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How much is enough? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 05:29

Today, after yet another mass shooting (in California, on a college campus no less), there is renewed call for firearms restrictions.  In particular, ammunition capacity.  New York has limited firearms to no more than 7 rounds; many States (such as California) restrict capacity to 10 rounds.  There is much discussion on both sides, but what makes sense?  What is really the right approach?




To start, consider the US Supreme Court’s decision of District of Columbia v. Heller where the Supreme Court found that possession of firearms for self-defense was part of the 2nd Amendment.  Yes, one of the Constitutional reasons to own a firearm is personal defense.  And thus, if the Federal Government (or the States, as the 2nd Amendment was incorporated to the People in the US Supreme Court decision McDonald v. Chicago) restricts one’s ability to use a firearm for self-defense they are, in fact, trampling on your 2nd Amendment rights.


So, that begs the question – how many rounds should be “allowed”?  Clearly, one answer is “as many as desired”.  That would leave the ultimate responsibility with the individual whom owns the right to self-defense via firearms.  But for those who insist there must be a “sane” number of rounds for a given firearm, let’s look at some facts.


The basic reasoning I’m going to follow is this: we need to know approximately how many “hits” – that is bullets that strike their target – are needed to stop a typical assailant.  And then we need to know how many “shots” – discharges of rounds of ammunition – are needed to achieve a single hit.  Combine the two and we have a rough approximation of how many rounds of ammunition are needed to stop an assailant.


Let’s start with the latter first.  How many shots are needed to achieve one hit? Well, The Police Policy Studies Council found that trained police officers tend to have a hit rate around 15%. That means, on average, one of every 7 shots fired will strike the target. And that is for trained police officers, who practice rapid-fire, movement-based engagements. Not your typical firearm enthusiast.  Clearly a firearm with a capacity of 7 (such as is the law in New York) does not allow for any error; if you are worse than the average police officer, you’re going to run out of ammunition before you even manage a single hit.


So how many hits are needed, on average, to stop an assailant? Well, a little digging and we find that you typically need 3.5 hits to stop an assailant. In other words, you need to put between 3 and 4 holes in a person to incapacitate them to the point they are no longer a threat. Sometimes you get lucky and it's a single shot; sometimes it can take 17 hits to incapacitate someone to the point where you can finally safely handcuff them.


Now add it all up. Assume you're as trained as a police officer. Assume you need 7 shots to strike your assailant once. And you need 3.5 hits to stop your assailant. That means you need somewhere around 25 rounds to pretty much guarantee you can eliminate a solitary assailant.


But what if there are two or three assailants? Suddenly 30 rounds doesn't look too promising, does it? There is a reason police officers typically carry pistols with magazine capacities in the 14-17 round range, and carry between 2 and 4 backup magazines. It's because in many armed confrontations it's not at all unreasonable to expect an officer to expend 50+ rounds to end the situation, if it comes to the point of gunfire.


Now, given the above, and the fact that the right to self-defense is part of why the 2nd Amendment exists, why do people feel that 7 or 9 or 10 rounds is sufficient?  What is the logical, rational, legal reasoning for limiting a person's right to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to self-defense?  I would offer: there is no logical, nor rational, nor legal reasoning available.  It is simply irrational belief that "guns are bad" that leads individuals (and sometimes high-placed and influential ones at that) to reach a conclusion to restrict firearm ammunition capacity.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 17:32