Assault weapons are military-style firearms intended to fire multiple rounds in quick succession – killing people quickly with little effort. They can be used with detachable magazines that can fire more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Assault weapons were primarily designed for use in war and battlefields. But because there’s no federal restriction on the sale of these weapons, civilians have been able to purchase assault weapons to carry out some of our nation’s deadliest mass shootings.
High-capacity magazines, also known as large-capacity magazines, are those that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition. They can be used with any semi-automatic firearm that accepts a detachable magazine, including handguns, and allow the firearm user to fire repeatedly for longer periods of time without having to reload.
Every time a shooter must pause to reload, there is an opportunity for lives to be saved. High-capacity magazines and assault weapons drastically reduce the number of these opportunities, increasing the ability of a shooter to harm large numbers of people quickly. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School had an assault weapon and ten 30-round magazines in his possession. In 4 minutes, he shot 154 bullets, killing 20 children and 6 adults. When he had to pause to reload, 11 children were able to escape.
Laws restricting possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have been shown to be the best predictors of a state’s rate of mass shootings.1 States without laws limiting magazines or assault weapons have significantly more high-fatality mass shootings and significantly higher death rates from such incidents than states with limits in place.2
From 1994 to 2004, federal law made it illegal to transfer or possess large capacity magazines and certain semi-automatic firearms in the US. During this time, mass shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur than in periods before or after the law’s enforcement.3 After the law expired in 2004, there was a 183% increase in in high-fatality mass shootings and a 239% increase in deaths resulting from such shootings.4
As of June 2020, nine states and the District of Columbia have laws in place restricting the sale and possession high-capacity magazines: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
Many of those same states also ban the sale of assault weapons: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.
We need to call on Congress to pass proven gun safety policies, including legislation prohibiting the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. It was introduced in the Senate by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House of Representatives by David Cicilline (R.I.-01).
2. Louis Klarevas, Andrew Conner, David Hemenway (2019), “The Effect of Large-Capacity Magazine Bans on High-Fatality Mass Shootings, 1990-2017,” American Journal of Public Health 109, 1754-1761
3. Charles DiMaggio et al., “Changes in US Mass Shooting Deaths Associated with he 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Analysis of Open-source Data,” Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 86, no. 1 (2019): 11-19.