High-capacity magazine ban

A high-capacity magazine ban is a law which bans or otherwise restricts high-capacity magazines, detachable firearm magazines that can hold more than a certain number of rounds of ammunition. For example, in the United States, the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 included limits regarding magazines that could hold more than ten rounds. Eight U.S. states, and a number of local governments, ban or regulate magazines that they have legally defined as high-capacity. The majority of states (42) do not ban or regulate any magazines on the basis of capacity. States that do have large capacity magazine bans or restrictions typically do not apply to firearms with fixed magazines whose capacity would otherwise exceed the large capacity threshold.

The federal ban which was in effect from 1994 to 2004 defined a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition as a large capacity ammunition feeding device. Likewise, the state of California defines a large capacity magazine as "any ammunition feeding device with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds."[1] Such devices are commonly called high-capacity magazines.[2][3][4] Among states with bans, the maximum capacity is 10 to 20 rounds. Several municipalities, such as New York City, restrict magazine capacity to 5 rounds for rifles and shotguns.[5] The state of New York previously limited magazine capacity to 7 rounds, but a District Court ruled this ban to be excessive and could not "survive intermediate scrutiny".[6]

Most pistols sold in the U.S. are made and sold with magazines holding between 10 and 17 rounds.[7] In November 2013, the National Rifle Association sued the city of San Francisco over an ordinance banning possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.[8] In March 2014, the Supreme Court refused to halt a similar ban by the city of Sunnyvale, California.[9] In March 2019 a California lower court declared magazine restrictions to be a violation of the Second Amendment.[10]

Magazine bans by country


With the passage of Bill C-17 in 1993 under Prime Minister Kim Campbell (in response to the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre), magazines designed for use in semi-automatic centrefire rifles and semi-automatic shotguns became limited to five rounds, and magazines designed for use in handguns are limited to 10 rounds. Magazines designed for use in semi-automatic rimfire rifles, as well as manually operated long guns, are exempt from the magazine capacity restrictions.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of ways to legally work around the magazine capacity restrictions. Numerous semi-automatic centrefire rifles also happen to accept handgun magazines, thereby legally increasing magazine capacity. Numerous rifle and handgun magazines designed for a particular caliber also happen to fit an over-the-limit number of smaller caliber rounds, also legally increasing magazine capacity.[11]

United Kingdom

There is no ban, restriction or other additional legal requirements on the possession, purchase, sale or import of high capacity magazines in the UK that are designed for use in rifles, shotguns and pistols. However, since January 1989 all semi automatic rifles (other then those chambered for .22 rimfire cartridges) and since February 1998 all semi automatic pistols have been generally prohibited for possession by the general public without a section 5 firearms licence due to legislation enacted after the 1987 Hungerford Massacre on semi automatic rifles and after the 1996 Dunblane Massacre on semi automatic pistols. Before those respective dates a member of the public could own them on a standard section 1 firearms licence. This means that even though high capacity magazines are legal, they can only be legally used on semi automatic rifles owned by citizens with a section 1 firearms licence if they are chambered to fire .22 rimfire cartridges only. Additionally though long barreled pistols (pistols with a barrel length of at least 12 inches) can still be owned on a section 1 firearms licence as the legislation on pistols passed in February 1998 only affected firearms with a barrel length of less than 12 inches meaning that long barreled pistols are in effect regulated along the same lines as .22 rimfire semi automatic rifles meaning that long barreled pistols can utilize high capacity magazines, though only chambered to .22 rimfire cartridges like semi automatic rifles. Revolvers are not classed as semi automatic under UK law and thus can be owned in any caliber, however they must still have a barrel length of at least 12 inches like semi automatic rifles and pistols if owned on a section 1 firearms licence. As for bolt action, straight pull, lever release and any other manually loading rifles they can be owned in any caliber however and utilize high capacity magazines also.

As for shotguns there is legislation on all lever action, pump action and semi automatic shotguns that restricts them to holding a maximum of 3 cartridges at any one time if they are held on a section 2 shotgun licence. However shotguns with an unlimited capacity can be held on the more strict section 1 firearms licence if an applicant provides a 'good reason' to the chief officer of their local police force as to why they need a shotgun with a capacity over 3 shots, typically a 'good reason' would be for example those hunting or controlling dangerous animals (such as wild boar/hogs) or those who need to control large numbers of pests at once (such as herds of rabbits). More can be found here Firearms policy in the United Kingdom.[12]

United States

Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994

William B. Ruger, a founder of Sturm, Ruger & Co., is often ascribed with providing the impetus for high capacity magazine restrictions. Ruger proposed that instead of banning firearms, Congress should outlaw magazines holding more than 15 rounds.[13] “No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun,” Ruger told Tom Brokaw of NBC News in 1992.[14][15] On March 30, 1989, Ruger sent a letter to every member of the US Congress stating:

"The best way to address the firepower concern is therefore not to try to outlaw or license many millions of older and perfectly legitimate firearms (which would be a licensing effort of staggering proportions) but to prohibit the possession of high capacity magazines. By a simple, complete and unequivocal ban on large capacity magazines, all the difficulty of defining 'assault rifle' and 'semi-automatic rifles' is eliminated. The large capacity magazine itself, separate or attached to the firearm, becomes the prohibited item. A single amendment to Federal firearms laws could effectively implement these objectives."

