January 17, 2013

President Obama proposed to ban military-style assault weapons and limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds [“Gun agenda faces an uphill campaign,” front page, Jan. 17]. This proposal echoes similar ones from many gun-control advocates. For example, in a Jan. 16 op-ed, “Clip the capacity to kill,” Jason Ross stated that if the AR-15’s magazine capacity were limited to five rounds, it would no longer be an assault weapon.

Perhaps so, by prevalent definitions, but it is important to remember that as long as a gun’s magazine is detachable at the push of a button, as is the case with an AR-15, a shooter on a rampage with such a gun could carry extra, pre-loaded magazines, quickly exchange an emptied one for a full one, and continue shooting with only a few interruptions. With a 10-round magazine, the limit proposed by the president, there would be very few interruptions. 

A much more effective approach would be to combine a limit on magazine capacity — say, to five rounds — with the requirement that the magazine must be fixed, not detachable, and with no insertable clips. Such a magazine can be reloaded only by a manual, time-consuming, one-shell-at-a-time process. A deranged person would have a much harder time killing many people with such a gun than with one with a detachable magazine.

Nellie Clem, Lovettsville