Semi-Automatic firearms are Military Weapons: Lets at least Limit the Magazines

One of the two guns the Connecticut shooter used to murder 20 children and 6 adults was a Glock semi-automatic. This datum is not surprising. The Glock is among the more popular pistols sold in the United States.

The Glock semi-automatic was developed in 1982 for the Austrian army. It was not envisioned that it would be bought by millions of citizens. It is not in fact bought by millions of civilians anywhere but in the United States. The gun should not be singled out for demonization; there are lots of semi-automatic pistols, and lots of semi-automatic rifles, and all of them are widespread and legal in the United States.

But it is worth underlining that Gaston Glock probably did not envision that you and your neighbors would just go into a shop and purchase his weapon.

This site tells the story:

“The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon. Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol. In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field. He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.”

It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype. Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate. The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38. Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka: P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982. Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.”

But here’s the kicker:

” Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total. “

So here is what happened: in the first ten years, 100,000 of these guns were sold to militaries and police in Europe, and then the rest went to the civilians and police of the United States. The US took 71% of all Glocks in their first decade, even though the US army rejected them. The US is peculiar.

Can anything be done about the phenomenon of “mass shootings?”
These killings have plagued the US for decades.

Gun advocates might argue that these mass shootings are relatively rare and exact a relatively low death toll in a country of 310 million people. In 2012, there were 16 mass shootings in the US, which killed 88 persons and wounded hundreds. We polish off 14,500 Americans a year with murders (around 9000 of them via firearms), and 30,000 a year in auto accidents. There are also something like 18,000 suicides a year by firearm in the US, about half of the total; perhaps large numbers of those people would still be alive if it hadn’t been so technically easy to take their on lives. Anyway, mass shootings as a subset of lives taken by firearms are a tiny proportion.

One problem is that mass shootings produce a national trauma, and probably are designed to do so. We were all, from President Obama on down, crying for the children yesterday. Isolated murders of adults, however tragic, don’t upset us the way a madman shooting down children does. Although they are few and the number of victims only account for 1% of those murdered by firearms every year, the mass shootings deeply disturb us.

It is also the case that mass shootings are arbitrarily defined as those in which 4 or more people are killed. For those affected, three is pretty “mass.”

Public policy is often made on the grounds of what we find unpalatable. You will note that we are also upset by airplane crashes, and we insist that they are always completely unacceptable. We don’t feel the same way about whacking 30,000 people a year (and injuring like 300,000) in auto collisions.

The problem is getting worse. 10% of all mass shootings since 1982 have occurred in 2012, and 12 percent of the 543 victims since that date have been killed this year.

In addition, however, some 2,000 of the 9,000 firearms murders a year are committed by drug gangs and other criminal gangs, and these are primarily using semi-automatic weapons to commit these murders.

So there is a problem, of increased numbers of mass shootings and increased numbers of victims over time. And there is a problem with the roughly 1 million gang members having military-style weapons and committing 14% of the murders every year in the US.

Is there a solution of the problem?

Even someone who really loves semi-automatic guns– Paul Barret, author of”Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun,” admits of the 1994 ban on semi-automatic rifles:

“The one potentially sensible provision in the Assault Weapons Ban was the imposition of a ten-round magazine capacity, which affected both semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic pistols, including the Glock. You can begin to understand that at least this [limitation] might inhibit the mass shooter because, under that regime, he would at least have to think ahead enough to carry multiple ten-round magazines.”

Personally, I don’t understand why civilians need semi-automatic pistols and rifles at all. And the evidence we have from the mass shootings this year is that yes, the shooter will bring extra rounds. Lots of extra rounds.

But I’ll tell you what, some sort of limitation is better than none, and at least such legislation might establish the principle that guns can be regulated by law.

So how about we propose a law specifying that no civilian may buy a semi-automatic weapon that has greater than a ten-round magazine, and that such weapons for the civilian market be constructed so that extra magazine drums cannot be attached? And we ban semi-automatic rifles altogether.

What about all the semi-automatic weapons already in people’s possession? There are like 280 million guns in the US, nearly one per person. (Though in fact, a small minority owns most of these guns, and the proportion of gun owners in the population has been shinking; fewer and fewer people have more and more guns). Since the 1980s, sales of semi-automatic weapons have been in the tens of thousands annually.

Well, you could have a buy-back program, and could offer people trade-ins. Changing things would not have to be coercive. People would have a choice between having an illegal pistol and a legal one with a smaller magazine.

