Parkland Survivors Call Out Media For Ignoring Gun Violence In Black Communities

A group of students who survived last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, slammed the media for not dedicating enough coverage to gun violence in black communities.

David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman shot and killed 17 people on Feb. 14, called that unequal coverage one of the “greatest obstacles” that #NeverAgain, a student-led anti-gun violence movement created since the massacre, is trying to overcome.

“There is a lot of racial disparity in the way that this [shooting] is covered,” Hogg, 17, said Monday during a live Q&A on Twitter.

“If this happened in a place of a lower socioeconomic status or … a black community, no matter how well those people spoke, I don’t think the media would cover it the same,” Hogg continued. “We have to use our white privilege now to make sure that all of the people that have died as a result of [gun violence] and haven’t been covered the same can now be heard.”

Six Stoneman Douglas students turned #NeverAgain activists ― Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch and Cameron Kasky ― acknowledged the disproportionate effect gun violence has on people of color as well as those living in poorer communities.

“We’re an affluent community ― that’s why initially everybody followed this [shooting] so closely,” Kasky, 17, said during the Twitter Q&A. “There are communities that … have to deal with [gun violence] on a much more regular basis and have to feel a lot less safe than we do.”

People of color are more often affected by gun violence in the United States, yet the media and the American public have paid comparatively little attention to their stories. While the media has elevated the voices of Parkland survivors, activists of color have discussed why shootings in their communities and their own calls to action are largely ignored.

A group of Parkland survivors met with students from Chicago earlier this month to discuss how gun violence affects their community and how they can work together to keep everyone safer. These students, as well as others disproportionately harmed by gun violence, are now slated to speak at March For Our Lives, a massive protest against gun violence to be held on March 24 in Washington, D.C.

“We have to represent those who unfortunately were ignored,” Kasky said on Monday. “This is not just about us. … When we’re together marching, this is not going to be different races, different generations ― this is going to be a unified people standing together against those who are trying to ignore us.”

Parkland survivors’ discussion of media coverage begins around the 30-minute mark in the footage below.

Parkland Students: ‘We’re The Mass Shooting Generation’

Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin are making it their mission to be the last “mass shooting generation.”

The five Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students sat down with “60 Minutes” on Sunday to discuss their upcoming March For Our Lives protest, and how the Feb. 14 massacre that left 17 dead at their Florida high school changed their lives forever. 

“We’re the mass shooting generation. I was born months after Columbine. I’m 17 years old and we’ve had 17 years of mass shootings,” Kasky said. 

The five students organized the March For Our Lives protest, set for March 24, and the #NeverAgain campaign to end gun violence. Their social media campaign has galvanized a movement and garnered support from big names like Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and George Clooney.

The teens also organized last week’s 17-minute walkout at high schools across the country, and even pressured Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to enact the state’s first gun control measure in over two decades. 

Many people thought the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary massacre, which claimed the lives of 20 students and six teachers, would push politicians to finally act on gun laws. “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi asked the Parkland students why they believe they can have a bigger impact than the parents of Sandy Hook victims. 

“We are the generations who have had to be trapped in closets, waiting for the police to come or waiting for a shooter to walk in to our door,” Wind answered. “We are the people that know what it’s like first hand.”

We are the generations who have had to be trapped in closets, waiting for the police to come or waiting for a shooter to walk in to our door.
Alex Wind, Parkland student

Alfonsi also spoke with parents of Stoneman Douglas survivors and victims.

“The victims are being represented by people that could have been the victims,” said Manuel Oliver, father of 17-year-old Joaquin, who was killed in the shooting. 

“These kids have their cellphones on their hands the whole day. And we, as parents, we criticize that a lot because we ignore the power of that,” he continued. “The difference between this tragedy and others, if you ask me, is that this generation is used to [getting] answers right away. You think they’re going to wait for six months or a year for anybody — Congress or anybody that needs to make the right call?”

Gonzalez, whose rousing speech calling out the NRA went viral days after the massacre, became a public face of the anti-gun violence movement overnight. Her mother, Beth, said she’s proud of her daughter, but also “terrified.”

“It’s like she built herself a pair of wings out of balsa wood and duct tape and jumped off a building, and we’re just running along beneath her with a net which she doesn’t want or think that she needs,” Beth Gonzalez said of her 18-year-old daughter. 

