Commentary: Newtown shooting underscores need to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines


When President Barack Obama announced his plan for curbing gun violence last week, one of the measures he highlighted was a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.  

Read more: ANALYSIS: Newtown massacre compelled Obama to address gun violence

Prompted by the type of weaponry used in the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Obama called on Congress to impose a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.

According to police, Adam Lanza was heavily armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, two handguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunitions when he broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012.

Read more: Gunman used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle to kill students, teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary

Shortly after forcing his way inside the building, Lanza shot and killed two school administrators who confronted him in the hallway. He then barged into two classrooms and used the AR-15 rifle to spray bullets on the first grade students and their teachers.

Police later confirmed that Lanza’s AR-15 was equipped with high-capacity magazines – with each carrying more than 30 rounds of bullets. This enabled Lanza to fire dozens of bullets before he needed to stop and reload the rifle. To put it another way, the high-capacity magazine made killing a lot more efficient and helped Lanza rack up a high death toll in a matter of minutes.

By the time police arrived 3 minutes after the reported break-in, 26 people – including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 – were fatally shot. Connecticut’s State Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne Carver noted that many of the children suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and most of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Read more: Transcript: Newtown school superintendent testifies on gun violence & Sandy Hook elementary mass shooting

“20 beautiful and innocent little first graders were lost that day in a senseless act. They were no match for a troubled person with an AR-15,” said Dr. Janet Robinson, Newtown’s School Superintendent, in her testimony before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on Jan. 16, 2013.

Despite the high death toll, Robinson noted that the quick response by police “saved innumerable lives” considering that Lanza carried enough ammunitions to kill hundreds more. (Police found Lanza’s body with a self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after they entered the school building.)

Newtown is the latest in a string of deadly mass shootings involving the use of high-capacity ammunition magazines. Other high-profile examples include the January 2011 shooting outside a grocery store where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was greeting her constituents in Tucson, Arizona and the July 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

In the Tucson shooting, Jared Lee Loughner was able to fire a total of 33 shots from his semi-automatic pistol before he was restrained. Loughner shot Giffords in the head at close range before turning the gun on the crowd.

“[Loughner] murdered 6, including my son, and injured 13 people…with 31 bullets bullets before he tried to reload his magazine. Only then did citizen heroes have the opportunity to tackle him to the ground and disarm him,” recounted Emily Nottingham, mother of Gabriel Zimmerman, a Congressional aide who was killed while trying to help the gravely-wounded Giffords.

In Aurora, James Eagan Holmes was able to shoot 70 people, killing 12, within minutes thanks to his semi-automatic rifle equipped with a 100-round magazine. Police noted that the number of fatalities would have been higher had the rifle not jammed. The high number of those wounded and killed is striking considering the fact that police arrived at the theater within 90 seconds of the first 9-1-1 call.

The growing frequency – and high death tolls – of these mass shootings have alarmed gun safety advocates and local law enforcement officials for sometime now. But the horrific news of 20 children killed in a barrage of gunfire galvanized them to push for a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and assault weapons, such as the AR-15 rifle.

In his Congressional testimony, Police Chief Scott Knight of Chaska, Minnesota pointed out that assault weapons combined with high-capacity magazines actually “facilitate mass murder” such as the ones in Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson.

“[Assault weapons] were created to spray bullets in rapid fire on a battlefield – not in our streets. This kind of firepower in our communities is simply irresponsible,” said Knight.

He also urged lawmakers to ban high-capacity magazines to curb gun-related fatalities.

“Banning high-capacity magazines will reduce the number of bullets the shooter can use before they must reload,” Knight explained. “Perpetrators have been taken down while they’re changing out magazines trying to reload.”

Imagine the difference it could have made if Congress had imposed a 10-bullet limit on magazines prior to the Newtown shooting.

What if Adam Lanza was forced to take time and reload his weapon after firing just 10 rounds instead of 30?

Would those precious seconds have been enough for first-grade teacher Vicki Soto to find hiding places for her remaining students before Lanza shot them? (Soto was able to hide some of her students in a bathroom before Lanza entered her classroom and opened fire.)

Would more children have survived if they suffered only one gunshot wound instead of 3 or 11?

As a mother who lost her son to gun violence, Nottingham acknowledged that banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines won’t be enough to prevent deadly shootings in the future.

“But if we can take action and save some of our loved ones, shouldn’t we do everything we can?” asked Nottingham.

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2 Comments on “Commentary: Newtown shooting underscores need to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduces assault weapons ban | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy says assault weapons ban will save lives | What The Folly?!

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