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“Unquestionably in Common Use Today” – Study Confirms National Standard for Detachable Magazine Capacity is Over Ten Rounds

Monday, April 22, 2024

“Unquestionably in Common Use Today” – Study Confirms National Standard for Detachable Magazine Capacity is Over Ten Rounds

Along with “assault weapon” bans, so-called “high capacity” magazine restrictions are a cornerstone of modern gun control. These terms rely on distorted and alarmist labels to describe standard features or equipment, and seek to portray these as unusual or unusually dangerous. “Large capacity magazines” or “high-capacity ammunition feeding devices” are not precise definitions, but usually rest on an arbitrary limit of able to hold more than ten cartridges.

Judge Roger T. Benitez, in a pre-Bruen case involving a challenge to California’s law banning “large capacity magazines” (LCMs), explained that such bans are inconsistent with the Second Amendment. “The United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller established a simple Second Amendment test: The right to keep and bear arms is a right enjoyed by law-abiding citizens to have arms that are not unusual ‘in common use’ ‘for lawful purposes like self-defense.’…  It is a hardware test. Is the firearm hardware commonly owned? Is the hardware commonly owned by law-abiding citizens? Is the hardware owned by those citizens for lawful purposes? If the answers are ‘yes,’ the test is over. The hardware is protected.”

The same message was repeated in the later NYSRPA v. Bruen decision, where the U.S. Supreme Court quoted Heller that “the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are ‘in common use,’” and that what matters under the historical tradition of firearm regulation is whether the arms are “unquestionably in common use today.”

Nonetheless, gun control advocates like Everytown continue to press for bans on standard, ordinary magazines that hold more than ten rounds alleging, among other things, that these are not “arms” that the Second Amendment protects because they are not in common use and not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes like self-defense.

Anti-gun advocates may have run out of evidentiary road on the claim that magazines able to hold more than ten rounds are not constitutionally protected. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has released a comprehensive Detachable Magazine Report, 1990-2021 that unequivocally debunks their claims. This study analyzes manufacturer and sales data on magazines and magazine capacity over an extended period of time starting in 1991 (“[n]o reliable data exists prior to 1990 to estimate historic detachable magazines that may still be available for sale or in working condition”). 

The NSSF study concludes that the “national standard for magazine capacity for America’s gun owners is greater than 10 rounds.” Among the other significant findings are:

  • Overall, almost a billion (963 million) magazines “were produced and entered the commercial market between 1990 and 2021.” The study “does not claim all the magazines estimated in [it] are owned by Americans; these are both magazines estimated to be in circulation and made available for sale at some point from 1990 to 2021;”
  • The overwhelming majority of these – approximately 74 percent, or 717 million magazines – have a capacity of eleven or more rounds, and almost half (about 46 percent) “are rifle magazines with 30+ round capacity.” More than half (about 55 percent) of total pistol magazines are detachable 11+ magazines. If the 717 million total was applied exclusively to Americans, it works out to over two “LCMs” per person based on the U.S. population in 2022, 333.3 million;
  • Comparing magazines that ship or “come in the box” with the firearm, and “aftermarket” sales (e.g., magazines distributed to the consumer market for firearms that have already been sold), the report found that 29 percent of the magazines in the study originated from detachable magazines provided “in the box” with a newly manufactured firearm, while 71 percent were an “aftermarket” product;
  • The estimated number of pistol and rifle magazines in circulation with a capacity of 10 rounds or less is just 245,872,000;
  • “The consumer market totals of rifle magazines show 30+ capacity magazines, over 413 million, are over thirty times the amount available than 10 and below capacity rifle magazines, about 13 million”; and
  • Over 40 percent (43.3 percent) of firearm owners overall reported owning a detachable magazine with a capacity of 11 or more rounds. More generally, these “findings indicate that approximately 8.9 percent of the U.S. population owns a magazine holding 11 or more rounds.”

As the study notes, “legislation outlawing or granting access to these magazines may change overall market proportions but the preference to have more ammunition available is clear.”