“Somebody said, you know, ‘Please tell Emma we’re behind her,’ which I appreciate,” she added. “But we should’ve been in front of her. I should’ve been in front of her.  We all, adults, should’ve dealt with this 20 years ago.”

Watch the full “60 Minutes” interview below. 

Barron Trump’s School Signs Open Letter Demanding POTUS Enact Stricter Gun Laws

The school attended by President Donald Trump’s youngest child, Barron Trump, is calling on lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of the Parkland massacre.

Robert Kosaky, head of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, was one of more than 100 school leaders from the Washington, D.C. area to address gun violence in an open letter published Thursday in The Baltimore Sun.

“Children, our most most vulnerable citizens and our hope for the future, are dying from gun violence, again and again,” the letter stated. “We urge our President, our Congress, and our state leaders to enact specific, vigorous measures to reduce gun violence in our society, particularly in our schools.”

The letter went on to call for a more robust system of background checks and firearm registration, specifically toward weapons “capable of rapidly firing a vast number of deadly shots.” The call to action comes just over a month after a gunman opened fire using an assault-style rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people.

In response to the Feb. 14 massacre, Trump and many Republican lawmakers have focused more on arming teachers than passing tighter gun laws. Trump initially proposed raising the age minimum to purchase an assault-style rifle, like the one used by the Parkland shooter, from 18 to 21. But after meeting with representatives from the National Rifle Association earlier this month, Trump cooled on the idea.

The school officials bashed the idea of arming teachers in their open letter Thursday.

“We need stronger mental health services and more effective communication among agencies responsible for the well-being of children, adults and families,” the letter stated. “What we do not need is to arm our teachers with guns, which is dangerous and antithetical to our profession as educators.”

A representative for the White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Dozens of students from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, where Trump’s 11-year-old son matriculated in September, participated Wednesday in the National School Walkout to protest gun violence.

Samantha Bee: Students Fighting Gun Violence Are Filling GOP With Fear

The “Full Frontal” host said thousands of students who walked out of their schools protesting gun violence were “filling me with hope.”

“And I’m sure they’ve also been filling the GOP establishment with fear,” she added.

Bee noted “one of the worst parts of my job” was her broadcasts that followed mass shootings.

“I’ve screamed, I’ve cried, I’ve seen staffers have panic attacks because of their own brushes with gun violence,” she said. “We cover hard topics all the time, but gun violence is the worst, because honestly I never thought anything would change.”

But Bee ended on an upbeat note. “I should have known better,” she said. “I should have known that a generation would come that wouldn’t repeat our mistakes.” 

Check out the full segment above.

School Walkouts Were Just The Beginning Of Students’ Activism On Gun Violence

SAN FRANCISCO ― After thousands of students marched out of schools nationwide on Wednesday to honor victims of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting and call for change on gun violence, the student-led wave of activism is far from over.

On Wednesday, students from New York to Nashville to San Francisco walked out of school at 10 a.m. to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which 17 people were killed, and to push for gun reform.

In the coming months, several more nationwide, student-led rallies are planned to keep attention on the issue and press for legislative action.

On March 24, the nationwide March for Our Lives, led by survivors of the Parkland shooting, will hold rallies in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country. The event is meant to “demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be brought before Congress to address gun issues,” the website says.  

“Today was wonderful. Today was important. Today was historical. But sadly, today was not enough,” reads a post on the March for Our Lives website in the wake of Wednesday’s school walkouts. “That is why 10 days from today we’re going to March and demand change… From walkouts, we march on.”

On April 20, another National School Walkout is planned, marking the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. The student-led event, organized by teens at Connecticut’s Ridgefield High School and beyond, is meant to protest “congressional, state, and local failures to take action to prevent gun violence,” per the website. Like Wednesday’s rallies, students across the country plan to leave class at 10 a.m., observe a moment of silence for gun violence victims and then hold protests.

“I think that student-led activism is the driving force for change in America,” Saleen, a 17-year-old senior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, told HuffPost Wednesday. “Congress refuses to make the changes that we need, and the only way to get them to listen is to be loud, proud and consistent.” 

