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The Contender
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We Should Not Ban Assault Weapons or High Capacity Magazines (2)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/22/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,350 times Debate No: 34983
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




For the rest of this debate, both I am going to assume:

1. There is NO second amendment
2. We do not need assault weapons or high capacity magazines to defend ourselves against potential tyrannical governments.
3. We should not ban all guns (my opponent may challenge me to this debate later if they wish)

Given these assumptions, I believe I can still argue against banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.


Assault Weapons: weapons as defined by senator Feinstein utilizing the one-feature test. The actual definition can be found in the following link.

High Capacity Magazines: For the purposes of this debate, any magazine larger than 10 rounds.


Please Stay Civil


Must cite sources for any statistics used.

Both parties must adhere to the assumptions posted above.

I argue that banning assault weapons would not prevent future mass shootings and violates the property rights of American gun owners. Additionally, the potential benefits or harms of banning high capacity magazines is unknown, likely to be small, and again violates the property rights of gun owners.


I accept.

I argue that:

1. The simple act of violating property acts is not sufficient reason to decalre something unethical or unwise. For instance, we arguably violate property rights when we don't allow people to use heavy weapons, or to do whatever they want to their land.
2. The benefits of high capacity weapons is that if you are shooting many targets, or shooting many shots, you can continue to fire uninterrupted. However, I would argue that if you need thirty or so shots to fend off your attackers, you're kind of screwed anyway. Because realistically, by the time you've made all those ineffective shots (or shots that only neutralized some of your targets), you are in melee. Or one of the people has pulled their own weapon and shot you. Pretty much the same applies to assault weapons.
3. The harms of high capacity weapons is that you can shoot a great many unarmed targets, killing far more than you would otherwise manage, and people have less of a window to tackle you while you're reloading (which is not exactly safe, but that's pretty much the best time to do it if you're going to do it).
Debate Round No. 1


Return Arguments:

1. Liberty
You argue that it is not necessarily unethical to violate property rights. I actually agree, however when is it justifiable to take away one's property rights? If we are justified in taking away anyone's property at any time for any reason, then we are essentially living under a dictatorship. America prides itself on freedom and liberty, or the ability to do what one wants and own any object one desires as long as he or she is not violating the rights of others. Unless my opponent wishes to argue why we would be better off living under tyrannical rule (and I am by no means stating that he is) then I'm sure we can agree that liberty is good, and if we are to ban assault weapons and/or high capacity magazines it will be because owning them is permitting greater rights and/or more rights to be violated than that of the property rights of millions of gun owners.

Although my opponent did not bring this up, please note that this takes care of the very common arguments stating that "no one NEEDS an assault weapon," because you are theoretically allowed to own anything until proven otherwise. I am arguing that the evidence supporting assault weapon bans and high capacity magazine bans has not proven otherwise.

2. Assault Weapons

Perhaps my biggest problem with the assault weapons ban is that the people trying to legislate it know nothing about firearms and are attacking characteristics that do not contribute to the deadliness of the weapon. There is substantial data available displaying which weapons are deadlier an why, but this research was disregarded, and they attack special characteristics which sometimes even make guns safer to handle and carry, such as the pistol grip and collapsible stocks.

For example, the demonized AR-15 is nearly functionally identical to the Ruger Mini 14, both of which can accept high capacity magazines, fire the same bullet, and are both semi-automatic. Given that there are weapons equally deadly to "assault weapons" that would not be banned, the assault weapons ban cannot be beneficial as it is defined.

3. High Capacity Magazines (HCP)

Recall our criterion for owning property: theoretically you can own anything until proven otherwise. Obviously many gun owners feel they are being wronged by taking away high capacity magazines, therefore they are having their rights violated. So given past research, what could the net effect of banning HCP's be?

The typical rule of thumb is that if you practice for about 15 minutes you can learn to reload a magazine in about 2 seconds. The chances of an ordinary civilian being close enough to the shooter and being in the state of mind to run TOWARD the shooter an tackle him or her is virtually nonexistent. Could it give the potential victims a chance to run away? Maybe, but how many lives this lapse in the shooting would save is likely to be small.

Additionally, HCP are used in approximately 14%-22% of gun crimes, and rarely are they used to their full potential. There are also instances where citizens need more then ten shots to defend their lives, although they seem to be about as rare as mass shootings. We must weigh the potential lives lost vs. the lives saved from citizens possessing HCP's, and we actually don't know if there even is a positive or a negative benefit from having them. What is clear is at best the lives lost or saved will be a small amount. Additionally, it would take probably 50 years before HCP's began to grandfather out and dry up, AND the associated cost of instituting these bans would be extremely high (time and labor, paid by taxes, goes in to enforcing these laws). This is all disregarding the property rights of gun owners. (This is where I got the data on HCP's, you don't have to read it but you can if you want to).

