Semi-automatic pistol used in Arizona shootings is available in Minnesota, too

A man lights a candle at a memorial outside the Tucson hospital where victims of Saturday's shootings are recovering.
REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A man lights a candle at a memorial outside the Tucson hospital where victims of Saturday’s shootings are recovering.

The weapon used in Saturday’s Arizona killings, a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, is available in Minnesota.

In fact, according to a gun shop salesperson who declined to be identified, it is “one of the most popular” pistols on the market. (The New York Times offers a state-by-state look at guns laws affecting the pistol’s availability in this graphic.)

That monster 33-round magazine, used by alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner, also is legal and available in the state.

To be clear, the Glock 19 was not included in the federal ban, but there were size limits on magazines from 1994 to 2004. That limit, 10 rounds of ammunition, disappeared when the old restrictions were sunsetted.

Currently, according to web site specifics, the Glock 19 is sold with a 15-round magazine but it is compatible with the Glock 17 and 18 which are capable of holding magazines of up to 33 rounds. Those larger magainze now are legal.

This weapon was also the weapon of choice for Seung-Hui Cho, who in 2007, killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus.  

There are far more restrictions on who can legally purchase a handgun in Minnesota than in Arizona, where there are essentially no limits to who can buy and carry a gun.

In Minnesota, for example, if a person purchases a gun from a federally licensed dealer, the purchaser must pass a federal background check, which is supposed to prevent people with mentally unstable or criminal backgrounds from purchasing a gun. Here, those who wish to carry a weapon must pass a background check and a course that shows the person seeking the permit to carry has a basic understanding of both the weapon and the resulting legal responsibilities.

But Heather Martens, head of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, points out that there are massive loopholes in Minnesota gun sales laws.

Glock 19
Wikipedia Commons
Glock 19

For example, at gun shows, which are popular in the state, federally licensed dealers must do the background checks to make sales. But non-licensed dealers face no such requirement. Additionally, there is no background check required if a private citizen wants to sell his or her weapon to another private citizen.

Martens says that her organization will again be at the Capitol attempting to lobby legislators to at least close those loopholes.

But the big push at the national level, she believes, will be to limit the size of the magazines that are legal.

“I think most people — even many gun owners — are really angry,” Martens said. “The issue of high-capacity magazines makes absolutely no sense.”

The math is simple: Someone who can rapidly fire 33 rounds before reloading creates far more mayhem than someone who can rapidly fire 10 rounds. It was while Loughner allegedly was trying to reload that he was subdued.

In Washington, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., is trying again going to come forward with legislation that would restrict the size of magazines. McCarthy’s husband was one of six people killed and her son severely wounded in a mass shooting on a Long Island commuter rail line in 1993.

Martens says legislators have been reluctant in recent years to strengthen restrictions on gun ownership and what weapons are legal. “I think there’s been a tendency [of legislators] to put their heads in the sand and not deal with it,” she said. “Now, you see the outcome. It’s tragic and it’s ridiculous.”

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen did issue a statement today calling for a task force to come up with “short-term actions to improve safety at the state Capitol.

Currently, weapons are allowed in the building if the person notifies the commissioner of public safety of the intent to carry a weapon.

Rep. Paul Thissen
Rep. Paul Thissen

One of the first major actions of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration was to dramatically loosen permit-to-carry laws in Minnesota. As a result, about 69,000 Minnesotans have permits to carry firearms.

(By the way, the popular term “conceal and carry” is not accurate. In Minnesota, concealment is not a requirement for those with permits.)

Thissen also called for all to “ratchet down the overheated rhetoric” that creates “a toxic environment.”

Martens, however, believes the public wants far more. At the least, she said, the nation needs to return to the period when assault weapons, such as the weapon used in Arizona, are banned.

But the reality, she said, has been the National Rifle Association’s push for watering down the tepid gun laws that remain. Recently, the NRA has been working to weaken the already weak Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal body that oversees licensing of gun dealers.

Currently, she said, there are only 600 agents nationwide charged with overseeing sales of weapons throughout the country.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/11/2011 - 08:18 am.

    “I think most people — even many gun owners — are really angry,” Martens said.

    Yes, but most people don’t translate that into banning something you fear.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/11/2011 - 09:20 am.

    “…the nation needs to return to the period when assault weapons, such as the weapon used in Arizona, are banned.”

    Leaving aside the question of banning for the moment, it would be helpful if those in the debate were using the same terms to mean the same things.