Beyond the national rallies, some student groups have begun planning further actions at the local level. In Wisconsin, students are planning a four-day, 50-mile march from Madison to the hometown of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in Janesville. Kicking off March 25, a day after the March for Our Lives, the 50 Miles More walk is about “keeping the national spotlight on gun reform,” says the website.

There are likely many more local and perhaps national student-led actions to come. Teens at San Francisco’s Lowell High have already scheduled a meeting on Sunday to discuss further actions, Saleen said.

Student organizers at Berkeley High School, across the San Francisco Bay, plan to use their lunch hours in the coming weeks to register and pre-register their peers to vote, as well as to write letters to representatives “demanding common-sense gun reform,” Roni, a 16-year-old Junior at Berkeley High, told HuffPost Wednesday.

“Many mass shootings have occurred and were forgotten,” Almarie, a 17-year-old student organizer at Lowell, told HuffPost on Wednesday. “We have tremendous momentum from this walkout all over the nation ― we need to use this opportunity to continue fighting for our safety. The pressure is the only way we can make change happen.”

Dylann Roof’s Sister Accused Of Having Weapons At School During National Walkouts

The younger sister of Dylann Roof, the convicted mass murderer who killed nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly bringing weapons to her school on the same day the National Student Walkout was planned.

Morgan Roof, an 18-year-old student of A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina, was charged with possession of marijuana and two counts of carrying weapons on school grounds, according to The State newspaper.

An administrator at the school alerted a school resource officer that a student on campus had made a threatening and racist Snapchat post and brought pepper spray and a knife to school. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department later confirmed that the student was Morgan Roof.

Roof’s Snapchat post criticized her schoolmates at Flora High for participating in the nationwide student walkouts in protest of gun violence on Wednesday. The protests were being held on the one-month anniversary of a horrific mass shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“I hope it’s a trap and y’all get shot,” Roof wrote of the protest at her school, according to a screenshot of her Snapchat post.

“We know it’s fixing to be nothing but black people walkin out anyway.

Roof’s racist post was especially disturbing considering the heinous crimes of her brother, who is an avowed white supremacist.

In June 2015, Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and opened fire on a Bible study group. He killed nine people. The 22-year-old shooter was found guilty on 33 federal charges and sentenced to death.

One of Dylann Roof’s friends told investigators that he hoped the massacre would start a race war.

In a letter to students, parents and faculty, Principal Susan Childs said that a student’s social media post caused “quite a disruption” on campus. Childs’ letter did not identify Morgan Roof but described her post as a “hateful message” that was “extremely inappropriate.”

Chris Slick, a neighbor of the Roofs, told The Post and Courier that Morgan Roof wasn’t hateful.

“Tragedy has struck this family again,” Slick told the newspaper. 

“This is not the Morgan I knew. She didn’t hate people. She didn’t have prejudices like this — in fact, I witnessed the opposite,” he added. “I hope that one day, one day she finds peace and seeks forgiveness for what she did today. I cannot say I wish the same for her brother.”

In a series of tweets, Gov. Henry McMaster said that “potential tragedy was avoided” at Flora High on Wednesday. He also called on the state General Assembly to pass legislation requiring police officers to be present at every school.  

Law enforcement officials took Morgan Roof to the Richland County Detention Center, according to CBS affiliate WLTX 19. She was released on a $5,000 bond with the condition that she not return to school.

At A Troubled School In The Bronx, The Student Walkout Was A Miss

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, teenagers in more than 3,000 high schools across the United States walked out of their classes to protest gun violence, advocate for gun reform and honor the 17 people who were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.

A trickle of students exited the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, in the New York City borough of the Bronx, around 10 a.m., but there were no hand-drawn signs, no shouted slogans and no discernable form of protest happening. Before school started that day, several adults entering the school who identified themselves as teachers said they supported a potential student walkout, but didn’t know if students would participate.

A 16-year-old junior at the school, who asked to remain anonymous, stayed in her classroom between 10 and 10:17 a.m. while the national walkout was happening. She said her teacher discouraged her from protesting today.

“The same thing happened at my school with the kid who got stabbed,” she said, referencing a stabbing at Urban Assembly in September that left one student dead and another critically injured, but received scant media coverage outside of New York City.