In summation, we don't know if there will be a positive benefit from banning HCPs, it would take an extremely long time to even begin to see an effect, the policy is by no means cost effective, and the sum of millions of property rights arguably outweighs the small number of rights to life lost.



1. Liberty

I would say that it is justifiable when it promotes utility, and indeed it is ethically mandated in such an occurance. Rather than liberty being good because it’s liberty, liberty is good because it tends to promote utility. I have no problem, however, with curtailing liberty if it improves people’s lives. Rather than absolutes, I view any and all rights as generalized rules of thumb that we should carefully examine any breaks in before revoking. And I don’t actually hold property rights to be one of them, because of the sheer number of extremely common circumstances in which it is justifiable to revoke particular property rights (for instance, taxation, seizure of contraband, etc.).

So, then, the question becomes, “Is permitting the ownership of high capacity magazines or assault weapons causing more harm than good?”

2. Assault Weapons

This has nothing to do with my argument. I am all for carefully determining what factors make weapons deadlier and better suited to killing large numbers of people. I’m not arguing at the AR-15 is better or worse than the Ruger Mini 14. I don’t know that much about specific models of gun, and I don’t care, because different models, as my opponent pointed out, can be really quite similar. I care about what effects specific types of guns have on various crime rates and people’s lives. To do that I don’t need to be an encyclopedia of gun models.

3. High Capacity Magazines

I would like a source for the claim that it takes two seconds to reload a magazine if you practice for fifteen minutes. In any event, while I don’t doubt that it isn’t necessarily common, it has happened before (the Tucson shooter was taken down while reloading), and even if someone doesn’t tackle the shooter, reloading still provides a time to seek cover further away from the shooter.

It may be that there are instances where someone has such poor aim that they need over ten shots. But not all people who attack are attempting to kill—they may be attempting to rob someone—and even if all of those people actually were saving their own lives, there’d have to be a lot more of them to offset the larger number of people who get killed in mass shootings.

As far as enforcing the laws, we don’t necessarily have to grandfather the magazines in, and we don’t know the costs of instituting the ban. Would probably be easier if the ATF wasn’t understaffed and could use a modern electronic database, as well if we had better licensing practices for dealers.

Debate Round No. 2


For a source as to where you can learn to reload a magazine in about 2 seconds after 15 minutes of practice, please watch the entire video or skip to 15:30

It is interesting to find myself debating against who I believe is a fellow Utilitarain. I wholeheartedly agree with your position of curtailing liberty to promote utlility, although I can still show that banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines would not promote utility.

I would actually like to note that I usually discuss this issue from the perspective of a Libertarian and rights based perspective because people are more accustomed to discussing it in this way. From this point on, I believe my opponent is informed enough such that I can approach this issue from my true position as a Utilitarian.

What I do feel might be more constructive is if later my opponent and I have a conversation, from the perspective of Utilitarians, as to whether or not people should be permitted to own guns at all and if they should even be restricted.

Assault Weapons

As it stands, the assault weapons ban would not have done anything to prevent future massacres because it does not attack features that make firearms more lethal. In order to have this conversation appropriately, we would have to gather a team of scientists to discuss different firearm features, such as bullet size and killing potential, and weigh that vs. practical civilian use. However the higher powered rifles that could be considered real assault weapons that don't have much practical use in civilized society may still not have legitimate justification to be banned under the Utilitarian moral theory. There are some 5 to 10 million assault weapon owners in America, nearly all of which are used for recreational purposes. About 300 people are killed each year by rifles, and a subset of that will be the assault weapons we're talking about. If we approach this from the Utilitarian perspective, then the pleasure received by the 5-10 million people firing these weapons for fun (typically at inanimate objects) outweighs the suffering created by the extra people who are killed each year because higher powered weapons are used (remember not all of the 300 will go away if assault weapons aren't used). (info on people killed by rifles). weapons in US).

High Capacity Magazines

As far as I can tell, the Tuscon shooting is the only mass shooting out there where someone tackled the shooter, and if wikipedia can be trusted then the person who did this was ex-military.

Next, someone needing high capacity magazines is not limited to them simply having bad aim. Usually if someone is shot, especially by a handgun, they don't die nor do they stop what their doing. The typical scenario, especially if someone is being robbed, is that presenting a gun leads to the offender running away. If the offender is one of the few who chooses to stay and fight, the would-be victim's life is likely to be at risk. They may need to shoot the offender multiple times to stop them from doing whatever they're doing. Additionally, the would-be victim may miss, there may be multiple offenders, and the offender may be high on drugs (in which case they are EXTREMELY dangerous).

From a realistic standpoint however, there is no reason to have HCP's nor is there a strong reason to ban them based on lives lost. Mass shooters can reload fairly quickly, or they can carry multiple guns as most do. Consider the Virginia Tech shooting, the shooter had a few 15 round and mostly 10 round magazines and he used a handgun, but he was responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in US history, killing 33 people and wounding 20. HCP's, in all reality, don't hurt much nor do they help. Since they have virtually no positive nor negative effect, we might as well have them.

