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Letter: Ducks, Guns and People

To the Editor:

A semi-automatic (autoloader) weapon contains a quantity of rounds, each fired by a single trigger pull. The spent cartridge is ejected automatically, with another loaded into the chamber to be fired by another trigger pull. The rounds are contained in a device called a magazine (in some configurations called a clip), and the number of rounds that can be fired without reloading is determined solely by the capacity of the magazine.

At the turn of the last century, John Moses Browning developed a commercially viable semi-automatic shotgun with a magazine capacity of six rounds. The Model 11 was an instant commercial success and became extremely popular among waterfowl hunters who had previously been limited largely to double-barreled shotguns. Almost immediately magazine extensions became available that increased the capacity to 10 rounds. This firepower had a devastating effect on the migratory duck and goose population.

Conservationists and true sportsmen took action. Partly in response to the slaughter of migrating birds, laws enacted in the 1930s limited to three the number of rounds that a shotgun could legally hold when used to hunt these birds. Autoloaders as well as pump-type shotguns are still in use, but when hunting waterfowl they are restricted to holding three rounds and a wooden plug must be inserted into the magazine to comply. Woe unto the hunter who violates this rule when the game warden arrives!

So, for the past 80 or so years, we have already had in effect a federal restriction on large-capacity shotgun magazines. Nobody has complained that this restriction violates the Second Amendment or that it violates our constitutional rights. The National Rifle Association seems to ignore this specific legal restriction on large-capacity magazines. Indeed, the fact that such a restriction already exists seem to be ignored by both pro- and anti-gun-law-reform factions.

Migratory flocks recovered quickly after the limit was established. There are still ducks to hunt. No black helicopters came, and the federal government did not confiscate everyone’s guns.

Since restricting the magazine capacity has been proven to help save ducks and have no deleterious side effects, might it not do so for people also?

FJ Manasek