Contrary to what is often alleged, in any case, used guns are seldom the problem. Most used guns are in people’s safes. The new ones are the problem. Most people who commit mass shootings seem to go on a buying spree first, and gang members likewise most often like to purchase new weaponry.

So there you have it, a step toward a solution. 10-round magazines for the pistols, no semi-automatic rifles for civilians.

24 Responses

  1. This basically makes sense to me. As Mark Kleiman, an impeccable liberal has shown, it’s not so much a ban as enforcing laws that are already on the books, as well as limiting clip sizes, that can really make a difference. The NRA, of course, has basically made both of these things impossible.

    My personal preference would be that if you want to shoot semi-automatic weapons outside the home that they should be stored at a state or federal facility or range. THat seems to make the most sense.

    • And that will do what with the guns in criminals hands already in circulation? Guns last a lifetime. I think liberals understate what would happen in a confiscation type movement. Seriously underestimate. Ban the sale of all semi-auto rifles. They are either used for mass killings, in the military, or for target practice. Target practice for a rifle can easily be done with fixed magazines of 10 or less and not be a big issue.

      Handguns? Well thats a tough one. A lot of self defense weapons come with 8-12 in the magazine. There are some pistols that hold up to 21. Too much? I would say thats a lot, especially in a criminal situation. But should you make the current handguns in circulation illegal for a bullet or two? NO because in reality and the heat of the moment for a law abiding citizen they will be in a panic and miss a few. We are also talking about 15 million women gun owners not just redneck gun nuts. Self defense.

      It isnt a problem of is there too much ability in some of these weapons its what do you do with the current ones in circulation that were bought legally by sane law abiding citizens? He is wrong by sayin a select few own guns but more of them. We are talking 80 million gun owners in 42% of houses. If you back out all of the people that are not allowed guns I am sure the able personed percentage would be much higher. If you have ever gotten arrested for a fight, drugs, felony, mentally ill etc you can not own guns. that is a lot of people. So do you go out and make all of these gun owners criminals? The government can not take property from you without paying. A buyback could be roughly 250 billion dollars. In the situation we are already in with the fiscal matters thats not an option without the government getting into even more fiscal troubles. Not to mention I am pretty sure that hundreds of thousands would die over this when it was all said and done. Just ban the future sale of them, alter the magazines in handguns in future purchases is how you do this. Make mandates for safes, close the private seller loophole, and start addressing the mental health issue.

      That means address it not talk about it. The certain massacre was his mothers fault. He had asbergers, they tend to be really smart, not feel pain, focus on one thing. If this kid was a gamer, his mom took him shooting, made him profeccient with the real life version of his video games, and did not keep her guns protected from a mentally ill person. No, not all massacres are someone elses fault, nor are all of the single victim shootings of innocents, but as with this disgustin person you have the colorado shooter

      When James Holmes’ mom was called and told he was believed to be the shooter in the theater she said something like “yep youve found the right person” or something close to that, the gun club he tried to get in denied him because they felt he was off. So you are telling me they are selling guns to this kid who they felt was off? negligence and I think both the mom and the gun shop should be charged with a crime.

      The signs are out there far in advance for these horrible disgusting mass killings that go on. I can pick out a nut case in a heartbeat, and without profiling based on style or color. You can tell.

      At the same time you have the killer side you have the defense side. 5,400,000 violent crimes are committed per year. Enough is enough of this as well. 80,000 rapes. 160,000 instances per year where citizens, not police or military, pull or use a gun to stop a violent situation from happening to them.

      Something like 39% of people surveyed in prison said they had been shot by a citizen that stopped or led them to getting caught by the cops. Out of all of the inmates, something like 76% of them said they know of at least someone who had been shot by a citizen trying to commit a crime. 42% or so said they decided not to commit a crime at some point because they knew or believed they may have a weapon.

      So it isnt what shoudl be done it is where do we go from here. Millions of weapons will disappear if a “possession” law is enacted and will accomplish nothing with the people who really should not have these guns. It isnt whether we should be allowed these guns, they have already been “allowed”, so where do you really go from there. If most weapons used in crimes are new, ban the sale of the above items. It should make a really big dent in the issue.