    The Glock 19 is a pretty garden-variety semi-automatic pistol, owned, in fact, by a lot of police officers as well as recreational shooters. Calling it an “assault weapon” colors the debate from the very beginning, which makes talking about what – if anything – to do about its presence in the marketplace more difficult than it already is.

    Lots of people on both sides of the issue of guns have strong feelings. It doesn’t help the discussion if they’re talking past each other because both are using a term like “assault weapon” that means one thing to group A, but means something very different to group B.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/11/2011 - 09:56 am.

    A 33 round magazine is a problem. Under what situation is there civilian usage for a 33 round magazine? All of the rounds can be popped off well under half a minute, far sooner than any security or even another “armed” citizen could be engaged in a crowd situation.

    33 round magazines are a construct of paranoid fantasy made manifest. If, in your fantasies, you need protection, and you can’t make it happen in 6 rounds, you don’t deserve the other 27. It’s a magazine for the dangerously delusional.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/11/2011 - 10:33 am.

    We can start putting this genie back in the bottle, but first we have to acknowledge we have the right to do so. Even then, it may be decades at least before we’d see a significant impact on public safety.

    It’s always disingenuous when gun-rights people talk about enforcing existing laws instead of making new restrictions. Yes there are a plethora of existing laws, but they are all designed with big loopholes and practically unenforceable or ineffective mandates.

    Over in Erick Blacks area there’s been a little discussion about the Second Amendment in the comment section starting with #9

  5. Submitted by Erik Petersen on 01/11/2011 - 10:36 am.

    There are no non-licensed dealers. You are a dealer by virtue of having been granted the license. The law prevents those without a license from engaging in sales as a business.

    What we’re talking are trades and sales between private parties, but thats being deliberately conflated.

  6. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 01/11/2011 - 10:50 am.

    I think we need to make ALL weapons legal, up to, and including, NUCLEAR weapons. That’s right. If you want a fatman in your garage, go ahead. You may have to buy it from North Korea or Russia, but it should be legal.

    Only when we reach the logical extreme of this gun debate will the gun nuts realize how utterly insane this debate is. The Glock is designed for one purpose only: killing humans. No one, and I mean NO ONE, needs a 33-round magazine. There is no rational argument that anyone can make for the ability to purchase such a thing. Recreation doesn’t count unless you also agree that I should be able to detonate a 50 megaton plutonium device simply because the second amendment says I can.

    Finally, once the politicians realize that they are completely owned by the NRA, we can finally have an adult discussion about this. Until that day, forget any sort of gun control.

  7. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 01/11/2011 - 11:01 am.

    Ray says–

    “The Glock 19 is a pretty garden-variety semi-automatic pistol, owned, in fact, by a lot of police officers as well as recreational shooters.”

    Ray, would you call a Glock 19 equipped with a 33-round clip a “garden variety semi-automatic pistol?” Let’s get real. If you think you need 33 rounds to hit your intended target, I suggest you get rid of all your guns and stick to video games. Because you’re either a terrible shot, mentally unbalanced, a mass murderer or all of the above.

  8. Submitted by Dan Peters on 01/11/2011 - 11:21 am.

    A Glock 19 *is* a garden variety 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, in use by countless law enforcement organizations.

    This same gun can be used with a low capacity magazine, or with a high capacity magazine, capable of holding up to 30 rounds. It is the high capacity magazines that were banned previously, not the gun.

    The inflammatory rhetoric expressed here (calling a G-19 an ‘assault weapon’ is as bad as the claims by the right that violent rhetoric is used equally by both sides.

  9. Submitted by sumit verma on 01/11/2011 - 11:37 am.

    House Minority Leader Paul Thissen did issue a statement today calling for a task force to come up with “short-term actions to improve safety at the state Capitol.
    whats on in Sydney

  10. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 01/11/2011 - 11:45 am.

    I’m about as liberal as it gets, but it is unlikely more strict rules would have made much of a dfference in Tucson. I’m pretty sure Loughner is seriously mentally ill. Are we going to require psyche evaluations for everyone who wants to buy a gun? And even if we did, what’s to say that people couldn’t fool at least one psychologist enough to get the permission. Even if we outlaw high capacity magazines, there are millions of them in existence. If we actually require people to give up something that was legal at the time of purchase, the “gundamentalists” will go balistic with “government taking our guns.”

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/11/2011 - 12:07 pm.

    Just to be clear, Karl (#7):

    In reverence for those who were killed or injured in Tucson at the hand of a deranged psychopath, thanks very much for toning your own rhetoric down to labeling me as a terrible shot, mentally unbalanced, or being a mass murderer. It’s always a blessing to be characterized as such in public by someone who doesn’t know me at all.

