We’ll have to wait until Tuesday to see the details of Vice President Joe Biden’s2016 presidential campaign platform gun control recommendations, but already we know that it’s likely be heavy on pandering to the gun-averse political base, and light on anything that might leave the administration dangling in the breeze when it comes to the hard business of enforcement. (You’ll note that I didn’t say “effective” because, when it comes to reducing crime or violence, restrictions on firearms ownership offer little hope of being “effective.”) Biden is steering well clear of anything on which compliance or the lack thereof could be easily measured, such as a ban on existing semi-automatic rifles, and jauntily touting an ethereal “emerging consensus” on “universal background checks” for gun sales, even between private parties, and a ban on the sale of new high-capacity magazines. Passing such restrictions will likely require a battle in Congress, but whether such proposals win or lose, the administration will stroke those supporters who fret over metal objects that make loud noises — and then walk away from the laws they’ve passed without worrying overly much about having accomplished nothing.
First, huge numbers of high-capacity magazines are already in circulation. Under the last ban, the price went up, but they were still available, and more have been made and sold since. Even if sales of existing magazines are forbidden, they’ll still exist, and change hands quietly. That is, aside from the ones that people arealready manufacturing on hobbyist 3D printers or in metal shops. Getting existing magazines out of circulation is a non-starter, since nobody knows where they are and most owners are unlikely to surrender them when keeping the things is essentially a risk-free enterprise.