Based on these figures, an American gun owner is much more likely to own a magazine capable of holding eleven or more rounds than one that holds ten or less. Not only are such magazines ubiquitous and unquestionably in “common use” by tens of millions of Americans, continuing to describe such devices as “high capacity” or “large capacity” suggests, quite wrongly, that they are other than ordinary or somehow stretch capacity beyond what is intended by manufacturers. Moreover, far from being highly unusual or unusually dangerous, the overwhelming majority of such magazines are owned by citizens who use them for lawful pursuits like hunting, recreational shooting, and self-defense.

In short, in a country where close to ten percent of the population owns a magazine holding eleven or more rounds (and where such magazines potentially outnumber magazines of ten rounds or less by almost three to one), the notion that these magazines are not commonly in use and not typically possessed by ordinary citizens is ludicrous. To borrow the language of a federal appeals court from almost 15 years ago, “[t]here may well be some capacity above which magazines are not in common use but, … in any event, that capacity surely is not ten.”

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Monday, April 1, 2024

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Fallout from Trudeau’s Gun Grab: Crime is Up, Number of Gun Ranges Drops

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Fallout from Trudeau’s Gun Grab: Crime is Up, Number of Gun Ranges Drops

In Canada, a ban on over 1,500 firearm makes, models and variants, together with a mandatory government confiscation (“buyback”) requirement, was imposed by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over four years ago. 

NRA Releases Statement on Rahimi Decision

Friday, June 21, 2024

NRA Releases Statement on Rahimi Decision

Today, in United States v. Rahimi, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal prohibition on firearms possession by individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders.

U.S. Supreme Court invalidates ATF Rule Classifying Bump Stocks as Machineguns

Friday, June 14, 2024

U.S. Supreme Court invalidates ATF Rule Classifying Bump Stocks as Machineguns

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unlawfully exceeded its authority by classifying bump stocks as machineguns.

NRA Files Amicus Brief with Ninth Circuit in Challenge to California’s Billy Club Ban

Friday, June 14, 2024

NRA Files Amicus Brief with Ninth Circuit in Challenge to California’s Billy Club Ban

Today, NRA filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a challenge to California’s prohibition on the possession of billy clubs.

Still no Trace of the Truth

News  

Monday, June 17, 2024

Still no Trace of the Truth

In our first installment of a critical analysis of an anti-gun propaganda podcast series from The Trace, we covered the lies, misinformation, and deceptive emotional arguments made in the first four episodes. 

NRA Secures Landmark Legal Victory; Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for NRA in First Amendment Case Against Former New York Regulator

News  

Thursday, May 30, 2024

NRA Secures Landmark Legal Victory; Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for NRA in First Amendment Case Against Former New York Regulator

The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) scored a historic legal victory today in one of the most closely followed First Amendment cases in the nation. In a stinging rebuke of New York’s “blacklisting campaign” against ...

Bob Barr Elected NRA President, Doug Hamlin Elected to Serve as NRA Executive Vice President & CEO

News  

Monday, May 20, 2024

Bob Barr Elected NRA President, Doug Hamlin Elected to Serve as NRA Executive Vice President & CEO

Today, the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association of America elected former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr as President of the NRA and Doug Hamlin as NRA Executive Vice President & CEO. The meeting ...

Delaware: Senate Committee Passes Legislation to Restrict Firearms on College Campuses and Properties!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Delaware: Senate Committee Passes Legislation to Restrict Firearms on College Campuses and Properties!

Last night, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 311, restricting firearms on college campuses and college-owned properties, even for concealed carry permit holders. This legislation is now eligible for a floor vote. Please contact your state ...

Kansas: Legislators Seize Special Session Opportunity to Start Discussion for 2025 Session

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Kansas: Legislators Seize Special Session Opportunity to Start Discussion for 2025 Session

Last month, Gov. Laura Kelly called a special session of the Kansas Legislature to deal with tax issues. The special session adjourned this week, lasting less than 24 hours. Despite the brevity, pro-gun Senators J.R. ...

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.