    As it happens, I’m a pretty good shot, and routinely get 3-inch groups at 7 to 10 yards, offhand and hand-held, from most handguns that I’ve fired, including several 9mm semi-automatic pistols, .357 magnum and .44 magnum revolvers, and .22 caliber semi-automatic and revolver-type pistols. I’m strictly a recreational shooter, not a competitive one, nor am I in law enforcement, so I don’t have to regularly “qualify,” but I can generally hit what I’m aiming at.

    I’d argue, politely, that it doesn’t help to conflate the weapon and, in this case, its ammunition-carrier. As I said above, the Glock 19 is a garden-variety semi-automatic pistol, typically 9mm caliber, and in use by law enforcement and recreational shooters not just in this country, but around the world. I’ve fired one several times at a pistol range. It is a deadly weapon, and I treat it as such, by which I mean very carefully.

    There are perfectly good reasons why most pistol ranges are 50 yards in length or less – handguns simply aren’t that accurate beyond that distance except under controlled circumstances, and often with weapons that have been specially modified for accuracy at what is, for a handgun, “long range.” Like ANY handgun, regardless of caliber or how many rounds it holds, the Glock is/was not designed for hunting game or pretty much any other use than to shoot other humans, and usually at close range. That’s why it’s rather popular with law enforcement and military personnel, in whose hands it’s generally characterized as a “defensive” weapon.

    The 33-round magazine is not “garden variety,” but they’re fairly widely available. I don’t own a Glock, or a 33-round magazine, so I can’t really speak to the motivation of someone who has both, but my guess, based on my own shooting experience at carefully-monitored pistol ranges, is that for the owner, a magazine of that size is simply fun to use. Perhaps all 33 rounds were “on-target,” and the shooter simply dislikes having to reload. It might just mean that, instead of having to reload every 9 or 10 or 15 rounds, depending upon the model someone is shooting, they can shoot longer before they have to take a 5-minute break to reload.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m not a member of the NRA, nor have I ever been interested in joining the organization.

    Thanks again for your gentle quest for knowledge.

  12. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 01/11/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    Perhaps others have said this before and much better than me, I have no doubt. The problem with guns in America is not its proliferation due to lax laws or laws with too many loopholes. The problem really is that old and persistent national hunger for bigger, faster, and more powerful products … or in a nutshell, the “super-size me!” mentality.

    A poignant example of this societal conundrum: People buy and drive trucks when they don’t even have the need or use for one-tenth the power they’re getting. In the recent snow and ice storms here in the twin cities, nature turned out to be the winner anyways!

    And almost everybody knows or is party to the fast-food craze in this country. And despite the health risks (obesity, etc.,) some politicians (you know who they are) want to insist on our God-given right to eat whatever we want! But, I’m fine with that; it’s not as scary as the fascination with faster and more powerful guns.

  13. Submitted by Richard Parker on 01/11/2011 - 02:02 pm.

    I see that the shooter bought his Glock at a sporting-goods store, and I’ve seen lots of ads from local sporting-goods stores for pistols. I’m wondering, for what sport do you need a pistol? I’ve always thought hunters use rifles; they don’t shoot at deer and birds with pistols. Pistols are primarily for shooting or threatening other human beings, and given the prices — about $500 for that Glock19; $300 or so for the ones I see in the Sunday ad supplements — I wouldn’t think a “sportsman” would buy one just to plink at cans or paper targets. I don’t buy the opposition by the NRA and firearms hobbyists to stricter controls on handgun sales and possession.

  14. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 01/11/2011 - 02:31 pm.


    Spare me your condescending lecture on guns. I qualified with plenty as a Military Police Officer in the 70s, and have used plenty since.

    The difference between a normal clip and a 33-round clip in a handgun of this type is about like the difference between automatic and semi-automatic. In both instances, there is a legitimate civilian use for one and not the other. A target shooter has no more need for a 33-round clip than he or she does for a fully automatic weapon.

    So you’d have a problem with banning 33-round clips for handguns? Are you in favor of civilians owning fully automatic weapons? Machine guns? At what point would you agree to ANY restrictions on firearms, then? Should cop-killer bullets be legal again? Sawed-off shotguns–because the target shooter can’t fit his long-barrel shotgun under the seat to go to the range?

    I guess I’m not so paranoid that I think that if the gummint wants to ban 33-round handgun clips, they’re not coming for my Remington 870 shotgun next.