      I have shot an ar15 or 2 this year. For target practice, extremely accurate great guns. The problem is if they are used for target practice you dont need large magazines, if you use the full magazine in a shoot, you have no accurracy. So the only use in a big magazine like that that would have any accuracy would be close up combat or a school room. So ban them, get it over with, but the government needs to fork over the dollars or this country will fall. The problem isnt the criminals in this situation, it is making 80 million law abiding gun owners criminals saying you must turn them in now. Everyone I know that has guns has at least one handgun with at least 12 rounds in the magazine. Criminals? no If you were in a situation of a jumping or raping those 2 bullets may be needed. 30? no I can see the obvious consequences of psychos getting ahold of this.

      On a side note, I can empty a revolver and have it reloaded in a second and a half. So you will never stop mass killings, because you refuse to watch the signals. There will always be a tool to commit these horrible things.

      While a progun advocate, I support strict rules, we have rules that are not being enforced that are actually leading to these things. At the other end is the criminal and that 99% of the time, police are reactive not proactive. Do you want to be the person or married to the person, or the mother or father of the person thats gets raped or killed because they did not own a gun or did not have enough bullets? This is something you dont think about until it is too late.

      Personally I carry a 9mm. I carry one with enough rounds to protect myself but here is the kicker.

      I did not get the biggest caliber I could get because I just want to protect myself, not kill anyone

      I also use full metal jacket instead of hollow point bullets. Hollow point bullets spread out and tear tissue and organs on impact causing much more damage than a full metal jacket that will just go thru tissue. There is actually quite a bit of difference.

      I obviously have a gun for the right reason as do most, and I definitely do not want to be the person to take another persons life, even if they are trying to kill me, so I chose a higher capacity, smaller caliber, less violent bullet, and the first one is always a blank to try and scare them off showing hey, this is real.

      The real problem is society, parenting, lack of parenting, and responsibility. Lack of addressing mental health and lack of families addressing it at home. Some people just need to be locked up, some can be helped, and all sure as hell shouldnt be marksmans with rifles.

  2. The way in which you write about “the Glock” indicates that you think Glock only builds one handgun model, which is not the case. There are many variations of “Glocks.”

    As well, that a gun was developed for military use does not indicate that it is more substantial in any way. However, you seem to be using such characteristics of Glock’s company history to indicate that “the Glock” is somehow more lethal than other pistols. Such an illustration seems nothing more than an attempt to further sensationalize the topic.

    Concerning semi-automatic firearms, the alternative to semi-automatic pistols is revolvers. And even revolvers are, in a sense, semi-automatic concerning the way in which sequential rounds are loaded. They are similar in that both are able to shoot as fast as their triggers can be pulled. The main difference between revolvers and semi-auto pistols is that revolvers typically hold less rounds than semi-auto pistols. However, since gunmen who carryout mass shootings typically bring multiple firearms to the site, the capacity of individual firearms is less monumental than you seem to be considering it.

    • Tony, you do raise a good point, which is that many gun control advocates are ignorant about firearms. When they go on the TV or radio and talk about “assault rifles” or the like, it unfortunately doesn’t help that particular cause.

      It’s true that revolvers are similar in many ways semi-automatic pistols. However, the lethality of a gun of this type is actually a product of two factors: the capacity and the ease of loading. Revolvers simply aren’t as easy to load as semi-automatic pistols. (Before you say it: Yes, we could also restrict speed loaders with essentially no legitimate inconvenience.)

      In the last 13 years, as far as I can tell, exactly one perpetrator has brought a revolver to a mass shooting in the US (Nidal Hasan, Fort Hood). He didn’t use it. Clearly it’s not the weapon of choice.

      Most civilized countries have:

      – An upper limit on magazine size.
      – An upper limit on handgun caliber (.38 is common).
      – A lower limit on handgun barrel length (4″ or 120mm are common).
      – No concealed carry.
      – Open carry typically only available to those who can show a genuine need for it.
      – Long lists of prohibited weapons. Typical lists include include fully automatic weapons, semi-automatic rifles, pump-action shotguns, none of which have any realistically legitimate civilian uses. (Repeating rifles are usually okay, by the way; genuine hunters do need to access a follow-up round quickly for humane purposes.)
      – No private sales. (Typically, sale or transfer must be done through a licensed dealer.)
      – Restrictions on how a firearm must be stored in a private property (e.g. no keeping guns loaded when not in use, guns and ammunition to be stored in separate locked containers/cabinets).

      Of course there are usually exceptions for special classes of people, such as collectors, security guards, licensed dealers, etc. All of the above seem perfectly reasonable to me.

