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Gun debate 101: Time to ban high-capacity magazines?

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Gun control advocates such as Governor Cuomo, who on Jan. 15 signed the nation's first post-Newtown gun restrictions, suggest that regular Americans don't need the ability to shoot large numbers of continuous bullets for hunting or standard self-defense. Gun rights advocates say that it's not up to the government to decide what gun owners need for self-protection, and that new laws would only serve to criminalize lawful gun owners, while criminals would get hold of illegal magazines and guns anyway.

Experts estimate that as many as 40 million high-capacity magazines may be in circulation today in the US.

Have "high-capacity" magazine bans worked before?

While task forces concluded that the 1994 assault-weapons ban and bans on large-capacity magazines didn't noticeably effect violent-crime rates or mass shootings in the US either way, some evidence does show that such set-ups were used fewer times during the commission of crimes in some US cities during the 10-year span of the ban.

Studies have also found that casualty rates of mass shootings have increased after the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Police in Virginia, for example, found far fewer high-capacity magazines at crime scenes in 2004 than they did in 2010. Gun critics point to those statistics to argue that larger magazines contribute to greater bloodshed.

What would the Obama plan do?

Obama's proposal bans high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds. To what extent currently owned magazines would be "grandfathered" or legalized, and whether people using them would have to register with the federal government, is not yet clear.

However a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California would ban dozens of guns as well as require gun owners to register "grandfathered" weapons and magazines in a national registry. Other proposals suggest that grandfathered weapons and magazines would have to be re-registered every five years.

Gun control advocates say smaller magazines would increase chances that bystanders, victims, or law enforcement officials could disrupt a mass shooting. During the shooting in Tuscon two years ago, gunman Jared Loughner was tackled to the ground as he tried to reload after firing 30 shots, killing six people and injuring then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

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