This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jared Loughner, the disturbed young man who stands accused of killing six and wounding 13 others in Tucson, reportedly fired 31 bullets before he stopped to reload and was subdued by people in the crowd. He could not have rained that number of shots on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were it not for the 33-round magazine he had thrust into his Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol.

Ditto for Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 33 people, including himself, at Virginia Tech in 2007. Cho used the same model pistol, again equipped with a high-capacity magazine.

These two cases argue adamantly for banning ammunition clips that can hold more than 10 rounds. In fact, that used to be the law in the United States. Between 1994 and 2004, the so-called assault weapons law limited these magazines. It's time to re-enact that kind of restriction.

One could argue that the ban didn't work the first time, and a new one would not be effective, either. It is difficult to remove existing high-capacity magazines from circulation, and the Columbine killers used them in 1999 despite the existence of the assault-weapons law.

Nevertheless, the United States can no longer close its eyes to the private arms race that is leading to devastating mass killings. Part of that arms race has been the introduction of light, small, semiautomatic pistols, primarily the Glock and its competitors, since the 1980s. High-capacity magazines for these guns magnify the ability of killers to commit mayhem.

We recognize and support the Second Amendment and the right of lawful self-defense. But rights must balance against each other, and a 33-round clip is far beyond the firepower necessary for self-defense. The community at large also has a right to be free of unreasonable hazards, which is why fully automatic weapons — machine guns — are not lawfully available to the general public.

The private arms race should be stopped short of semiautomatic firearms with large-capacity magazines that can be used to kill a lot of people quickly. As Americans have learned to their horror at Virginia Tech and Tucson, in the wrong hands these weapons can do just that.

The Congress should be exploring other legal means to limit the carnage. Keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill is one, perhaps through better reporting of such cases to the database that limits gun sales to certain restricted individuals. Better mental health treatment is another.

But no method is foolproof. That's why there must be backup. At some points the arsenal itself must be restricted. High-capacity magazines are such a point.