The gunman who carried out a mass shooting in California on Wednesday night was able to shoot “more efficiently,” due to a device attached to his handgun called an extended magazine.
At a press conference Thursday, Ventura County police said 28-year-old Ian David Long used a .45-caliber Glock handgun, which was purchased legally.
Sheriff Geoff Dean added Long’s gun had an extended magazine on it, which enabled it to hold more rounds and fire more shots before reloading. Dean said it’s not clear if Long did reload during the shooting, or how many times.
What is an extended magazine device?
Extended magazines, often known as high-capacity magazines or large-capacity magazines, are an attachment that can be added to firearms so they carry more bullets.
Jooyoung Lee, a University of Toronto sociology professor who studies gun control, explained to Global News that means shooters have to reload less often, which saves them time.
“In a hunting context, or in a sporting context, that translates into ease and convenience of use,” Lee said.
“In the wrong hands, that means the person is going to be able to continue firing without that break in action where they have to reload.”
The professor explained that is a “nightmare” for those involved in a mass shooting.
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“That’s a nightmare for people trying to escape a situation. It’s also a nightmare for police to intervene, who are waiting for a break in gunfire before they can move in.”
It also increases the chances of higher number of injuries and deaths, which makes it difficult for paramedics to help everyone.
Used in past mass shootings
The devices can be used on a variety of different firearms, from handguns to AR-15 rifles, Lee explained, adding they have been used in several high-profile recent mass shootings, such as at the Orlando Pulse nightclub and Sandy Hook school shooting.
“This has long been part of the gun violence discussion that has been missing,” he noted, explaining that conversations about guns and background checks are more common following massacres.
“We have simplistic calls for commonsense gun control laws,” he said. “Folded up within that, there are measures like prohibiting extended magazines, prohibiting bump stocks. But sometimes that nuance doesn’t come out in reporting or analysis.”
Lee noted that some politicians also try to take the conversation away from firearms and gun control to mental health, which often prevents dialogue on the issue.
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Not legal in California
Sheriff Dean noted Thursday that extended magazines are illegal in California, which is known to have some of the most strict gun control laws in the country.
California residents voted to outlaw the gun accessory in a 2016 referendum.
The California Rifle & Pistol Association, which is affiliated with the National Rifle Association, sued trying to stop the result of the referendum from being implemented. That lawsuit has caused a delay in the ban taking effect.
The CRPA issued a statement following the California shooting, once again advocating for gun rights.
“We do not know what was going on in the mind of the terrorist who took the lives of the innocent victims in Thousand Oaks last night,” Thursday’s statement read. “But we do know one thing for sure: punishing the rest of us isn’t the answer.”
Other extended magazine regulations
Lee explained that nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have laws banning large-capacity magazines or have legal limits on the number of bullets they can hold.
Most states don’t have laws “regulating the size of the magazine that can be attached to either a pistol, a handgun or rifle,” he explained.
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In California, a gun cannot legally hold more than 10 bullets. However, in Arizona there are much more lenient laws, and even magazines with 30 rounds can be purchased.
“You can get many of the same kinds of semi-automatic rifles here in Canada that you can get in the United States, but the capacity is capped at five at the federal level,” Lee said.
He said it’s worth noting that there are loopholes and third-party sellers across all these borders, which make it possible to acquire extended magazines.