The junior wasn’t in the classroom where the fatal stabbing happened, but news of the tragic incident quickly rippled through the school. “I was honestly freaking out and crying,” she said. “I felt the hurt that those kids felt.” 

I was honestly freaking out and crying. I felt the hurt that those kids felt.
Junior at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, referring to a stabbing at her school.

“This isn’t an apathetic position,” David Kirkland, executive director of NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools, said of students in vulnerable communities who didn’t participate in the National School Walkout.

While he commended the Parkland students for their activism, Kirkland stressed that young people of color don’t enjoy the same freedoms of movement and national protest that white and middle-class students do. 

“The young people who are marching across the country next week and who walked out of school today are being seen as heroes when the same is true of people of color,” he explained. “But people of color are seen as thugs or criminals or degenerates.”

Indeed, conservatives have derided and demonized black activists like members of the Black Lives Matter movement and Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who was labeled unpatriotic after he kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

Students of color have both a heightened risk of being punished for pushing back against authority and a greater likelihood of being the victims of violence than white students. 

“Black and brown kids are more likely to be suspended than any other group,” Kirkland said. And if they walk out of school and encounter a police officer, they’re more likely to be arrested, too.

Student safety is a pressing national concern, but as distressing as mass shootings are, they make up a tiny sliver of America’s gun violence epidemic. There were 4,678 homicide victims between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2010 and more than 612,000 young people treated for injuries caused by assault in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, 176 children and teenagers have been killed in mass shootings since 1966, according to The Washington Post.

In the grand scheme of things, the Bronx student’s experience with violence is much more representative of violence and trauma in America that young people, especially young people of color, regularly contend with.

We know that many of these students are going to school and suffer from trauma — anxiety, sleep deprivation related to violence, and yet we haven’t summoned the capacity or courage or humanity in order to respond.
David Kirkland, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools

That violence is reflected in a school quality survey Urban Assembly conducted the year before the fatal stabbing, which found that only 55 percent of students in the school reported feeling safe in the school’s hallways, bathrooms, locker rooms and cafeteria. 

During the 2.5 hours between the start of the school day and the end of the national walkout ended, at least three public safety cars drove by Urban Assembly, checking in on the students and the building.

Unlike in Newtown, Connecticut, where social services poured into the community, including the resources to tear down the school where the massacre happened and relocate the students, the greater public has paid little attention to other communities reeling from violence, such as the students affected by the stabbing in the Bronx.

“We know that many of these students are going to school and suffer from trauma — anxiety, sleep deprivation related to violence, and yet we haven’t summoned the capacity or courage or humanity in order to respond,” Kirkland said. “There isn’t the same type of human response.”

And next year, the students likely won’t have a school at all. Urban Assembly is one of 14 failing schools that New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has slated to close this year. 

The junior from the Bronx has a lot weighing on her this week. She has until this Friday to identify 12 new high schools that she’d potentially want to transfer to. 

Education is an important part of her high school research. So is safety. “I want there to be metal detectors,” she said.

Trump Fails To Publicly Acknowledge Massive School Walkouts

President Donald Trump woke up in California on Wednesday morning and enjoyed a scenic helicopter ride over sunny Los Angeles before jetting off to Missouri aboard Air Force One. He toured a Boeing plant and talked up his party’s tax reforms, and then he jumped back on his plane, White House bound.

At no point during the day did Trump himself publicly acknowledge the thousands of students walking out of school nationwide to protest gun violence and lawmakers’ inaction. (His favorite news network barely mentioned it either.) 

Over Twitter, where he frequently shares his thoughts and feelings, the president posted several messages Wednesday morning on unrelated issues. He opined on “unfair trade practices,” his desire to overhaul U.S. infrastructure, “business fundamentals” and “very important Ambassadors and Judges” whom he would like to appoint more quickly.

In one late-afternoon tweet, Trump applauded the House for passing the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. With a bipartisan vote of 407-10 in favor, the act aims to finance school safety training and security equipment, but it is not a gun control measure. But by late Wednesday evening, he had not acknowledged the school walkouts.