    By the way, Ray, before you get your undies in a bunch, I only said you must be a terrible shot, mentally unbalanced, or a mass murderer if you thought you had a need for a 33-round clip for your pistol. Since you own neither, it’s a moot point, isn’t it?

  15. Submitted by John Jordan on 01/11/2011 - 05:55 pm.

    “Semi-automatic pistol used in Arizona shootings is available in Minnesota, too”


  16. Submitted by D Haralson on 01/11/2011 - 08:13 pm.

    Seriously. A thoughtful approach on the title would be a starting point. If the title had read: “Same Supercharged Camaro that caused fatal accident in California is available in Minnesota” it might cause someone to question the journalistic approach to reporting. The Arizona murders was a tragedy, but a knee-jerk reaction to law-abiding citizens isn’t a solution. Laws don’t deter individuals bent on their own ends. And in the case of weapons, just emboldens those who would do us harm.

  17. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/11/2011 - 08:26 pm.


    I’m well aware of the difference between a 33-round clip and a normal magazine. It’s kind of interesting being cast by a stranger as a 2nd Amendment zealot when the reality is closer to the opposite. My undies are very rarely in a bunch, and certainly not this time.

    An argument could be made, and I might even make it, that there’s no legitimate civilian use for a semi-auto pistol at all. As Richard has pointed out in #13, pistols are of limited use, and aside from target shooting, those limited uses are generally not benign. I can’t speak for “sportsmen,” but when I go to the range, what I see are a lot of people with handguns who are doing what Richard regards as improbable: they’re using $500 weapons, sometimes at $1 or more per shot, to put holes in paper targets.

    Hunting makes sense to me only if the hunter is going to eat what he kills. I tried that, and didn’t like either the hunting experience or the meal made from the result, though there are many, many people who enjoy both. If I had to hunt to feed myself, I’d do it, but since I don’t have to, I prefer a weekly trip to the supermarket. I like to shoot in the same way that a kid likes to set off fireworks, and I’ve never used a handgun for any purpose other than to punch holes in a paper target. An argument could be made that a target shooter has no more need for a 15-round magazine that s/he might have for a 33-round version. In fact, for that purpose, a single-action pistol that has to be cocked before each shot might well be superior to double-action or a semi-auto, though I confess I’ve not done a lot of reading that compares them in that context.

    I agree that a full-auto weapon is not something with which to target shoot unless the target is the proverbial barn side (I assume the shooter owns the barn), and very nearby. That said, however, I know of several ranges where I could rent, legally and literally, a machine gun. It’s very expensive, especially with the cost of ammunition, but I’ve seen people do it, and it’s all about the noise and excitement – not thinking about what machine guns were invented for, or are designed to do, which is to spray bullets in rapid succession, with the object of killing or maiming as many people as possible in a short span of time.

    I know, I know. It’s incomprehensible. Kind of like watching professional football is incomprehensible. Some people like both. Some like neither one. Some like one, but not the other.

    Regarding the bunches in your own undies, I have no problem with banning 33-round clips for handguns. I’m not in favor of civilians owning full-auto weapons. It would be fine with me if the manufacture of cop-killer bullets was prohibited. Sawed-off shotguns render an already-inaccurate weapon worthless except at something approaching arm’s length, and the only conceivable use for such a weapon is not just to kill, but to mangle. It would be OK with me if firearms were prohibited throughout the United States, just as it would be OK with me if the production and sale of alcohol were prohibited, but we tried the latter, and it was an abject failure. Our society’s record with prohibitions isn’t a very good one, witness the ongoing disaster of the “War on drugs.” I doubt a total ban on guns could be made to stick, especially given the fact that civilian Americans own 270 million guns as I write this, and the NRA is among the most powerful lobbies in Washington, even without me as a member.

    To get back to the point made by Heather Martens in Doug’s piece, I simply said that her use of the term “assault weapon” for the Glock 19 was leading the discussion in a particular direction. The 33-round clip certainly lends itself to the use of that “assault weapon” term, and I understand that, but the pistol itself is in use, literally by the millions, all over the world, and because of that, it’s fairly unremarkable. I tend to think of “assault weapon” as a Mac-10, an Uzi, or any number of semi-auto and full-auto long guns used by the military and by police SWAT teams. If we want to be really literal about it, ANY firearm, not to mention a host of other hand-held implements, might be an “assault weapon.”

    Doing so, however, trivializes what we’re talking about. What happened in Tucson is all the more sad and grisly and frightening – to me, at least – because the weapon used IS readily available, and not especially out of the ordinary. I thought that was Doug’s point – or the point of whoever devised the headline for the piece.

