How many rounds does it take to turn a “standard capacity” ammunition magazine into a “large capacity” magazine? The truth is, there is no one answer. In California, it’s 10 rounds. In New Jersey, it used to be 15 before it was lowered to 10 rounds. In Colorado, it’s still 15 rounds. And in Delaware, Democrats are arguing amongst themselves over what the definition should be.
Earlier this year, the Delaware State Senate approved a bill defining large capacity magazines as any that can accept more than 17 rounds of ammunition. Under the terms of the legislation, every existing gun owner would have to turn in or destroy their “large capacity” magazines by June 30, 2022 or risk facing criminal charges.
The Delaware State House has now gutted the Senate bill with an amendment that offers up a new definition of a large capacity magazine, and in doing so they’ve done an excellent job of demonstrating just how silly and subjective these bans really are.
The House measure, approved on a 24-16 vote and sent to the Senate, criminalizes the possession while committing a felony of an after-market magazine that increases the designed capacity of a firearm’s standard magazine. A person accused of possessing a prohibited after-market magazine while committing a felony would be subject to a separate felony charge punishable by two to 25 years in prison.
The legislation also outlaws, except in certain circumstances, the sale or transfer of a handgun magazine that exceeds 20 rounds or a rifle magazine holding more than 30 rounds. It does not, however, prohibit the possession of after-market magazines exceeding those capacities by people who already own them.
“They will be grandfathered…. You’re still allowed to use it lawfully,” said Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, author of the House amendment and chief House sponsor of the original Senate bill.
The amendment approved by the House makes it absolutely clear that the phrase “large capacity magazine” is a completely subjective term. Under the House language, a 17-round magazine that comes standard with Glocks would be fine, but if you purchased an after-market 17 round magazine for your Taurus G2c (which comes standard with 10 or 12-round magazines, you’d be committing a crime.
Rep. Chukwuocha acknowledged that the Senate bill would have outlawed the vast majority of legally-owned magazines in the sate, and even admitted that the bill would have impacted the Second Amendment rights of residents, which he claims wasn’t the intention behind the legislation.
“We’re targeting individuals who are committing crimes with these magazines, not lawful individuals,” explained Chukwuocha, who described the revised legislation as “a solid bill.”
“It’s one that respects the Second Amendment rights, as well as the Delaware constitutional rights, of gun owners,” he said
I can accept that his intention is to target criminals and not lawful individuals, but the bottom line is that even under this amendment, Chukwuocha and his colleagues still want to make it a crime to simply purchase and possess ammunition magazines of a certain size, and even criminalizes the transfer of these magazines between two lawful individuals. So no, the bill isn’t just targeting individuals who are committing violent crimes while using magazines banned by the bill.
Besides, why should an armed robber who uses an after-market 17-round magazine face more time in prison than an armed robber who used a stolen Glock with a factory-issued 17-round magazine? The real issue here is the armed robbery, not the tool that was used in the commission of a crime.
Sure, the amendment approved by the House makes this legislation less awful, but it still doesn’t make it a good bill. The real issue is the approach that lawmakers are taking to try to fight violent crime; focusing on the inanimate object as opposed to the individual committing the crime.
I have a suggestion for Rep. Chukwuocha and his Democratic colleagues. Instead of creating a brand new criminal offense, why not increase the existing penalties for committing a violent felony? After all, their goal shouldn’t be encouraging armed robbers, home invaders, and carjackers to use smaller magazines, but to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place.