He was trailed by White House pool reporters all day, but Trump didn’t speak to them about the protests, either. White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told the press that the president “shares the students’ concerns about school safety” on Wednesday afternoon. “That is why he supports measures like Fix NICS and mental health provisions.” (Fix NICS refers to proposals to close loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.) 

Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told HuffPost by email Wednesday evening that the president respects Americans’ First Amendment rights and “will continue working with students, educators and other school personnel to prevent tragedies like the Parkland massacre.”

“President Trump remains committed to ensuring this is the last generation of American children to face the threat of school violence,” the statement continued. “The Administration is taking immediate action now while also pursuing a long-term strategy to develop the very best and most effective policies for protecting America’s schools.”

Students mobilized in response to a shooter’s rampage Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.

Powerful imagery taken outside schools across the country Wednesday showed young people holding up signs calling for tighter gun control laws. Organized through Youth EMPOWER, a branch of the Women’s March, students were encouraged to observe 17 minutes of silence ― one for each victim ― before heading back to class.

Trump seemed to echo student activists’ calls for reform directly after the Florida shooting, but he has since backed down.

A City Struggling With Gun Violence Confronts The Firearms Manufacturer In Its Midst

More than 100 people gathered Wednesday outside the Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, to pressure the firearms manufacturer to join the gun violence debate that has swept the nation following last month’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The group of students, educators, community members and clergy came from across the state to join the rally, where some held up a sign telling Smith & Wesson to “stop selling assault weapons.” The company, the largest U.S. gun manufacturer in 2016, makes the M&P 15, the AR-15 style rifle the gunman used in Parkland. It sells hundreds of thousands of them each year.

The event was scheduled to coincide with a national school walkout to protest gun violence on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Attendees wanted to bring Smith & Wesson into the discussion about gun reform and to speak up about the unique problems of gun violence in urban communities, said organizer Tara Parrish of the community group Pioneer Valley Project.

Guns and gun violence are both facts of life in Springfield. The city was the site of the nation’s first armory, founded by George Washington in 1777, and has housed Smith & Wesson since the gunmaker’s inception in 1852. The company remains one of the largest private employers in western Massachusetts today.

Springfield’s relationship with firearms may be historic, but it also has a darker side. There were 68 shootings that ended in injury or death in the city last year, the police department recently told HuffPost.

Rarely do these two issues overlap in conversations among city leadership, said Parrish. But she believes younger residents may finally be starting to do their own analysis.

“I think that now, in this moment, young people are saying, ‘Wait a minute. This is in our backyard,’” Parrish said.

One of the group’s demands is to meet with Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney within 30 days to discuss ways the company can help address gun violence. Among their proposals would be to recall the M&P 15 and to establish a compensation fund for communities affected by gun violence, said Parrish.

“The frame of this is to add to the conversation around what it means to be a responsible company at this moment,” Parrish said. “Just being a company that profits off these products isn’t sufficient, given the outcomes that are often caused by their products.”

Pioneer Valley Project hadn’t received a response to their request for a meeting as of Wednesday. A spokesman for Smith & Wesson’s holding company, American Outdoor Brands Corporation, didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

I think that now, in this moment, young people are saying, ‘Wait a minute. This is in our backyard.’
Tara Parrish, Pioneer Valley Project

Parrish also said she’d heard from students in the Springfield area who had felt left out of the current campaign regarding guns in America. While student activists from Parkland ― an affluent, majority-white suburb of Miami ― have been leading the movement over the past month, the voices of students from more urban and diverse cities have sometimes been omitted.

“Our young people tired of being invisible on this issue. We have a particular perspective and that perspective is not being seen by the country,” said Parrish. “It’s sort of like it comes back into view when it’s suburban white kids, but it’s not in view when it’s us.”

Most students in Springfield don’t support the idea of addressing school shootings with increased security, said Parrish. Many schools have already installed metal detectors, and the idea of putting more guns in classrooms seems like a bad idea to them.

“A lot of these students are safest and feel safest when they’re in school,” said Parrish. “They get their breakfast and their lunch. They’re in a structured environment with supportive adults, and it’s really the walk home where they kind of have to steel themselves a lot of the time, because that’s where they may encounter gun violence.”