  18. Submitted by Dave Thul on 01/11/2011 - 10:11 pm.

    I am a strong second amendment supporter and NRA member, but even I have to scratch my head at the ‘usefulness’ of a 33 round magazine for a pistol.

    That being said, a pistol is not an assault weapon. The very term comes from the military, in that some weapons are better than others for assaulting a target. For example, while in Iraq, I spent 16 months carrying a 9mm Beretta, M-4, and 12 gauge shotgun. The M-4 is a true ‘assault weapon’, the shotgun was mainly defensive, and the pistol was for close quarters and small bunkers. At no time would I have ever considered ‘assaulting’ a target with anything other than the M-4.

    But even the M-4 only has a 30 round magazine. 15 rounds for a pistol is a reasonable restriction, and gun rights advocates need to stop defending every possible gun combination and focus on the ones that make sense.

  19. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 01/12/2011 - 06:08 am.

    I’m personally waiting to see how many liberal progressive republicans we have currently in office will jump and try to restrict firearms now. This whole mess is being played up so bad by the left leaning progressives that its just getting ridiculous. That sheriff alone is demonstrating how much a real piece of work he is!!!
    It’s time for people to put their heads back on straight.

  20. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 01/12/2011 - 01:20 pm.

    @#19 – “…waiting to see how many liberal progressive republicans we have currently in office will jump and try to restrict firearms now.”

    I don’t know if he is pro-gun or anti-gun, and I don’t know if he is liberal, progressive, or regressive conservative. But a republican Congressman from New York has already blared his horn. Congressman King wants a law banning guns around Congressmen. Apparently, the irony of his quest has not dawned on him, let alone that his name is “King.”

  21. Submitted by Joshua Brauer on 01/13/2011 - 05:07 pm.

    The reason for a 33 round magazine is the same as for a 10 or 15 or whatever: protect yourself and those around you, including family and friends, or innocent bystanders as the case may be. Sure it may make reloading at the range less tedious, but ultimately if you need to defend yourself, you want the best tool to do so.

    It’s the same reason for owning a pistol in the first place, self defense, pure and simple.

    Guns exist. Knives exist. Bats exist (baseball, not flying rodent).
    Crazed lunatic nutjobs exist, and can get any of these, legally or illegally, and easily assault you, your family, or the little old lady on the corner.

    The ONLY thing that equalizes this playing field is a self-defensive weapon (a gun being the best) employed by a person trained to use it. A 90lb 85 year old women that can point and shoot a pistol is now able to defend herself (hopefully) from the 250lb steroid crazed early parolee bearing down on her while she waits at the bus stop, or the paranoid schizophrenic that likes Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto and has a thing for Blue Dog Democrats.

    So I don’t need to further justify to you or anyone else WHY I want or need the possession of a pistol or a 33 round magazine to defend myself or those around me. Divine right and the US Constitution dictate this.

    A 33 round magazine is difficult to conceal (they’re too long) but if you have say a crowd of neo-nazis around, and you’re a rainbow flag wearing homosexual, you too might see the need for that level of protection. Or if you’re a young women that likes to dress a certain way but doesn’t appreciate the full attention of the local fraternity, you too have the right to self defense.

    Self defense is a right of ALL individuals, and just because you think a loud whistle or quick 911 call to a local incompetent sheriff is enough protection for you doesn’t mean everyone agrees with you.

    And yes there are sports that employ pistols, they’re called shooting sports:
    They train the best law enforcement officers, and private citizens concerned about their own and others’ safety.

  22. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/15/2011 - 10:15 am.

    What Joshua said.

  23. Submitted by Glenn Taylor on 01/19/2011 - 06:36 am.

    40,000 persons killed in US last year alone by a notorius killer that should be outlawed..Baned… The sale of done away with…This killer is available in Minnesota and is bought, sold and kills people every day.. What is this killer….? The automobile…

  24. Submitted by Eric Burton on 01/19/2011 - 08:56 pm.

    I think people see to forget we have constitutional right to own a hand gun like the Glock 19 if we want, which is not an assault weapon but a semi automatic pistol. What part of the second amendment do you not understand?

    Because I don’t have a criminal record, I have the right to apply for and have a concealed weapons permit that allows me to carry and conceal my XD 45 which has a 13 round clip of hollow points in 27 states, there is nothing you can do about it…

    If I so chose I have a right to go out and buy a 33 round magazine if I want. I don’t think XD’s have clips that big, but the option is available… There are more people killed by cars and drunk drivers than hand guns with 33 round clips.

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