      The other thing to look at is licensing. Some suggestions, based on laws in other countries:

      – Frequent renewals and automatic expiry.
      – An exam on proper firearms safety prior to obtaining a licence, much like a driving exam.
      – A ban on owning certain classes of guns (e.g. any handgun at all) unless you’ve used it for a certain amount of time (six months, perhaps) in the context of a licensed gun club, military/law enforcement service or something similar.

      That last one is one of my favourite proposals, by the way. I can’t see a single downside to it.

  3. Nice. Semi-automatics are only a fraction of total guns owned in the US, and are disproportionately used in crimes. A semi-automatics ban (not sure why you want to exclude handguns), also polls much better, with approval close to 60%. This seems to be the low-hanging fruit of the gun control debate.

  4. Okay, here is a dumb question – Back in 1982, police needed 100,000 Glocks – but yet Glock MANUFACTURED 350,000.

    Did they truly think that there was the need by 350,000 police officers? Or were they smelling the money to be made from sales to the general public?

    Point being, Glock has to be held accountable for their part of the problem. The gun may be popular, but they don’t have to sell them and make billions of dollars off of them.

    If you look at the Glock website, there are two sicken things there that make it clear that Glock is in it for the money – the Glock logo “Glock Perfection.” And the marketing tagline “Confidence to Live Your Life.”

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I live a perfectly confident life – without owning ANY firearms, let alone a Glock.

    • I don’t know about specific production decisions, but the strategy for market penetration used by Glock is a great case study.

      It was the more impressive because Glock was an engineer with little/no formal business training, and he ran the company on a very tight lease. The guile he showed throughout development of the company, quite aside from the tactic of providing guns at a deep discount for law enforcement, for the credibility it’ll establish with civilians in the Mother of all gun markets.

      Below is a very brief summary, but the full business story of what the man pulled off is considered by professionals a classic.

      link to businessweek.com

  5. How will anyone working for gun control ever get past THIS?

    link to youtube.com

    And there’s a zillion more youtubes of the same sort. And in the real world, “full auto” shooting, and little kids working the triggers of .50-cal Brownings and those really sexy Barrett sniper rifles, and big and little tiny machine guns and assault rifles and like Nancy Reagan’s “little silver pistol” that she kept in the nightstand in the Presidential Bedroom.

    Power, sex and death. All in one neat little package.

  6. “-and that such weapons for the civilian market be constructed so that extra magazine drums cannot be attached”

    a semi-automatic firearm cannot be constructed in a way that won’t allow “extra magazine drums to be attached” without it being unable to even use the 10-round magazine you’re talking about. this is fine if you’re ultimately advocating selling only unusable firearms, but still indicates we’re not really familiar with the guns we’re talking about.

    semi-automatic handguns did not hit the market in 1982. calling them “military weapons” seems a little disingenuous.

    • That “1982” thing is BS, pure and simple. The Colt M1911 “hit the market” back in, you guessed it, 1911. Semi-automatic handguns with various capacities of magazines and various calibers have been in existence for decades before that. Large numbers of ex-military semi-auto handguns made their way into the civilian culture via returning GIs from various wars and imperial expeditions to Central and South America and such places. And you could buy these from gun manufacturers and dealers and pawn shops and street vendors for many decades with no licensing or inquiry required.

      We love, LOVE, REALLY LOVE our guns! and people who are really into guns, as totems and toys and symbols and such, also really get into all the little details of metallurgy and manufacturing, and gunsmithing for that perfect trigger pull and no-jam fits, and special grips and sights and “tactical gear” like laser pointers and LED lights to screw onto your “Picatinny mount,” and and of course there’s a whole Dungeons&Dragons-complexity world in the area of loading and re-loading your own ammo, and about all the “factory loads” and which is better, Ford or Chevy? And a whole literature of SWAT this and Black Ops that, with magazines to suit every little taste and perversion. Complete, usually, with lots of pix of scantily or un-clad babes, fondling the hot loads, striking that “babe” pose with a come-on look. The demographics of who buys “S.W.A.T” and “Combat Arms” and “Handgunner” and all the rest (there are dozens) must really be interesting…

      • I did not say that semi-automatic weapons were invented in 1982.

        People also love their cigarettes and freedom to drive home drunk.