Among the speakers at Wednesday’s event was Hussein Abdi, a student at Springfield Central High School. He addressed the crowd, expressing concern that people had become desensitized to shootings. Abdi wanted to remind everyone, including the Smith & Wesson executives in the building behind the crowd, that “every single person who gets shot is someone’s kid, someone’s friend.”

“We are here together today because Smith & Wesson needs to see us and know that they can’t hide from us,” he said. “They need to do their part to make sure my siblings are safe and everyone in the community is safe as well from gun violence.”

Banning High-Capacity Magazines Should Absolutely Be A Winnable Issue

A gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago on Wednesday and opened fire with a semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more. He shot nearly 150 rounds during the 10-minute attack, and reportedly would have continued if his weaponry had cooperated.

Instead, dumb luck brought an end to the rampage when the shooter’s rifle jammed as he attempted to reload it with a fresh magazine, law enforcement sources told Florida media outlets. Other sources suggested the perpetrator “fumbled” while trying to reload. Whether user error or a technical malfunction, this mishap appeared to save lives. With police closing in, the gunman discarded his firearm and fled the school with a bag full of ammunition, blending in with evacuating students.

In many ways, it’s a telling indictment of U.S. gun policy that 17 lives were cut short and we can feel lucky that it wasn’t worse. But if lawmakers are going to continue relying on luck alone to mitigate the carnage of mass shootings, the least they could do is work to stack the odds against murderers and in favor of their victims.

One way to do that would be to pass a federal restriction on high-capacity magazines. This would limit the number of rounds a mass shooter could fire uninterrupted, meaning they’d have to reload more often, and not be able to shoot as many people in between. More reloading would result in a higher probability of a malfunction or mistake, giving law enforcement more time to respond and bystanders more opportunity to flee or fight back.

“Even though it’s fairly easy to interchange magazines, any time you do is a point at which firing stops,” said Robert Spitzer, a professor at SUNY Cortland who’s written five books on gun policy. “People drop the magazines. They jam. In a real live fire situation, people are often nervous, even including those who are committing these crimes.”

Most standard magazines for military-style rifles like AR-15s hold 30 rounds, though 10-round versions are also common. There are conflicting reports about whether the Parkland shooter used 10-round magazines or 30-round magazines, but regardless, the incident appears to demonstrate the value of forcing criminals to reload.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hinted as much during a town hall with Stoneman Douglas students last month, when he said he’d consider a ban on high-capacity magazines after being told that several people were able to escape while the shooter was reloading. He later introduced legislation that ignored magazines entirely.

Magazine capacity restrictions have been hotly debated at both the state and federal levels. The 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, included a 10-round cap on magazines. That limit would be reinstated under both House and Senate bills to renew the assault weapons ban.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have also passed measures restricting magazines of various sizes, with most implementing a 10-round limit as part of broader assault weapons ban legislation. Many of those laws have faced legal challenges, though federal courts have generally upheld them and the Supreme Court has so far declined to hear a challenge.

“If the federal government enacted a high-capacity magazine ban, it would be constitutionally permissible,” said Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law who has written extensively on gun policy.

Gun advocates often argue that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that an armed citizenry would be capable of rising up against a tyrannical government, but the Supreme Court has established that the core Second Amendment right pertains to self-defense. As long as the court maintains that position, it would be hard to justify a change on this issue, said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Having 10 rounds of ammunition to fire doesn’t materially infringe [on] the ability to use the gun for self-defense, especially when considered in light of the state’s interest to limit the ability of shooters to commit mass carnage,” he said.

But to probe the issue of civilian versus government firepower a bit deeper, it’s worth noting that many high-capacity magazines available to the public are larger than the 30-round magazines law enforcement and domestic military personnel typically use. The Las Vegas gunman last October was equipped with a number of 100-round magazines, for example.

Having 10 rounds of ammunition to fire doesn’t materially infringe [on] the ability to use the gun for self-defense, especially when considered in light of the state’s interest to limit the ability of shooters to commit mass carnage.
Adam Skaggs, chief counsel of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

While we’re weighing if civilians should have access to more than 10 rounds in a magazine, perhaps we should be asking the same of government agents. After all, if police or military officers can’t hit what they’re aiming for in 10 shots, maybe they shouldn’t be able to shoot another 20 rounds without reloading.

