Why Capacity Matters

“Ammunition capacity. Handgun, shotgun and rifle capacity.” Much is made of “high capacity” firearms. Gun control advocates talk endlessly about how scary and needless they are in civilian life. How politicians, in the interest of public safety, need to limit their access for the common individual. They are weapons of war that are not needed “on the streets” we are told. Until they are.

A gun is used to defend your life. If you are using it, you are in a fight for your life – for your very survival or the survival of someone you love or are responsible for caring for. Whatever the perpetrator of this violence is doing to threaten the innocent with immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or serious bodily harm, he needs to stop it. NOW! Right now. You don’t have ten, five, or even one second. That is when it is morally acceptable to employ deadly force.

And, as long as we are speaking of morality, it is important to recognize that material objects or technology have no innate morality of their own. Ammunition magazines themselves are amoral – they do not think, they do not generate emotions or suffer from mental illness – but they can be used for moral or immoral purposes, depending on the mindset and intent of their user. Since ammunition magazines of any capacity are readily available and in circulation, it stands to reason that laws prohibiting so-called “high-capacity” magazines are ineffective. Additionally, we will demonstrate that magazines with a capacity in excess of 15 rounds, those that the Democrats in the Colorado Assembly have subjectively deemed “high capacity,” actually serve a vital role in self-defense situations and a thoughtful person could easily conclude that banning them is actually immoral because it limits a citizen’s right to self-defense.

Who Needs More Than 10?

But why would you need more than 6, 10 or 15 or even more bullets to stop this threat? If a motivated assailant is shot even once, he immediately stops what he is doing, surrenders or dies – like on TV and in movies, right? Don’t attackers when hit by a bullet fly backwards over the couch violently, even when hit only once with a bullet fired from a weapon chambered in the commonly available 9mm Parabellum, then beg to not be shot again? Like in Die Hard?

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe they keep coming. Maybe they are “bullet sponges,” high and numb on drugs. Maybe they’ve been shot before, and they know what that’s like and a gunshot affects them less acutely. Maybe they were only hit in an area where incapacitation won’t take place for several seconds or minutes. Sometimes incapacitation will not take place at all. What then?

The trouble with politicians and anti-gun advocates is they try to predict and control that which is unpredictable and cannot be controlled. No one can tell how a violent encounter will happen, and how or what is necessary to make it stop. Common misconceptions used by gun control advocates include:

  • “All you need is one well-placed shot, anything more than that is just overkill.” Shooting under stress is incredibly difficult, even for trained law enforcement officers. The stress is multiplied when faced by a motivated attacker or group of attackers, and any politician who believes that he or she can predict exactly how many rounds you will need is living in a fantasy. When faced with defending yourself in a home invasion scenario, it is highly likely that many of your rounds will hit drywall, furniture or the floor before you can land a round on an adversary.
  • “If you need more than six rounds, then you have a problem bigger than one gun can deal with.” Again, how would anyone know until this happens to them? What if you are confronted with multiple attackers and you just used up your six rounds on the first one, and the second guy is now coming up the stairs as you fumble around to reload your revolver? Retired Special Forces veteran Kyle Lamb explains why an AR-15 fitted with 30-round magazine may in fact be the best home defense option, especially for women, because it is lightweight, easy to shoot, easy to aim, has minimal recoil and the .223/5.56 cartridge is less prone to overpenetration of drywall and wood. But, these facts are something that the anti-Second Amendment crowd want to suppress. In fact, Joe Biden has offered some horrible advice to women who wish to protect themselves. “Get a shotgun, there’s nothing like the sound of racking a 12-gauge pump action to scare away an intruder.” Women are typically smaller and less able to deal with the recoil of a shotgun than men. I offer this video montage to demonstrate how awful Joe Biden’s over-simplistic, ignorant advice is.

These objections to magazine size greater than some arbitrary number cited by anti-gun politicians are always based on a subjective visualization, or mental model, of what threat the gun control advocate has generated in his or her mind, never on objective facts or the humbling admission that one just can’t envision every self-defense scenario one might encounter. That one has the hubris to believe he or she knows exactly the circumstances one might face in a self-defense situation is both ignorant and arrogant, both of which are devoid of reality.

All you have is all you have


If employing a firearm for self-defense, whether civilian or law enforcement, the life or death encounter will happen incredibly fast, faster than you can even comprehend. When the time comes, it is far more likely than not that all you have on your person or within your immediate reach at the time is all you will have to defend yourself. If you have a six-shot revolver and need to employ it to stop a violent attack against you, a loved one, or other innocents, you’d better act fast and hope 6 shots all hit effectively and stop the threat. There’s no 7th shot.  If you have a 15-round magazine and expend all 15 rounds, you may not have a second magazine, particularly if it is needed in the middle of the night in your home and you are in your underwear or less and barely have time to grab the pistol, much less extra magazines. Where would you carry them if you are in your underwear? You may need both hands to operate the weapon, and possibly a flashlight, use a phone to call 911, usher children to safety, etc. In this case, having more rounds available without having to reload is always preferable.

