Ex-Dayton police chief: Gun magazine caps would reduce carnage of mass shootings



Former Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl has renewed his calls to ban high-capacity gun magazines following a mass shooting incident in Nashville.

Biehl — who recently was quoted in a Washington Post investigation that explored the potential impact of banning high-capacity magazines, as multiple states have done — said he thinks such restrictions could help reduce the carnage and bloodshed of mass shootings.

He told this newspaper that he thinks fewer people would have been shot and potentially more people could have survived the Oregon District mass shooting if the gunman had smaller magazines that would have required him to reload.

“He was firing on average, because he was not firing nonstop, roughly about two shots per second, so if it took him three seconds, four seconds (to reload) — that’s eight shots potentially not fired, and that’s potentially three, four, five, six, depending on proximity, victims not shot,” Biehl said. “Those seconds matter, and we need all the seconds we can.”



Some guns rights groups claim that research has found no conclusive evidence that banning so-called “large capacity” magazines has an effect on mass shootings or violent crime.

The Buckeye Firearms Association opposes magazine restrictions. The Second Amendment protects the right of citizens to own and carry firearms, and that protection extends to the parts and components of those firearms, said Dean Rieck, the association’s executive director.

“In Ohio, our laws specifically prohibit the regulation of firearms, their components, ammunition and knives,” he said.

Connor Betts fatally shot nine people and wounded many others on East Fifth Street in the Oregon District in the span of about 32 seconds on Aug. 4, 2019.

Magazine capacity also an important part of a lawsuit that was filed by some of the families and the estates of the victims of the Oregon District shooting against the maker of the 100-round drum that Betts used during his rampage.

The case has entered the discovery phase after the courts denied a request by the defendant to throw the case out. The courts ruled that the drum was an accessory and not a component of the gun Betts used, plaintiff’s lawyers said.

Shooting in Nashville

Three children and three adults were killed in a mass shooting on Monday at the Covenant School in Nashville.

The investigation remains in the early stages, and many details about the incident are not yet known.

But the killer carried multiple weapons, including an AR-15 and 9 mm pistol caliber carbine that experts believe had 30-round magazines, based on photographic and video evidence, according to CNN.

Biehl, who retired as Dayton’s police chief in the summer of 2021 after leading the department for 13 years, said he felt angry and sad when he learned this latest mass shooting.

Biehl said it’s frustrating that lawmakers haven’t tried to pass “middle-of-the-road” policy solutions, such as a cap on magazine capacity.

Oregon District tragedy

The firearm Betts used had a 100-round drum, and he fired about 41 rounds before he was shot and killed by police who were stationed nearby.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Biehl, who was Dayton’s police chief at that time, said Betts would have needed to reload once if he had a 30-round magazine and twice if he had a 15-round magazine. Biehl said basic AR-15s sold retail have 30-round magazines.

Biehl said he supports limiting gun magazines to between 15 and 30 bullets, though he thinks there’s a reasonable debate to be had about what the cap should be within that range.

But he said any magazine that can hold more than 30 bullets is excessive and should be outlawed.

State action

Ten states have banned large-capacity magazines, which are usually defined as a magazine or drum that can hold more than 10 or 15 rounds of ammunition, according to the Brady Campaign, an organization that supports more gun control legislation.

Four states within the last year added restrictions that capped magazine sizes at 10 to 17 rounds, while Oregon voters last fall approved limiting magazines to 10 bullets, according to the Washington Post.

The Brady Campaign claims that large-capacity magazines have been used in most mass shootings (59%) and when they were used they resulted in five times as many people being shot, compared to massacres that did not involve them.

But multiple gun rights advocacy groups say magazine restrictions are unconstitutional, and some have indicated they may challenge state magazine prohibitions in court, the Post said.

Ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are standard equipment for many handguns and rifles that Americans keep for self-defense, says the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association of America.

Rieck, with the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the focus on magazines in mass shootings is misplaced.According to the FBI, 38 people died in these incidents in 2020 compared to 19,384 in non-mass-shooting murders.

“And the idea that smaller magazines would make a significant difference in ‘mass shootings’ is dramatically overstated,” he said. “The WaPo article you linked to has a graphic that suggests it takes 20 to 30 seconds to reload. That is laughable. With just a little practice, an ordinary person can eject a spent magazine and load a new one in about 3 seconds.”

Some people have said that individuals planning mass shootings aren’t going to obey the law anyway and they won’t hesitate to break laws banning higher-capacity magazines.

But Biehl said he rejects this argument. Why have any laws, he said, if criminals aren’t going to obey them?

“In essence, they are saying American democracy is a failure,” Biehl said.

He said if high-capacity magazines were illegal, law enforcement might be able to seize the equipment when discovered in people’s possession. Or, he said, authorities might be able to prosecute and hold sellers accountable who violate the law.

The lawsuit filed by family members of victims of the Oregon District shooting and their estates is ongoing, and attorneys for the manufacturer, Kyung Chang Industry USA, and a related South Korea-based company so far have failed in their efforts to get the case thrown out.

This case is likely the first of its kind in the U.S. that focuses on trying to hold the makers of a high-capacity magazine accountable for negligence, said C. Benjamin Cooper, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a partner with Cooper Elliott law firm in Columbus.

“Making and selling a 100-round magazine without any appropriate controls in place is negligence that ultimately led to the preventable shooting in the Oregon District,” Cooper said.

A federal law approved in 2005 shields gun manufacturers, sellers and component-makers from civil litigation.

But Cooper said his team argued in court that the large-capacity magazine is an unnecessary accessory instead of a vital component of the firearm that is needed to operate the weapon.

“No civilian needs a 100-round magazine,” he said. “You don’t need it for hunting, you don’t need it for self-defense, you don’t need it — it’s a weapon of war.”

Attorneys for the defendants did not immediately return a request for comment.

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