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The 33-Bullet Magazine: How Much Firepower is Too Much?

**Scroll down for a programming note about the guests in this show.

A Glock 19 9mm, with extended 33-bullet magazine (Flickr/RedBarnes)

Americans know shooting death and political violence.  Today is Martin Luther King Day.  A great leader, killed.  And Americans know guns.  There are about 85 guns in this country for every hundred humans.

The Supreme Court has now ruled gun ownership is a fundamental individual American right.  But do we need, do we have a right to, high-capacity magazines on a pistol like Jared Loughner used in Tucson?  Capable of unleashing nearly three dozen rounds in 15 seconds?

We look at debate now, over bullets.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, democratic Congresswoman representing New York’s 4th congressional district. She will introduce legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines like those used by the Tucson shooter. Her husband was killed and her son injured in 1993 when a gunman opened fire on passengers on a Long Island Railroad commuter train, killing six.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He’s the former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Robert Levy, served as co-counsel in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which resulted in the Supreme Court upholding the individual right to possess a firearm. He is chairman of the Cato Institute.

Tracee Larson, gun rights advocate and blogger. Former vice chair of the gun owners caucus of the Democratic Party of Texas.

A programming note from the On Point senior producer Karen Shiffman:

On Point stands strongly behind its guesting of the January 17 show focused on the gun debate and high capacity magazines.

Representing the gun control perspective, we brought Paul Helmke, executive director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and one of the country’s leading voices from the pro-regulation perspective.

Representing the 2nd-Amendment rights perspective, we brought Robert Levy, co-counsel for the plaintiff before the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark case that established the individual right to firearm ownership under the 2nd amendment. Mr. Levy, chairman of the board of directors of the libertarian Cato Institute, was instrumental in mounting and central in arguing this historic case. While he is formally open to limits on high-capacity magazines, he sets a bar of gun rights caveats on magazine restrictions so high as to likely preclude implementation. Mr. Levy is one of the nation’s most prominent and high-impact gun rights advocates. (See his comments during the show below.)

In the middle seat, we brought Tracee Larson, a gun owner and self-described “strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment” who favors limits on high capacity magazines.

We spoke briefly with Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), whose then-imminent proposed legislation was the news hook for the show.

This panel represented a smart, serious and wide spectrum of the American gun, magazine, and gun rights debate. We stand firmly by it.

Here, from the January airing, is the heart of Robert Levy’s position on DC v. Heller and his strong challenge to limits on high-capacity magazines:

What the Supreme Court decision did was switch the burden to government. We have a constitutionally secured right, belonging to each individual. If the government chooses to compromise that right, the government has to jump through a number of important hoops. The first thing the government has to do is show that the regulation they propose is not going to unduly impede the use of firearms for self-defense. Second, we have to be sure that what seems to be modest steps don’t turn out to be the first steps down a slippery slope that do end up compromising core 2nd-Amendment rights. And third, and I think most important in the context of these high capacity magazines, the government has to show that its regulation is going to be effective in promoting public safety — particularly when weighed against lots of reliable evidence that past restrictions have not lessened the incidence of gun-related crime.

Note on terminology: We recognize some disagreement over the use of language (magazine v. clip) on this topic. Here’s what the NRA says in its glossary of gun terms:

CLIP: A device for holding a group of cartridges. Semantic wars have been fought over the word, with some insisting it is not a synonym for “detachable magazine.” For 80 years, however, it has been so used by manufacturers and the military.

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