Globe Editorial

One simple response: ban extended ammo clips

January 12, 2011

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THERE IS one inarguable fact to come out of the deadly rampage in Arizona: The extended ammunition clip that the attacker used to shoot 20 people wouldn’t have been legal in 2004.

And there is one clear, simple response that everyone who is outraged by the shootings should agree on: Such ammunition clips shouldn’t be legal anymore.

Authorities say suspect Jared Lee Loughner purchased his semiautomatic Glock pistol at a Tucson sporting-goods store in November. It held an extended clip of at least 30 bullets. Such clips had been illegal under federal law until the 2004 expiration of the assault-weapons ban, which prohibited clips of more than 10 rounds. The ban was not renewed by a Republican Congress and president closely tied to the gun lobby, and Democrats pushed it to the back burner when they took power.

Whatever the arguments for or against an assault-weapons ban, that issue should not get in the way of broad agreement on banning ammunition clips of the type that investigators say Loughner purchased. And whatever the connection between overheated rhetoric and the Tucson shootings, there is a direct link between the size of the attacker’s clip and the amount of carnage he unleashed. It’s not a coincidence that terrified witnesses were not able to wrestle him to the ground until he had to stop to reload.

This isn’t the first time the lack of a ban on extended clips has had deadly consequences. Authorities say Nidal Hasan used high-capacity clips during his rampage at Ft. Hood in 2009, as did Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York, who won office after her husband was killed and her son wounded during a 1993 rampage on the Long Island Railroad, plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of extended capacity ammunition clips. While her office said that the details are still being negotiated, the bill would certainly cover clips of the capacity used in the Tucson attack.

Under the Second Amendment, Americans are entitled to own firearms. But that does not answer the separate question of whether certain types of weapons are too dangerous for purposes other than the military or law enforcement. With its extended clip, Loughner’s weapon fell in this category.