William B. Ruger[16]

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 included a ban on magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.[17]:1–2 The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, commonly called the assault weapons ban (AWB), was enacted in September 1994. The ban, including its ban on magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, became defunct (expired) in September 2004 per a sunset provision. Attempts to renew the ban have failed on the federal level.

State high-capacity magazine bans

As of April 2019, Washington, D.C. and nine U.S. states have high-capacity magazine restrictions or bans.[18]

  • California (on magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, currently being litigated for constitutionality)[19]
  • Colorado (on in-state sales of magazines with a capacity of 16 rounds or greater)
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii (on handguns only)
  • Maryland (on in-state sales of magazines with a capacity of 11 rounds or greater)
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont (10 round magazine limit on rifles and a 15 round limit on handguns)

In Virginia, high-capacity magazines, which are defined as being over 20 rounds for a semi-automatic, centerfire rifle or pistol, and 7 shells for a shotgun, are not in and of themselves banned, but using one in combination with a firearm changes its status to an "assault firearm" which is prohibited for foreign nationals without permanent resident to possess,[20][21] as well as requiring a license to carry in certain counties and cities.[22]

Municipal and county high-capacity magazine bans

U.S. cities with high-capacity magazine restrictions or bans include:

In 2013, a federal judge in New York struck down the state's prohibition against gun owners loading more than seven rounds into a magazine, calling the limit “an arbitrary restriction” that violated the Second Amendment, but upheld the state's ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.[25] In 2015, the Second Circuit upheld this decision on appeal.[26]

In December 2013, the National Rifle Association (NRA), representing five residents of Sunnyvale, California, filed a lawsuit to stop enforcement of the city's ban on possession of magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds,[7] in a case known as Fyock v. Sunnyvale. In March 2014, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a request to block enforcement of the law pending appeals.[27] In March 2015 the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the magazine capacity restriction, ruling that it does not violate the Second Amendment.[28]

Eugene Volokh, constitutional scholar, says that a Federal District Court judge was correct to decide that a local high-capacity magazine ban was constitutional, comparing limits on magazine capacity to limits on free speech.[29]

In March of 2019, a Federal District Court judge struck down California's high-capacity magazine ban, noting that "[u]nder the simple test of Heller, California's § 32310 directly infringes Second Amendment rights". [30]

Public opinion

Most Americans support a ban on the sale and possession of high capacity magazines.[31][32][33][34][35] In 2012 62% of Americans favored banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, according to a Gallup poll with a margin of error of +/- 4%.[31] In 2017 65% of American adults supported banning high-capacity magazines, according to a Pew Research Center survey with an error attributable to sampling of +/- 2.8% at the 95% level of confidence.[32] In late February early March 2018, after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, 63% of American adults supported a ban on the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, according to a CNN poll with a margin of error of +/- 3.7%.[33][36] 73% of American adults supported banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.[34] 70% of registered voters supported banning high-capacity magazines, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll with a margin of error +/- 2%.[35]


Some jurisdictions apply magazine limits to hunters. For example, Maine and Oregon have a 5-cartridge limit on auto-loading firearms for hunting.[37]:18[38]


A 2004 study examining the effects of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in effect from 1994-2004 that also prohibited magazines over ten rounds found that the ban was not associated with a reduction in firearm homicides or the lethality of gun crimes. The authors reported that "there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury."[39]

A 2019 study found that mass shootings resulting in six or more fatalities, involving high-capacity magazines, "resulted in a 62% higher mean average death toll." States which had banned high-capacity magazines had a substantially lower incidence of mass shootings, as well as far fewer fatalities in mass shootings. However, the study acknowledged that with an extremely limited range of data, the magnitude of the effect of bans may be overestimated. Furthermore, the study admitted that in 13% of the mass shootings investigated, researchers were unable to determine whether or not high capacity magazines were used. The authors also admitted to having a conflict of interest, which may have impacted the study.[40]

