Reprinted from Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War
Bill Ruger’s Magazine Ban
This piece appeared in the December 1, 1989 Gun Week opposite a letter from Sturm, Ruger & Company General Counsel (later CEO) Steve Sanetti defending Ruger’s and SAAMI’s (Small Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) support for a ban on over-fifteen-round magazines.
“After the [1989 Bush] import ban was announced,” Sanetti writes, “and after long consideration, the SAAMI member companies felt that a substitute had to be offered which respected the right of all law abiding citizens to own all firearms of their choice, yet which responded to the public outcry concerning the highly visible shootings involving dozens of shots being fired from so-called ‘assault weapons,’” Sanetti writes.
“While being aware of the SAAMI position since April,” Sanetti continues, “the anti-gun media have said virtually nothing about the SAAMI position. The plain and simple truth is that the magazine substitute hurts their goal, which is the banning of the guns themselves, so they have down played it, in fact the New York Times even called the President’s belated switch to the focus on magazine capacity as opposed to firearms themselves, ‘a victory for the NRA.’”
Steve says I “know better” than to ascribe Bill Ruger’s magazine ban proposal to business considerations. Maybe so; I don’t think Bill is by any means “anti-gun,” nor do I think he really wants a ban on either guns or magazines (after all, he got his start as a machine gun designer). But I do think Bill is pushing a plan that would protect his business while affecting only his competitors, and I think he’s damaging the efforts of those of us attempting to stop all proposed bans. Further, I don’t think his actions on this issue, and other issues in the past, allows him to be described as “the strongest supporter of our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
What I know is that about 9 p.m. the night before Bill sent a letter to certain members of Congress calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines he called me, wanting me to push such a ban. His opening words, after citing the many federal, state and local bills to ban detachable magazine semi-autos, were,“I want to save our little gun”—which he later defined as the Mini-14 and the Mini-30. I’m not ascribing Bill’s motives as “expedient from a business standpoint;” Bill did.
While I agree that a ban on over-15 magazines would be “infinitely preferable” to a ban on the guns that use them, that’s not the question. Neither I nor the other gun groups have ever believed that we were faced with such an either/or choice. Early last year the NRA Legislative Policy Committee discussed various alternatives to the proposed “assault weapons” ban, and wisely decided that magazine restrictions wouldn’t satisfy our foes, but would make it more difficult to stop a gun ban.
I was particularly shocked when I realized Bill was talking about a ban on possession of over-15-round magazines, rather than a ban on sales (which would be bad enough). I told him that such a law would make me a felon, for not only did I have standard over-15 magazines for my Glock pistol (a high-capacity handgun which has sharply cut into Ruger’s police business), I have many high-cap mags for guns I don’t even own, and don’t even know where they all are. As I told Bill, after a lifetime of accumulating miscellaneous gun parts and accessories, there’s no way I could clean out all my parts drawers and boxes, then swear—subject to a five or ten-year Federal prison term—that I absolutely didn’t have a M3 grease gun mag or 30-round M2 magazine lying in some forgotten drawer.
Bill said (and all these direct quotes are approximate),“No, there’d be an amnesty for people like you. We have to propose a ban on possession before they will take us seriously.” He contended that the public’s problem was with “firepower,” which could be resolved by eliminating high-cap mags.
I told him Metzenbaum and Co. would gladly use whatever he offered, but that they weren’t about to willingly agree to eliminate high-cap magazines as a substitute for banning guns; that their intention isn’t to eliminate “firepower” but “firearms.”
Bill finally said “Neal, you’re being very negative about this.” I replied, “Bill, I feel very negative about it.” He got angry, then said, “Well somebody’s got to do it; by God I will.” And the next day he sent his letter to the hill; a few weeks later he talked SAAMI into supporting undefined “regulation” of magazines over 15 rounds—a vote that might have gone a little differently if any produced high-capacity magazines as standard for either rifles or pistols.
I suspect that Ruger and SAAMI’s actions are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the Bush Administration’s proposal to ban high-cap mags, but that proposal has been ignored—except as evidence that “the Bush Administration and the American firearms industry recognize that there’s a problem—that Americans shouldn’t be allowed to have such guns.”
Of course, that isn’t what Bill and SAAMI are saying, but that’s the message they’re sending. Perhaps it isn’t business expediency to pro- pose banning only that which they don’t make, in an effort to protect what they do make; but it sure can’t be claimed to be defense of the Second Amendment.
At the 2008 SHOT Show, half a dozen years after Bill Ruger’s death, a special-edition NRA Ruger Mini-14 appeared with a 20-round magazine as standard. It was the first time in nearly two decades that Ruger offered large-capacity magazines to the civilian market. The 20-round magazine, once marked “Law Enforcement Only” is now an option for the Mini-14.