        • now, i did not say you said semi-automatics were invented in 1982. but you’re talking about a semi-automatic pistol “developed in 1982 for the Austrian army” as if the civilian market for semi-automatic pistols did not exist at that time (or that semi-autos were the sole province of the military).

        • My point was pretty clear, which is that the Glock semi-automatic pistols were designed for an army, not for American suburbanites.

          But anyway it has come out that he used a Bushmaster, which likely wouldn’t have been sold to his mother if the Assault Weapons ban hadn’t been allowed to lapse in 2004.

      • Following the money…..

        You’re describing a substantial industry once you fairly incorporate all the associated interest-group paraphernalia and economic multipliers. Quite apart from the NRA, if any dent in the psychological draw/potency of this group’s central object would cause an economic relocation…and I wonder just how big.

        It becomes like tax simplification at some point: reform might bear with it a huge and politically unbearable economic cost if it is going to be substantial enough to make a difference.

  7. I’m afraid this is all going to become irrelevant in a few years, because people will be able to manufacture guns at home.

    You’ve probably noticed articles about home 3-D printers lately. That’s because this is an industry that’s taking off, which means each year will bring printers that can use a wider range of plastic materials. That’s on top of the proliferation of CNC machines that can handle all the metal parts of any gun you’ve ever seen.

    If mass murderers, as Prof. Cole implies, are impulse buyers of guns, then they really don’t need the guns to be durable. In the future you will get mad, download the blueprints with a click of a mouse, and pump out many plastic-barreled guns from the 3-D printer that you got for Christmas 2015 because everybody had one. Even worse, they might pass through a simple metal detector.

    The implications for mass civil conflict are even more heinous.

    • This is actually very true, and has already been accomplished. I read an article where I guy PRINTED an assault rifle and successfully shot 20 rounds out of it. Lots of the mass shooters are extremely smart. You will not stop this act you can only try and protect from it when it is attempted

      • Lots of the mass shooters are extremely smart.

        There’s smart, and there’s smart. Most are not that smart.

  8. As appalling as is the routine carnage on our nation’s roads and highways, there’s a critical difference between automobiles and semiautomatic weapons as instruments of mass slaughter: Semiautomatic weapons are useful for only one thing, which is to kill and maim the largest numbers of people in the shortest periods of time. Because there are no legitimate civilian uses for weapons of this sort, there’s no reason any civilian should be allowed to own one.

    Automobiles have lots of perfectly legitimate uses. Although the risk of death and injury from their use could be reduced in various ways — most notably, by building breathalyzer kill switches into the ignition systems of all — automobiles, a prohibition on the use of automobiles would, in the aggregate, be a net negative. This is not true of automatic weapons.

  9. So you get rid of all semi-automatic rifles and pistols. Next time the killer walks into the same class room with a sawed-off pump action shotgun and a revolver under his coat. He locks the door behind him and immediately kills the unarmed adult teacher leaving only small children to deal with as he deliberately shoots and then slowly reloads. Since no teacher or principle is allowed to be armed and law enforcement is still 15 minutes away, what do you then suggest? Do we then ban shotguns and revolvers? How about allowing someone at the school to be trained and armed just as we arm sky marshals on airplanes? Might save a life or two.

    • Wow, a gunman speaks! If only there were armed teachers and a Hall Monitor Marshall or two in every school, there would be no more of these incidents, right? By the way, a lot of schools actually do have “resource officers” or “Officer Friendlys” on duty in their buildings. There are an infinite number of ways that a “school shooting” can go down, up to and including high explosives and napalm-type weapons. Do you really believe that having teachers, who also occasionally go off the deep end, carry weapons, and administrators, many of whom, any more are right-wing enthusiasts from the cadre of people who want to “correct” the content of our public school curricula to reflect “conservative values,” “might save a life or two”? Any more than having every theater and mall and restaurant packed chock full of “trained” concealed-carry parents and single persons would be likely to result in the quick “takedown” of some guy who announces “I am the shooter” and starts emptying 30-round banana clips and 100-round drum magazines into the crowd?

      Keep pumping out those “scenarios,” though — I know that gun courses will now be filling people’s heads with how to “handle” these situations. The cops will really appreciate the help. Right?

    • Sorry, this is illogical. The point is to make mass shootings more difficult (and as I said, also to make gangs less lethal). Revolvers and single pump shotguns cannot do as much damage in the same time. And, you’d be surprised at how good little kids are at running away. When you have one, all you do is unsuccessfully chase him or her.

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