In the wake of Jared Loughner’s murderous rampage in Tucson, a handful of politicians have drawn the conclusion that the best way to prevent such an act in the future is to ban the manufacture and sale of magazines that will hold more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Why ten rounds? Why not seven, or seventeen?
I hope you are not expecting a rational response, because there simply isn’t one; this is an utterly arbitrary figure not arrived at through any sort of analysis or reason. It was simply chosen as a nice round number, and a figure that those sponsoring such legislation might have an outside chance of getting through Congress.
There are many, many arguments to be made against such a reactionary law, and I suspect that you have probably read at least some of them. I offer up what I think is a slightly different rationale:
Thirty-round magazines are precisely what the Founders would want us to have.
I do not mean this as hyperbole. This is not meant to be a metaphor. By their very words and deeds, we know that such magazines are exactly what they meant to protect when they wrote:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
This is the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, clearly identifying the importance of the militia to the security of the nation, and stating unequivocally that for this reason, the government may not pass laws infringing upon the People’s right to own guns suitable for that purpose.
The Founders were not protecting your rights to hunt.
The Founders were not protecting your right to shoot at targets at a range.
Their intent was clear; the People should have arms suitable for militia (military) service.
At the time they wrote this Amendment, they had just defeated the Redcoats, using an militiamen and a ramshackle army equipped with identical small arms.
More than two centuries later, that story is still more or less true.
Our Army is primarily equipped with the small arm shown below.
This is an M4 carbine, a selective-fire 5.56 weapon fielded in all branches of the U.S. military, and an offshoot of the larger M16 rifle. Variants fire semi-automatically when in one mode, but can be switched to fire 3-round bursts or fully-automatically by means of a selector switch (depending on the variant). The standard magazine for this firearm, as shown above, is 30 rounds.
Below is America’s most popular militia arm.
This is an AR-15 carbine, a semi-automatic 5.56 carbine fielded by all manner of civilians, and is an offshoot of the larger AR15-rifle. Variants fire semi-automatically. The standard magazine for this firearm, as shown above, is 30 rounds.
As you noticed immediately, there is very little cosmetically different between the military M4 and the AR-15 carbine. The M4 has a barrel that is 1.5″ shorter than the AR-15 carbine. This makes the M4 negligibly more compact, but at the trade-off of the AR-15 carbine bullets achieving a slightly higher velocity. The M4 also has the capability of firing fully-automatically or in burst mode. This is a more substantive functional change. Regardless, the civilian and military variants share more than 90% parts commonality, sharing the same ammunition, accessories, optics and magazines.
Without a doubt, the AR-15 carbine is precisely what the founders would recognize as the modern militia gun. Likewise, they would recognize the standard 30-round magazine standardized with these firearms are part of the system.
The civilian AR-pattern carbine and rifles are precisely the firearms that meet the bill of a militia arm in the year 2011, as are their magazines. Any attempt to outlaw these firearms or their magazines is in direct and unquestioning contradiction to the plain meaning of the Second Amendment.