There’s ample enough speculation on the motives and beliefs of the shooter in Tuscon, on which I don’t consider myself qualified to speculate, and not enough speculation about his actions, and the implications of them. What we know is that Jared Loughner, who was rejected from the military and kicked out of a community college, and who had various minor run-ins with the law, was able to purchase a semi-automatic 9MM Glock with an extended magazine.
By all accounts, the purchase of the gun was legal. Loughner was never judged as a mental defective, nor was he convicted of a felony. And Arizona is one of the three states in the nation where Loughner could carry that weapon concealed without a permit. You can certainly question the wisdom of that decision.
But let’s highlight the extended magazine. Under the federal assault weapons ban, enacted in 1994 and allowed to expire in 2004, these extended magazines, which can hold over 30 rounds, were prohibited. No company was allowed to manufacture any magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds.
To those who believe that this is a minor point, that Loughner could just reload the magazine in a matter of seconds, consider this:
The alleged shooter in Arizona was attempting to reload his weapon when a woman grabbed the gun’s magazine and ripped it away from him, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told reporters Sunday.
Mr. Dupnik said the woman was injured as she attempted to stop the suspect, who then tried to put another magazine in the gun, but the spring in the magazine failed.
The sheriff said that allowed two men to subdue the suspect until authorities arrived.
Basically, the need to reload provided the opportunity to stop the shooting spree. Loughner would not have been able to unload more than 10 rounds, 22 less than he did, under the rules of the federal assault weapons ban. Importantly, the ban was on the manufacture of those eligible weapons. Pre-existing magazines already manufactured could be sold and purchased. The effect of that was that those magazines increased in price as the supply dwindled. And if the ban remained in place to this day, by the time Jared Loughner walked into that sporting goods store in Tuscon it would have been 16 years since the last extended magazine was manufactured.
The major point is this: the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban plausibly led to a greater tragedy than we saw yesterday. That’s to say nothing of the concealed carry laws, or the tightening of restrictions on who can purchase a firearm or the extensiveness of the background check.
I know conservatives desperately cling to the fact that Giffords supported gun rights and the Second Amendments. That’s a far different thing from supporting the use of weapons that have no other purpose but to kill large amounts of people. I know that the Democratic Party has essentially given up on gun control as a political issue. If this incident, and the clear facts of the case, don’t wake them up, absolutely nothing will.
Josh Sugarmann has more.
UPDATE: This is from Mayor Mike Bloomberg this morning.
These shootings are just terrible examples, and a terrible reminder, of the gun violence that happens every single day in our country. We don’t know all the facts of this case yet, but we do know that every single day, 34 Americans are murdered – every single day. Yesterday it was Judge John Roll and five other Americans – and many more, across the fifty states. Tomorrow there will be another 34. And so it will continue until we get serious about cracking down on illegal guns and protecting innocent people. I’ve built a coalition of more than 500 mayors from across the country – from both political parties – who are dedicated to fighting gun violence. It is an uphill struggle, but if all of us join it – if all of us speak out – I believe we really can make a difference and save lives.
UPDATE II: Justin Elliott basically writes the same story, with a few added details.