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The Magic Bullet

by James Lileks

Why does President Obama want to put weapons of war into the hands of criminals? What sort of craven, stone-hearted monster can be so beholden to the cackling goblins of the NRA that he would equip would-be mass murderers with war tools — Kriegswerkzeuge, as the Nazis so gleefully called them?

There. That should cloud the issue the next time you’re arguing with someone who believes the only virtuous response to an armed intruder consists of “decomposition.” But let’s explain.

The president does not want “weapons of war” on the street, and by his definition this means a ban on magazines that contain more than ten bullets. It’s the eleventh that makes all the difference, you know. Soldiers are known to balk at combat duty with ten-bullet rations, but toss in No. 11 and they’ll take on the world.

Those who believe that right-wingers killed JFK scoff at the “magic bullet” that took an unusual path. They also believe that bullet number 11 is so infused with necromancy that forcing the shooter to carry it in a pocket and load it after exhausting its predecessors will lower the nation’s murder rate. You see, while the bad guy is inserting another magazine — which contains bullets 11–20, which by definition are morally worse than 1 through 10 — he will be stopped. Not by an armed guard at the school; don’t want those. Not by anyone in the school who has a concealed-carry permit; sends a bad message.

No, someone will stab him with scissors, as suggested by a recent Homeland Security video on how to Not Die Entirely During a Workplace Crisis. You could also give the invader a painful paper cut with one hand and spray lemon juice with the other. (Note: Federal regulations prohibit offensive-capacity-lemon-juice containers greater than 3 ounces.)

You ask: Please, get back to that point about the president wanting war weapons to flood the street. Gladly. Stumping for new laws, he spoke in Minneapolis about his desire to limit mags to ten bullets. But the Minnesota state legislature has a different idea. A new bill, carefully crafted to smother the evils smoldering in the gun safes of citizens, bans “large-capacity magazines.” This does not mean Vogue around the spring-fashion time. It means “any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than seven rounds.”

Since seven is more restrictive than ten, it must be better. Only gun nuts would howl if we enacted such reasonable restraints. But what if a citizen fixes the number of Good Bullets between nine and eleven, as the president does? Hello, hoosegow. The bill makes possession of the magazines a felony, and you can get five years and a fine of $25,000.

It’s legal Wimpyism: I will gladly jail you tomorrow for something that is legal today.

You may be surprised to learn the law does not apply to “any government officer, agent, or employee.” Surprised, since the goal of these people is to make everyone a government officer, agent, or employee.

Speaking of which: Mayor Bloomberg has a group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, presumably to fight the NRA-supported Mayors Who Are Totally All About Illegal Guns, Yay! Who could oppose such a commonsense idea? Well, anyone who recognizes a rhetorical trick. The moment those good legal guns are turned into illegal murder-sticks because Congress banned any gun that does not include the word “Nerf” in its name, the mayors can be counted on to demonize something they previously supported.

Eurasia is using seven-bullet magazines on the Eastasia front. Eurasia has always used only seven-bullet mags.

There’s some good to come out of this.

1. Those who believe that statutes banning fully automatic Gatling guns that fire cop-killing ammo will reduce big-city gang violence will have another failure on their side, and they’ll have convinced no one in the process. Forty-two thousand and forty-five more examples and they might lose some credibility.

2. Gun owners are reminded that snarky young D.C. pundits hate them, because they remind the pundits of a girlfriend’s dad who sized them up fast as wusses.

3. The failure of any bill in Congress increases the chance that Piers Morgan may, like Rumpelstiltskin, become so consumed with fury he grabs his shins and splits himself in two.

4. The public sees the president skeet-shooting, compares it with previous images of the fellow throwing a baseball in mom jeans or riding a bike with a dorky brain bucket, and thinks, “On the Putin Scale of Propagandistic Manliness, 1 being ‘bare-chested on a horse’ and 10 being ‘carrying a boar over his shoulders while swimming the Volga,’ it’s about a 3.”

5. People who are not gun people become gun people. The Left defines “gun nut” as anyone who objects to gun regulation of any kind on constitutional grounds. While this appeals to people who want more controls and restrictions on everything that does not involve profanity or sex, it pushes away people who previously had no strong opinions.

So you want to make more gun nuts, want more people to own guns? Keep acting like you really want them all to go away. You want more people to suspect you regard “law” with the same faith-based magical thinking you deride in religious people? Mandate more “Gun-Free Zone” signs and see how that works.

Don’t talk about mental illness. Don’t talk about dysfunctional cultures. Don’t talk about drug laws. Talk about gun laws, and be honest: Ten laws aren’t enough. Go for eleven, a high-capacity bill. “Resolved: No one should shoot anyone.”

It’s the law. That should be enough.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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