See also


  1. Office of the Attorney General (November 2001). "Assault Weapons Identification Guide 2000" (PDF). oag.ca.gov. California Department of Justice. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  2. Polisar, Joseph M. (September 2004). "President's Message: Reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban". Police Chief Magazine. International Association of Chiefs of Police. Retrieved April 21, 2014. The ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines has been a crucial component of our national crime-fighting strategy.
  3. Kerlikowske, R. Gil (August 24, 2004). "Save the Assault Weapons Ban". Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  4. Peterson, Phillip (2008). Gun Digest Buyer's Guide to Assault Weapons. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-0896896802. In the context of this book, however, 'assault weapon' refers to a semi-automatic firearm that accepts high capacity magazines (10+ rounds) and is patterned after military issue select-fire weapons.
  5. New York, N.Y. Consolidated Laws, General Business Law, Article 26: Miscellaneous (PDF). p. 328. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  6. New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Cuomo, 38 (W.D.N.Y. December 31, 2013) ("Unlike the restrictions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, the seven-round limit cannot survive intermediate scrutiny."). Text
  7. Richman, Josh (December 17, 2013). "NRA sues Sunnyvale over ammo magazine ban". San Jose Mercury News. San Jose, California. Retrieved March 13, 2014. in fact, most pistols sold in the U.S. are made and sold with magazines holding between 10 and 17 rounds.
  8. Egelko, Bob (November 19, 2013). "NRA sues S.F. to kill law on gun magazines". SFGate. Magazines that carry more than 10 rounds are widely sold in the United States and can't be considered 'dangerous and unusual,' Tuesdays lawsuit asserted.
  9. Egelko, Bob (March 13, 2014). "Supreme Court won't block ban on guns' high-capacity magazines". San Francisco Chronicle. SFGate.com. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  10. Duncan v. Becerra
  11. "Maximum Permitted Magazine Capacity". Special Bulletin for Businesses No. 72. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2014-12-08. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  12. "Firearms Act 1968".
  13. Patrick Sweeney (2007). Gun Digest Book of Ruger Pistols and Revolvers. Gun Digest Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-89689-472-3.
  14. Harkinson, Josh (June 14, 2016). "Fully Loaded: Inside the Shadowy World of America's 10 Biggest Gunmakers". Mother Jones. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  15. "Magazine limits were first proposed by Connecticut gun maker". Connecticut Magazine. New Haven Register. April 1, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  16. William B. Ruger (1992). "An Open Letter". American Handgunner. 12 (5): 18.
  17. Roth, Jeffrey A.; Christopher S. Koper (March 1999). "Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban" (PDF). National Institute of Justice Research in Brief (NCJ 173405).
  18. "Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines Policy Summary". smartgunlaws.org. Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. May 31, 2013. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  19. <Becerra> (May 31, 2013). "Appeal" (PDF). oag.ca.gov. Attorney General State of California.
  20. https://law.justia.com/codes/virginia/2006/toc1802000/18.2-308.2.html
  21. http://www.roanoke.com/news/crime/montgomery_county/former-virginia-tech-student-was-allowed-to-have-gun-but/article_47983e3e-6501-56aa-b328-b61f7e4989df.html
  22. https://law.justia.com/codes/virginia/2006/toc1802000/18.2-287.4.html
  23. "Municode Library". www.municode.com. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  24. "Assault Weapons | Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence". Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  25. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/nyregion/federal-judge-upholds-majority-of-new-york-gun-law.html
  26. New York State Rifle and Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Cuomo, 804 F.3d 242 (2d Cir. 2015)
  27. Richman, Josh (March 12, 2014). "Sunnyvale gun law: Supreme Court justice refuses to stay ban on large-capacity magazines". San Jose Mercury News. San Jose, California. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  28. Mintz, Howard (March 4, 2015). "Gun Rights Showdown: Sunnyvale Restrictions Upheld by Appeals Court", San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  29. Root, Damon (March 7, 2014). "Court: Bans on High-Capacity Magazines Are 'Only the Most Minor Burden on the Second Amendment'". reason.com. Reason Foundation. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  30. Duncan v. Becerra
  31. Saad, Lydia (December 27, 2012). "Americans Want Stricter Gun Laws, Still Oppose Bans". Gallup. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  32. Parker, Kim; Menasce Horowitz, Juliana; Igielnik, Ruth; Oliphant, Baxter; Brown, Anna (June 22, 2017). "America's Complex Relationship With Guns". Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  33. Agiesta, Jennifer (February 25, 2018). "CNN Poll: Seven in 10 favor tighter gun laws in wake of Parkland shooting". CNN. Retrieved March 19, 2018. There is widespread support for several specific changes to gun laws, [...] 63% who support a ban on the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines (up from 54% in October, a new high in CNN polling)
  34. Khalid, Asma (March 2, 2018). "NPR Poll: After Parkland, Number of Americans Who Want Gun Restrictions Grows". Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  35. Shepard, Steven (February 28, 2018). "Gun control support surges in polls". Politico. Retrieved March 19, 2018. Seventy percent of voters support a ban on high-capacity magazines, and 68 percent want to ban assault-style weapons.
  36. Hart, Benjamin (February 25, 2018). "Two New Polls Show Widespread Support for Stricter Gun Laws". New York. Retrieved March 19, 2018. Some specific measures that are broadly popular [...] 63 percent favor a ban on high-capacity magazines.
  37. "Maine Hunting & Trapping: The Official 2013–14 State of Maine Hunting & Trapping Laws and Rules" (PDF). statedocs.maine.gov. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. January 7, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  38. "ODFW Weapons Restrictions". www.dfw.state.or.us. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  39. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/204431.pdf
  40. Klarevas, Louis; Conner, Andrew; Hemenway, David (2019-10-17). "The Effect of Large-Capacity Magazine Bans on High-Fatality Mass Shootings, 1990–2017". American Journal of Public Health: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305311. ISSN 0090-0036.

Further reading

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