33 bullets

The calls for gun reform in the wake of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, have become insistent, but so far federal lawmakers have been busier protecting themselves than protecting the public. There’s a bill in Congress banning anyone from carrying a gun in the vicinity of a federal official and a proposal to enclose the House of Representatives gallery in plexiglass. Two representatives even vowed to start carrying guns when they meet constituents in public.

Only one proposal is designed to protect the public. That’s New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s measure to ban the kind of extended ammunition clips Jared Loughner used to make his handgun more lethal.

The Glock 9 semiautomatic Loughner deployed to kill six people and injure 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, holds 15 bullets, but Loughner replaced the stock clip with a high-capacity clip that holds 33 bullets. That’s why he was able to shoot so many people in such a short time without reloading. Rep. McCarthy’s interest in the bill is personal. In 1993, her husband was killed and son seriously wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road who used a handgun with a similar extended clip.

Such clips were banned between 1994 and 2004, but the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied to get the ban lifted. Some states, including California and New York, continue to ban high-capacity clips. Rep. McCarthy’s bill would extend that ban nationwide.

The National Rifle Association opposes the bill, naturally, as it does all efforts to bring common sense to bear on gun sales. It’s time for lawmakers to show some courage and stand up to the gun-lobby bullies.