One of the most talked about components of gun control legislation is a magazine capacity limit. Proponents of gun control will often question why anyone needs more than X number of rounds (often 10) in their magazine. This is usually answered with a response about how it isn’t about what we “need” or with an analogy like “why does anyone need a car that goes faster than the speed limit.” Both of these answers are true. It is not about what we need – it is our birth right to keep and bear arms. However, just because it is our right doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need. There certainly is a need.
Many of the people who are proposing this legislation have an agenda beyond public safety so they are unlikely to listen to reason. However, there may be those who you come across in your everyday life that genuinely do want to know why someone might need magazine capacities of 10 or more. Much of their misunderstanding of why these higher capacities can be dispelled by addressing 3 main misconceptions/preconceived notions about the nature of terminal ballistics and what really happens in a gunfight:
- People die immediately upon being shot.
- It is easy to shoot a moving person.
- You will face only a single attacker.
Many people, whether they realize it or not, are basing their perceptions of the “need” for larger capacity magazines based on these misconceptions/preconceived notions. These notions come from a number of sources but mostly from the various forms of media that we consume. Of course, it may also be true that they have never really given it much (if any) thought. Either way, this is a chance for the informed gun owner to politely engage someone in a conversation about the real world.
People Die Immediately Upon Being Shot
You can blame Hollywood for this one. The good guy shoots the bad guy and, in moments, the bad guy is crumpled over dead right there.
People survive gunshot wounds at a rate of 75-95% (studies vary). This is especially true when a handgun is used. Often, people continue to function after being shot which means that they continue to be a threat. We also know that due to the dynamic nature of a gunfight, most gunshot wounds happen in the extremities which can have little to no effect on a person’s ability to continue to harm you or your family.
If you are being attacked by a determined attacker, you will likely need to shoot more than once. You may even need to shoot more than 10 times to stop an attacker. There are multiple documented cases of people continuing to be a threat even after being shot more than 10 times. The most famous of which is the Miami Shootout of April 11, 1986. This is just one of hundreds.
The reality is that it is far more likely that you will have to shoot a determined attacker multiple times in order to stop them. You cannot predict the number of shots that it will take to incapacitate someone.
It is Easy to Shoot a Moving Person
Again, you can thank Hollywood. The good guys only miss when it is convenient to extend the plot. Characters in movies often don’t even need to use the sights in order to shoot their adversaries.
Here in the real world, it is very hard to hit an attacker that is moving in an unpredictable way. It is even harder to hit an attacker in a way that will produce a stop. Take for instance the recent police action shooting that took place at the Empire State building which actually had a high hit percentage (62.5%) at 10 hits out of 16 shots fired. Various other studies put the hit percentages of large police departments in the range of 27-50% (NY Times, CBS News). These are the same police who gun control proponents hold up as firearm experts with a higher degree of training than the average gun owner. If professionals can miss, so can you. This is especially true with handguns which are difficult to shoot under stress.
The reality of a dynamic situation like a real, live gunfight is that you are going to miss at least some of the time. You cannot afford to give up any capacity in a situation that is as unpredictable as a gun fight.
You Will Face Only a Single Attacker
No one will really say this out loud, but this is the scenario that people envision when they are handing down new gun control legislation. Life isn’t always like an ADT Security commercial where you inadvertently scare off the healthy, well-fed looking guy with 3 days beard growth trying to lift your new flat screen TV.
Violent crimes that involve more than one attacker are not uncommon – in fact, some suggest that they are the rule and not the exception. Homicides involving more than one offender have been trending up since 1980 according to the most recent statistics that I could find (BJS).
The reality is that you may have to defend yourself from multiple attackers. You cannot predict the number of attackers that you might face.
Someone who spends just a modicum of time researching the realities of violent crime, terminal ballistics, and the use of firearms in self defense will find it immediately apparent that magazine capacity limits in any form infringe upon the ability of a legal gun owner to defend themselves. A self-defense scenario is likely to likely to involve multiple attackers that must be shot multiple times each all while you are missing at least a few times (maybe a lot of times). It is that simple.
Again, I know that this won’t make a difference for many of those who propose magazine capacity limits because the magazine capacity limits are merely an incremental step toward their larger goals. However, this might give you some answers beyond the typical ones. It turns out that we DO need high capacity magazines.