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Maine Voices: "Ban on big ammo magazines deserves broad support" - Karen D'Andrea, director of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence

These devices were illegal under the Assault Weapons Ban and should be made illegal again.

PORTLAND (2/17/11)— On a recent Saturday morning in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Ariz., Jared Loughner used a gun equipped with a high-capacity ammunition magazine to go on a murderous rampage.

In a matter of seconds he fired off 31 rounds, killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and injuring 13 others. He was stopped by ordinary people in the crowd who tackled him as he tried to reload his gun with yet another high-capacity ammunition magazine.

In November 2009, Nidal Hasan opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Hasan also used high-capacity ammunition magazines. He killed 13 people and wounded 30 others.

In April 2009, Jiverly Wong walked into an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y. Using two guns equipped with high-capacity magazines, Wong fired 98 shots in little more than a minute, killing 13 people and wounding four others.

In April 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, armed with two handguns with high-capacity magazines, killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

High-capacity ammunition magazines enable these suicide gunmen to fire many, many rounds before having to stop and reload. This increases the carnage and bloodshed they are able to inflict upon innocent people.

There was a time in this county when we recognized the wisdom of keeping high-capacity magazines off the civilian market. In 1994, Congress passed the Assault Weapons Ban. This law included a ban on high-capacity magazines and limited magazine size to no more than 10 rounds. But in 2004, Congress lost the political will to go up against the gun lobby and allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire.

In the wake of that, we have seen high-capacity magazines flood the market. Guns that used to be sold with only five-round magazines now come standard with 15-, 30- and 50-round magazines.

Congress has the opportunity to restore this much-needed ban. Legislation has been introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (H.R. 308) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (S. 32) to once again ban these high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Here's how the bill would work: If you currently own one of these magazines, you will be allowed to keep it, but from this point forward we would no longer permit the manufacturing, import, sale, trade or swap of any high-capacity ammunition magazines. Now that's a good law.

And let's take a moment here to state the obvious: Maine law says you can't hunt with a magazine that holds more than five rounds, so this law will have no impact on Maine hunters.

And because the law only addresses magazine capacity, it will not interfere with anyone's ability to buy or possess a gun.

Rep. Chellie Pingree has already signed on to co-sponsor this important legislation. It is time for Rep. Mike Michaud and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to step up to the plate and protect our public safety.

In this country we have the right to go to the supermarket on a Saturday morning without worrying that some gunman will open fire using a gun that holds lots and lots of bullets. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen D'Andrea is executive director of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence (http://www.mcahv.org).