Standard Capacity Magazines

Summary

A standard capacity magazine generally means any detachable ammunition feeding device that is sold with a firearm when it is shipped new from the manufacturer. In some cases, such as modern sporting rifles, the standard capacity magazine is regularly 30 rounds. Some state laws created after the 1993 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, limit the number of rounds a magazine can legally hold, generally to ten or less. Such restrictions come at high costs to firearm manufactures and consumers, with little to no evidence indicating a reduction in crime.

Introduction

A standard capacity magazine generally means any detachable ammunition feeding device that is sold with and designed to operate in firearms as sold from the manufacturer. Many popular semiautomatic handguns and rifles are sold with magazines that have capacities of 15-30 rounds.[1] Therefore, restrictions on magazine capacity create unnecessary burdens on responsible firearms owners who would then have to purchase additional equipment in order for their firearms to be operational.

In 1993, President Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which made it illegal to either manufacture or sell ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.2 The Federal Ban expired in 2004; and a 2003 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was unable to show that this ban and its magazine capacity limitation had reduced crime.3 Furthermore, a peer reviewed study by Koper and Roth in 2004 from the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania, found “no evidence of reductions in multiple-victim gun homicides or multiple-gunshot wound victimizations” as a result of the federal ban on standard capacity magazines.4 Despite this, several states and jurisdictions have put similar magazine capacity bans into place in recent years. These bans place limits on the possession, sale, and/or transfer of standard capacity magazines, and vary from state to state.5

Points of Interest

  • In 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed S.1446, which severely restricts standard capacity magazines. Under this law, anyone possessing a magazine with a carrying capacity larger than 10 rounds, no matter the caliber, was required to dispose of the magazine by July 1, 2017. 
  • Standard capacity magazines are very popular in the recreational shooting community. Each year, firearms sales within the recreational shooting community account for a majority of all firearms sales across the country. In fact, 79.8% of firearms sales dollars are assigned to non-hunting purposes each year, whereas only about 20% are assigned to hunting. Firearms sales are very important, as they actively contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding through taxes. These taxes are used to fund state fish and wildlife management agencies, making the recreational shooting community a driving force for conservation efforts nationwide.
  • In 2013, New York State adopted a seven-round limit, and although 10 round magazines were allowed to be bought, sold and possessed, magazines could not be loaded with more than seven rounds.8 A federal judge subsequently ruled that New York’s seven round limit was unconstitutional.
  • The following states have implemented capacity-based magazine bans: California – 10 rounds; Colorado – 15 rounds; Connecticut – 10 rounds; Hawaii – 10 rounds; Maryland – 10 rounds; Massachusetts – 10 rounds; New York – 10 rounds; and most recently (2018) New Jersey – 10 rounds (previously restricted to 15 rounds), and Vermont – 10 rounds for rifles and 15 rounds for handguns (previously no restrictions).
  • The following cities, among others, also have capacity-based bans in place: San Francisco, CA – 10 rounds; Los Angeles, CA – 10 rounds; Oakland, CA - 10 rounds; Denver, CO – 15 rounds; Washington, DC – 10 rounds; Aurora, IL – 15 rounds; Chicago, IL – 12 rounds; Franklin Park, IL – 16 rounds; Oak Park, IL – 10 rounds; Riverdale, IL – 35 rounds.
  • In 2012, legislation was passed in Arizona which prevents the Arizona Game and Fish Commission from being able to limit or restrict magazine capacity limits for authorized firearms.

Moving Forward 

With no proven benefits, legislation arbitrarily limiting the capacity of magazines places an undue burden on law-abiding citizens by requiring responsible firearms owners to purchase additional equipment to comply with legislation and for their firearms to be operational. Elected officials should insist this matter be a decision left to the discretion of individual firearm owners, rather than a government mandate.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact Brent Miller (202) 543-6850 x13; bmiller@congressionalsportsmen.org.

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