Although the federal assault weapons ban legislation includes an exception for law enforcement, making it a universal restriction might help reverse the vicious cycle of militarization of both civilians and the state, said Skaggs.

“The argument is that we make these products legal, giving criminals the ability to get these magazines, so we have to arm our law enforcement with more and more militaristic weapons because the civilian population has them,” Skaggs said. “It creates a one-way ratchet. Each side has to continually be more armed.”

High-capacity magazine bans have traditionally been considered in conjunction with more sweeping assault weapons ban legislation, but there may be a few reasons to introduce such proposals on their own.

Magazine capacity restrictions are slightly less politically polarizing than assault weapons bans, according to recent surveys, with some polls showing majority support even among Republicans. At the same time, many experts predict that restricting high-capacity magazines would be just as effective at reducing mass shooting deaths as banning assault weapons.

There are also legitimate questions about the scope of assault weapons bans. Although it’s clear that just one bullet from a military-style rifle can inflict horrific damage to a human body, the same can be said of most rifles, including non-military style rifles that fire higher caliber rounds more slowly. In mass shooting scenarios, the elevated threat of a rifle like an AR-15 is primarily a function of its high volume and rate of fire, not the cosmetic features and other attachments often associated with so-called assault weapons.

By focusing on how many rounds a weapon can shoot before it has to be reloaded, a high-capacity magazine ban more narrowly addresses the lethality of the firearm, said Winkler.

“It makes a lot more sense, public policy-wise, to ban high-capacity magazines than it does to ban military-style rifles,” he said.

It makes a lot more sense, public policy-wise, to ban high-capacity magazines than it does to ban military-style rifles.
Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law

But such an effort would also pose significant challenges. High-capacity magazines have been standard issue on some of the most popular rifles sold in the U.S. in recent decades, meaning there are tens of millions of them already out there. States that have banned high-capacity magazines have generally outlawed the sale and manufacture of new devices, while grandfathering in the possession of items that were legal when the ban was enacted. The federal proposals include a similar clause.

When implemented on a state-by-state basis, these restrictions can be easily circumvented. Someone in a state where high-capacity magazines are banned can simply purchase them in a more gun-friendly state and bring them home. Although those magazines might technically be illegal under state law ― and transporting them across state lines certainly would be ― they don’t typically come stamped with a manufacture date, meaning law enforcement generally wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a banned device and a legally possessed one.

These are inherent weaknesses with the system of federalism, especially when it comes to gun laws, and further evidence that regulating high-capacity magazines might be best addressed at the federal level. But the current proposal would likely raise enforceability issues as well, simply because it would be difficult to keep track of the devices that get grandfathered in. 

Despite the complications, Spitzer maintains any move toward restricting high-capacity magazines is a step in the right direction. 

“At least you’re not producing and selling more of them,” he said. “If your basement is filling with water because of a broken pipe, the first thing you do is turn off the water. It doesn’t eliminate the water in the basement, but at least it keeps more water from coming in.”

Still, it’s important to be realistic about the limitations of a high-capacity magazine ban. The current debate comes in response to increasingly frequent and deadly mass shootings, in which many of the perpetrators have used military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. These incidents are deeply troubling and deserving of a policy response that can begin to reverse this bloody trend, even if it can’t prevent it altogether. But mass shootings are also a small problem of the overall gun violence picture, and they look markedly different than the overwhelming majority of incidents, which involve handguns outfitted with standard-capacity magazines.

“I don’t think anyone would argue with a straight face that if we limit people to magazines of 10 or 15 rounds we’d solve the entire gun violence problem, but what we can do is expect to have a real effect on how many people are injured and killed in mass shooting incidents,” said Skaggs.

And it might take patience to see results.

“When you have 350 million guns out there, any law you adopt is going to take a long time to work, if it works at all,” said Winkler. “It’s a reform that would take generations to work, rather than days or months.”

Of course, there are more cynical reasons to think a high-capacity magazine ban might not get much support at the federal level. With Republicans in control of all three branches of government and showing little interesting in opposing the National Rifle Association, even the soundest of reasoning might not make a difference.

“It’s not about the logic of the argument, but the principle of no new gun control laws that’s really driving the NRA,” said Winkler.

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