Lawmakers move to ban high-capacity gun magazines nationwide

Apr 14, 2021
Press Release
Legislation to ban gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds comes less than one month after horrific shooting in Boulder, Colorado

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of federal lawmakers – led by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO),Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) in the House and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate – introduced legislation today to ban the sale, manufacturing, transfer, possession or importation of high-capacity gun magazines that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. 

The legislation – known as the Keep Americans Safe Act – comes less than one month after a gunman in Boulder, Colorado killed 10 innocent people in a crowded supermarket, and just days before the 22nd anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School where two gunmen, armed with military-style assault weapons equipped with high-capacity magazines, killed 12 people before turning the guns on themselves.

“There’s no reason why anyone, other than military, needs a gun magazine that holds more than 10 rounds,” DeGette said. “It’s past time for Congress to act on commonsense gun-safety measures such as this. Banning the sale of high-capacity magazines in this country will save lives and Congress needs to act on this legislation immediately.”  

While it’s not clear yet whether the shooter in Boulder used a high-capacity magazine in last month’s horrific attack, such devices have become a staple of some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings in recent years. 

In 2012, a gunman equipped with high-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 30 rounds each killed 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. That same year, a gunman in Aurora, Colorado armed with a magazine drum capable of holding up to 100 rounds opened fire in a crowded movie theater killing 12 people and injuring 58 more. 

In 2016, a shooter armed with high-capacity magazines capable of holding 30 rounds each shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Two years later, a gunman a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shot and killed 17 students and injured 17 more. 

The use of high-capacity magazines enabled the perpetrators of these deadly attacks to fire dozens of rounds of ammunition before having to stop and reload, allowing them to kill more people in less time.

In 1994, the federal government took steps to ban the sale of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” that were capable of holding more than 10 rounds. That ban, however, expired in 2004 and – despite recent attempts by DeGette and others – Congress has been unable to pass legislation to reinstate it.

In addition to reinstating a nationwide ban on high-capacity gun magazines, the legislation introduced in both the House and Senate today would:

  • Authorize a high-capacity-magazine buyback program using Byrne JAG grant funds;
  • Require any high-capacity magazines manufactured after the bill is enacted to have a conspicuous serial number and date of manufacture printed on it so it can be identified by law enforcement;
  • Ensure law enforcement agencies, such as FBI and ATF, have the authority they need to seize and destroy high-capacity magazines possessed illegally; and
  • Modify the federal definition of high-capacity magazines to prevent coupled or joined magazines;

While the legislation would ban the possession of any high-capacity magazine manufactured after the bill is enacted, it would not ban the continued possession of any high-capacity magazine that someone currently possesses. While the owners of such devices would be allowed to keep the high-capacity magazines they already have, they would not be allowed to transfer or sell them anyone. 

While the sale of any newly manufactured high-capacity magazines would generally be banned nationwide under the bill, there are several provisions that provide a limited number exceptions for certain current and former law enforcement personnel, certain Atomic Energy personnel and for certain authorized testing and experimentation.

The legislation is supported by Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Everytown; March for Our Lives; Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety; Change The Ref; Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Center for American Progress and Violence Policy Center.

A copy of the legislation is available here.

Following is a list of some of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings in recent years:

  • In Boulder, Colo., on March 22, 2021, a shooter armed with a Ruger AR-556 Pistol, which can hold up to 30 rounds, and killed ten people at a King Scoopers supermarket.
  • In Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, 2019, a gunman shot and killed nine people and injured 17 others near the entrance of the Ned Peppers Bar in the Oregon District of Dayton.
  • In El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, 2019, a shooter walked into a Walmart store and killed 23 people and injured 23 others, in what has been described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history.
  • In Pittsburgh, Penn., on Oct. 27, 2018, a shooter killed eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life Congregation during Shabbat morning services--the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States--using an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle for his attack.
  • In Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others. Witnesses identified the gunman as a nineteen-year-old former student.
  • In Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017, a shooter killed 26 and injured 20 other worshipers who were attending regular Sunday church services. The attack, with an AR-15, was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas and the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in the United States.
  • In Las Vegas, Nev., on Oct. 1, 2017, a shooter opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, firing more than 1,100 rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 people and leaving 851 injured – over 400 of them by gunfire and hundreds more in the ensuing panic. This is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
  • In Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, a shooter fired bullets from a 30-round assault rifle and a 17-round semi-automatic pistol into a crowded Pulse Nightclub, killing 49 and injuring more than 50 others in what was then the worst mass shooting in American history.
  • In San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2015, armed with assault rifles and other weapons, two shooters stormed a social services center where one had worked, fatally shooting 14 people and injuring at least 17 others.
  • In Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, a shooter used 30-round magazines to take the lives of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When the shooter reloaded his gun, eleven students managed to escape.
  • In Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012, a shooter used a 100-round drum magazine and a 40-round magazine to kill 12 people and wound another 58. His 100-round magazine jammed during the shooting, preventing even more casualties.
  • In Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8, 2011, a shooter used two, 31-round magazines and two, 15-round magazines in the shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 more. The gunman was tackled to the ground while changing magazines and is one of many shootings – including the 1993 Long Island Railroad shooting and the 1998 Thurston High School shooting – that ended when the shooter attempted to reload his gun.
  • In Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009, a shooter used 30- and 20-round magazines in the shooting that killed 13 people and wounded 34 more. The gun-shop owner who sold the extended magazines quotes the would-be shooter as saying he didn’t like spending time loading magazines.
  • In Blacksburg, Virginia, on Apr. 16, 2007, an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech shot 49 people on campus with two semi-automatic pistols, killing 32 and wounding 17. Several other victims were injured jumping from windows to escape the gunfire.
  • In Columbine, Colo., on Apr. 20, 1999, a pair of students murdered 12 classmates and one teacher. Ten students were murdered in the library, where the shooters subsequently committed suicide. At the time, it was the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history.
  • In Killeen, Texas, on Oct. 16, 1991, a gunman drove his pickup truck through the front window of the Luby's Cafeteria and then proceeded to shoot and kill 23 people, wounding 27 others.
  • In San Diego, Calif., on July 18, 1984, a shooter killed 21 people and injured 19 others in and around a McDonald's restaurant in the San Ysidro neighborhood of San Diego before being fatally shot by a SWAT team.