Such a ban was in effect between 1994 and 2004 as part of a ban on assault weapons, which also expired. Since then, clips such as those allegedly used by suspect Jared Loughner, which contained more than 30 rounds, have been available for purchase without restriction. Legislation restricting ammunition magazines to a maximum 10 rounds is in the works by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) of New York and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey.
The tragedy in Tucson might not have resulted in so many deaths and injuries if the gunman had been limited to 10 rounds before attempting to reload, gun control advocates say. In all, six people died and 14 were wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona.
Congresswoman McCarthy, who ran for Congress after her husband was killed and son injured in a 1993 shooting on the Long Island Rail Road, suggests she is focusing on ammunition magazines as opposed to the weapons themselves in a bow to political reality.
“I have to look at ... what can actually pass in Congress and have it signed by the president,” McCarthy said Tuesday in an interview with National Public Radio. “The House and the Senate are pro-gun houses.”
Many Democrats in both Houses of Congress – including Congresswoman Giffords – favor broad gun rights, and so passing legislation that limits the size of ammunition clips could be an uphill climb. But the history of gun control legislation is that it has its best chance after a major firearms-related event.
In 2007, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, a bill aimed at boosting compliance with reporting requirements to keep mentally disturbed people from buying firearms. That came following the Virginia Tech massacre earlier that year, in which a deranged student killed 32 people in a shooting rampage.
In an interview Tuesday on MSNBC, McCarthy acknowledged that sportsmen can enjoy using high-capacity clips in target-shooting, but called on them to sacrifice “for the safety of other people.”
“I'm asking my sportsmen, and certainly gun owners, to really think about this,” she said.
Senator Lautenberg says he plans to file legislation limiting gun clips to 10 rounds later this month, after Congress reconvenes.
The National Rifle Association has posted news articles on its web site about the planned legislation focused on high-capacity clips, but has yet to respond specifically to the plans. When asked for a response, an NRA media liaison issued the same statement the organization has been putting out since the Tucson shootings: "At this time anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate."
Another member of Congress, Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, announced Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation making it illegal to carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of certain government officials, such as lawmakers. Congressman King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and cochair of the Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns.
King spoke at a news conference alongside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of stricter gun control. Mayor Bloomberg called for improvements to the background-check system, noting that Loughner was able to buy a gun even after a drug arrest.
“As the Senate author of the Assault Weapons Ban, I’m looking at all of the options,” Senator Feinstein said in a statement Monday. “I’d like to talk to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle about this.”