rifle ban, it was illegal to make or sell new magazines that held more than 10 rounds. The ban expired in 2004. However, it's unclear whether Loughner would have been unable to get his hands on a large-capacity magazine if it had still been in effect. During the ban period, many local gun stores continued to sell pre-ban, large-capacity clips, which were "grandfathered in" under the assault-rifle ban.
It's clear that Loughner would have shot fewer people before he had to stop and reload if he didn't have 31-round clips.
At the same time, it's also clear that a ban on huge magazines wouldn't have stopped the tragedy entirely. Ten rounds in a semi-auto, plus one in the chamber, is still plenty of firepower.
To gun-control advocates like Lautenberg, "the only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly."
Say gun enthusiasts, the main reason is to avoid frequent reloading.
Alan Korwin, a local author of popular books on the state's gun laws, says he went to the range yesterday with some shooters and expended about 800 rounds of ammo in less than three hours.
"That is perfectly normal," he says.
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