Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn favors retaining some larger capacity magazines for home defense

Gun control conversations are ... interesting.

Recently, Libertarian Greg Callaway wrote to Lt. Gov. Matt Denn expressing his opposition to proposed new gun control legislation.  Most of the answer (which you can read here) is fairly typical politico-speak.  But then Denn talks about magazine restrictions, which leads to one oxymoron and one really interesting point.

First, the oxymoron:
There is now strong statistical evidence that responsible regulation of large capacity gun magazines does reduce the number of those magazines used by criminals. A study published this year of Virginia law enforcement data showed that following the implementation of the 1994 federal restrictions on large capacity magazines, the percentage of criminals’ guns confiscated during arrests which had those magazines dropped by half. When the ban expired, the percentage of criminals’ guns with high capacity magazines increased all the way back up to the levels seen before the federal law. 
OK, leaving aside that this was not a formal academic study, but a Washington Post analysis that is not subject to peer review or verification, the study did not show an increase in the use of weapons with large-capacity magazines to commit crimes, only an increase in the number of such magazines seized by police.  This is a fairly critical difference.  There is also no evidence that the statistical methodology used by WaPo reporters took into account changes in the overall numbers of magazines seized, or the number of individuals from which magazines were seized, as opposed to the percentage rates of seizure.  In fact, the study authors admit that their data only covered 75% of the total weapons seized.  So the oxymoron in Denn's response is that while the statistic he quotes is accurate, it is also meaningless.  It could be indicative of the effectiveness of a ban, but there is an equal chance that it's not.

Now for the interesting point:
As the Lieutenant Governor works to draft a bill regarding large capacity magazines, he has made an effort to reach out to gun owners and solicit their opinions about some of the practical issues involved in regulating these devices. The feedback has been very helpful, and in some cases has caused him to change the way the administration’s bill is drafted. For example, the administration had originally planned to draft a bill that would limit the capacity of magazines for handguns to 10 rounds, and magazines for rifles and shotguns to five rounds, based on the fact that many hunting rifles are sold with five round magazines. However, several gun owners have impressed on the Lieutenant Governor the importance of allowing homeowners who may be inexperienced in firing a gun to have a sufficient magazine to defend their homes. So the bill that the administration will propose to the legislature will propose a limit of ten rounds, no matter what type of gun is involved. The Lieutenant Governor is continuing to talk to gun owners as he drafts the administration’s bill, and he has found their input very helpful. [emphasis added] 
This is an important, if very subtle point.  First it points out the the Markell administration was first seeking a limitation on magazine capacity that would have been twice as stringent as the one under the previous Federal ban.  That's food for thought in and of itself.  But it is equally important to note that the Lieutenant Governor claims that his mind was changed by gun owners with regard to home defense.  This is an intriguing point, and raises the question about what would happen if a citizen made a similar argument about personal defense outside the home.  Does someone become inherently more or less capable of using a weapon for defense because s/he is in the home?

(To return to that Virginia "study" for a moment:  contrary to what you would have thought if you listened to most of the rhetoric that passes for gun control discussion today, 87% of the confiscated magazines in Virginia were for pistols, not "assault weapons."  In fact, when you factor out the seized magazines of .22 rifles--not covered in the ban--only 814 of the 14,478 weapons counted in the study were "assault weapons"--a staggering small 5.6%.)

But the Denn response does make it clear that the Markell administration (and particularly the Lieutenant Governor who has his own career plans after 2016) is going to try to position itself as willing to listen and make compromises on the final language of its legislation.  Denn does NOT want to run for Governor in 2016 behind an unpopular piece of legislation.

So let's help him.

Write to Governor Matt Denn at and tell him (respectfully, please) what you think should be included or excluded in the proposed legislation.

1 comment:

kavips said...

I used to have magazines all over my house and then, we got curb-side recycling.

(That may not be funny tomorrow, but I'm cracking up right here)... :)