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Feinstein’s Aim Is True

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a consistent and knowledgeable supporter of gun safety laws. Her proposed federal ban on large ammunition magazines, which can produce a lethal barrage of bullets, would fill a loophole in the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. It would also enhance the effectiveness of a state bill, awaiting Assembly action after being passed by the Senate, that would reinstate and improve the California assault weapons ban.

Feinstein’s bill would prohibit the manufacture, importation or sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

The majority of the 24 bullets fired in the Jonesboro, Ark., schoolyard massacre came from a 15-round magazine on a semiautomatic rifle. More dramatically, the weapon used to kill five employees at an Orange County Caltrans yard in January was an AK-47. The shooter carried five magazines, each with 30 bullets. In two bloody minutes, 144 bullets were fired.

It’s not possible to say whether lives would have been saved if the Caltrans killer had had to reload after 10 bullets, but the odds would have been better for those under attack. With lives at stake any improvement in the odds is welcome. And what legitimate hunter could argue with a straight face that it takes more than 10 bullets rapidly fired to down a deer?

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The 1994 federal law banned the manufacture and distribution of large ammunition magazines but did not touch those made before the law went into effect or those manufactured abroad. Availability was barely dented.

The proposed state assault weapons law, which would replace and improve a law struck down by the California Supreme Court, bans most use of high-capacity magazines but not their sale. The effectiveness of Feinstein’s bill would therefore be multiplied because it plugs holes in both the federal law and the state bill. The latter faces a close vote in the Assembly and possible veto in this election year by Gov. Pete Wilson.

Large magazines increase the overall firepower of assault weapons and turn semiautomatic rifles used by hunters into weapons fit only for mayhem.

The National Rifle Assn. argues that Hollywood movies showing gratuitous violence without consequences are far more responsible for incidents like the Jonesboro murders than large ammo magazines. But gun violence doesn’t flow from a single source. Feinstein’s bill aims at a real problem and deserves swift nonpartisan passage.

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