As for the associated cost of banning them, we couldn't know unless we decided to ban them, but it is likely to cost taxpayers millions depending upon how they regulate them. Consider background checks: as they are they're not doing much to reduce violence in America. However the background checks cost taxpayers about 2.18 per check, multiply by about 118 million background checks run, we get 257 million taxpayer dollars spent on a policy that is currently doing little to prevent violence. Depending upon how these magazines are regulated, its likely to cost us millions of dollars to save, at best, a small number of lives. The only reason this is relevant is because there's probably a more effective means to spend that money to save more lives, such as investing in healthcare or fighting poverty.


Assault Weapons

Obviously, both of us agree that a team of scientists or similar figures would be necessary to determine which firearms are most deadly. I, however, disagree that true assault weapons that have little practical use in a society such as ours would be still allowed to be kept by utilitarian moral codes.

Pro argues that shooting beer cans, bottles, or other items with assault weapons is fun. I agree. I also enjoy watching large explosions, like the ones on Mythbusters, but this doesn't mean I get to use explosives for fun and games. Indeed, I would say that a lot of people would like to use explosives for fun and games. Yet dynamite and plastic explosives are banned.

Well, that isn't quite true. They're legal for demolition companies[1]. That makes sense, since demolition companies kind of need to use explosives like C-4 in their work. But, in common parlance, we would consider C-4 banned.

Similarly, why not only allow assault weapons for licensed, thoroughly inspected shooting ranges, where the only ammunition for them was rubber bullets? Then you should shoot cans to your heart's delight. If you wanted to shoot tin cans at home, you could get an automatic paintball gun[2], which has the advantage of being next-to-impossible to accidentally kill yourself with (yes, you can get killed with a paintball gun if you get hit in the right place by a discharged air canister after it malfunctions, but to the best of my knowledge it is less common than accidentally shooting yourself to death).

High Capacity Magazines

It wasn't the only one, actually--Collin Ferguson was tackled[3]. Tackling shooters has been proposed before[4], and if done in a large enough group it can work. And even if no one tackles te shooter, a few seconds can be valuable if you want to, say, sprint over to the door and beat a hasty retreat, or find cover besides a cheap school desk.

It's true that even if someone is hit they won't die right away. But:

1. In the case of multiple assailents, they will likely have their own weapons, and will use them on you once you kill their buddy. If they have guns, then they will simply aim and fire. If they have melee weapons, then to get all of them without them closing and getting you, they really need to be at a distance.
2. If the offender is high on drugs, that still doesn't mean that you need a high-capacity magazine to neutralize them, especially if you are using hollow-point rounds.
3. If you do actually miss that much, then you have really bad aim.

Now, I'll grant that that only makes it unlikely for a high capacity magazine to be necessary, but according to utilitarianism, it's perfectly justifiable to sacrifice one person to save two. So, to justify the legality of assault rifles and high capacity magazines, they have to save more lives than are sacrificed.

We don't know exactly how many people are killed by assault weapons and HCMs. It's difficult, because murder by rifle isn't separated by make of rifle. But we do know that they are often used in mass shootings, and when they are they kill more people[5]. Has my opponent any evidence to show that more people have been saved than killed by assault weapons and HCMs?

And while I certainly agree that there are more efficient ways to save lives, I take the approach that people, and by extension the government they form, have an obligation to help as many people as possible. Unless saving people via the ban would bankrupt us, I would regard money as fairly insignificant.
Debate Round No. 3


ufcryan forfeited this round.


Pro has failed to demonstrate a clear warrant for the usefulness of ordinary people being able ot have assault weapons or high capacity magazines. I have argued, from a utilitarian perspective, that, as any proposition in society about what course to take is mildly uncertain and carries risk, we should minimize the risk, and have presented arguments as to why the risk does not equal the payoff, and how the payoff can be acheived with minimal risk.

As we are arguing from a utilitarian perspective, a libertarian rights-based argument is invalid.

I believe I have successfully made my case.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by ufcryan 3 years ago
First round is acceptance and arguments against the claims I made in the first round. I would actually prefer if I debated someone who believed that we should ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, but if no one accepts this debate by the end of the week then sure.

Mainly if your playing devil's advocate we might start making straw man arguments, and I actually want to try to convince my opponent and anyone reading this.
Posted by bossyburrito 3 years ago
Mind if I take a devil's advocate position in this debate? Also, is the first round acceptance?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TheHitchslap 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: ff means conduct for con sources tied arguments: essentially, pro conceedes to the confiscation of property rights, which is fine, however his arguments regardling liberty is founded on a reducto ad absurdum, as con shows, what is ethical and what is legal are both differing fields of thought and consideration. In short, con refutes everything pro states, and didn't ff. Arguments to con.
Vote Placed by Cobo 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro set this up so they could easily win, yet failed to do so by forfieting.