Let’s take a look at this encounter by Skokie, IL police officer Tim Gramins out on patrol when he encountered an armed bank robber/gang member who decided not to be taken alive. Two important details can be observed. One – the attacker exited his vehicle shooting immediately as the officer brought his vehicle to a stop. In fact, the officer was under fire before he was able to exit his vehicle. His first defensive shots were fired through the windshield of his patrol car. Two – though the officer had a shotgun, AR-15 carbine and a backup pistol, the attacker only afforded him the time to access his one sidearm. The other, more effective weapons might as well have been on the moon. The attack happened too fast to access any other weapon.

Can anyone say with any degree of certainty all of the variables of one’s first, or next, self-defense encounter might include? Of course not.

How Many Cartridges You Need

Anti-rights politicians and activists seem to know exactly what you need to stop a deadly encounter. No really, they know. These self-defense “experts,” many of whom have never encountered a violent assailant or held a firearm, believe they know better than you. Guided by their assumptions, subjective beliefs and arrogance, they believe they can legislate the exact circumstances of your self-defense encounter. These wise bureaucrats possess near-psychic foresight know the fight for your very survival that you may or may not ever be in. Or, like Governor John Hickenlooper, they see mandating less than standard magazine capacity as a mere “inconvenience” to a law-abiding citizen. They have this vision of the future. Or so they think in their arrogance and contempt for you.

Yet, a key element of wisdom is knowing that you can’t know it all. True wisdom is based on experience with human nature as it exists today and as it has through millennia, not through the imagining of what it could, or should, be.

In looking at the attack on Officer Gramins, he fired 14 shots into the suspect, and the suspect did not stop. Understand that. The suspect was shot 14 times with six of the wounds considered fatal. And the attacker did not stop his attack. What most people do not understand about wounds caused by firearms is that being hit by a bullet, even in a vital organ, does not result in instantaneous death. Wounds cause damage, for certain, but even if shot in the heart, the process of exsanguination – or the reduction of blood pressure in the circulation system that leads to incapacitation – takes time. An assailant high on drugs or endorphins may be able to continue his attack for several minutes even when his body has experienced a traumatic, life-ending wound. When the average response time for Denver Police is 15 minutes, a fatally wounded attacker could still kill you.

Gramins shot his attacker a total of 14 times with precisely manufactured, expensive, premium .45 caliber ammunition that is issued to police officers. And yet, his assailant was still up and shooting at him with deadly intent. This is a police officer who is trained to use a firearm in self-defense as part of his job protecting the people of Skokie, IL. He was using his firearm as he was trained, he was hitting the attacker, and it was ineffective in stopping the threat. The officer then laid on the ground, focused, and fired three more shots into the attacker’s head to stop the attack. He required 17 total rounds and three magazines of ammunition to save his life. The attacker fired a total of 33 rounds at the officer from two handguns, and missed every shot.

Surprisingly, the attacker had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Why Capacity Matters

Attacks happen fast – faster than the mind can comprehend and the senses can react to. Sometimes there is one attacker. Sometimes there are more than one. Violent attacks are unpredictable, random, fast and deadly. What is the mindset of the attacker? Is this his first attack or does he have a long history of violence to the point where he is conditioned, skilled and unsympathetic to others, such as the attack on Dr. William Petit in 2007? How can anyone, even you, know what you will need in a violent event that hasn’t happened yet?

That’s why capacity matters, because you don’t know. You may not even need to fire one shot – attackers often flee at the mere sight of a firearm. Or, like Officer Gramins, you may need all that you have to stop a determined foe. Your life is at stake, and no one has the moral right to restrict your ability to defend yourself, loved ones or innocents.

Should angry, gun-hating politicians funded by anti-gun activist groups make these decisions for you? Or are you better qualified to make them for yourself?

Perhaps there is a power outage and rioting occurs in your neighborhood. What will you need in the way of firearms and ammunition, assuming you need any at all? How many rioters are there? Are they dangerous (people are often more dangerous and brazen when in a crowd). What is their intention? Are you a woman and living alone with small children? If you are attacked, and are suddenly in a fight for your life, how many rounds will you need in the gravest extreme?

I know what you are thinking. Civilians would never encounter the kind of situation faced by a police officer in the line of duty. Before you discount the story of Officer Gramins being a police officer in pursuit of a suspect and not being a civilian, keep this in mind: The attacker drove into a residential area. The gunfight happened on a neighborhood street with houses all around. Children were playing in yards and skateboarding in driveways. The attacker could easily have run into a house and attacked a resident. This could easily have turned into a civilian encounter. In fact, civilians in the United States use firearms to defend themselves between 1.5 million and 2.5 million times per year.

The Sheriffs of Colorado had this to say about “high-capacity” magazines in the hands of civilians in their position paper: “Law enforcement officers carry high capacity magazines because there are times when 10 rounds might not be enough to end the threat. Sheriffs of Colorado believe the same should hold true for civilians who wish to defend themselves, especially if attacked by multiple assailants.”

In summary, nobody knows the future. Violence is sudden and unpredictable, and violent people are unpredictable. The majority of encounters where a firearm is used for defense are resolved by merely displaying or referring to the weapon. However, knowing how unpredictable violence is, how if you are attacked you are already on the defensive and behind the curve, and knowing the unpredictability of the circumstances of the attack and the capabilities and mindset of the attacker, it is irresponsible for politicians and activists to limit civilian access to some arbitrary number of rounds. As for officer Gramins, coming away from this incident has taught him that more is better, and he now carries 145 round on his person while on duty.

By @terriblezdog

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