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Ban high-capacity gun magazines like one used in Tucson

By Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, Special to CNN
  • Senator wants to ban high-capacity gun magazines like one used in Tucson shooting
  • Senator: Shooter stopped only when he paused to reload, using 33-round magazine
  • Murderous devices designed for mowing down people, he says, citing ban from 1994-2004
  • Real danger to Americans is not banning such devices; it's gun violence, Lautenberg writes

Editor's note: Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg is a U.S. senator from New Jersey.

(CNN) -- The sickening shooting spree in Tucson holds many lessons for our country, but the most important is this: It's much too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on deadly weapons.

We must change this.

A good start is by banning high-capacity gun magazines -- which allow scores of bullets to be loaded at one time -- such as the one used in the Tucson massacre that left six people dead and 14 others wounded, including my colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

According to news reports, Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter in Tucson, used a 33-round magazine in a murderous rampage. The sheriff says 31 spent rounds were found on the scene.

As we now know, a group of heroic bystanders stopped the shooter by wrestling him to the ground. But they didn't have an opportunity to intervene until he emptied the magazine and paused to reload.

We banned these murderous accessories once before; we must do so again.
--Frank Lautenberg

If the shooter didn't have access to the high-capacity magazine that he used, he would have stopped to reload sooner and lives might have been saved.

Loughner's magazine was attached to a 9 mm Glock 19 semi-automatic handgun, which is the preferred weapon of deranged madmen. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho used the same model in the Virginia Tech shooting spree, which claimed 32 lives.

This month, I will introduce legislation to ban gun magazines that feed more than 10 rounds at a time. One of my colleagues, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, is planning to introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

This is common-sense legislation, and there is no justification for keeping these large-capacity devices on the market.

Our country deemed (suspect) Loughner unfit to wear its uniform -- but it was perfectly legal for him to purchase lethal weaponry.
--Frank Lautenberg
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The sad irony is that high-capacity magazines were illegal from 1994 until 2004 when the federal assault weapons ban was in place. In addition to dangerous gun magazines, this groundbreaking law also outlawed AK-47s, Uzis and other semi-automatic firearms.

These are the kinds of guns soldiers used on faraway battlefields; they don't belong in our communities.

Yet Loughner -- despite his troubled past, including being kicked out of college and rejected for Army service -- legally purchased the guns and ammunition police say he used in the massacre.

Our country deemed Loughner unfit to wear its uniform -- but it was perfectly legal for him to purchase the lethal weaponry he is accused of using to kill innocent people in a supermarket parking lot.

I have devoted much of my career to championing common-sense laws to prevent gun violence.

I was proud to write the law that prohibits spousal and child abusers from owning guns, and I was a strong supporter of the Brady Law, which established background checks for handgun purchases.

I'm sure the powerful special interest gun lobby will oppose my efforts.

The National Rifle Association once called me an "unprecedented danger to your civil liberties."

But as we've been reminded time and again, the real danger to the American people is gun violence.

We must do more to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of people who have no business with them -- beginning with bullet cases such as the one used in the attempted assassination of Giffords.

It shouldn't be as easy to buy a high-capacity gun magazine at a sporting goods store as it is to purchase a magazine at the corner newsstand.

We banned these murderous accessories once before; we must do so again.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frank R. Lautenberg.