Backgrounds on Pistols Used in Virginia Tech Shooting

Following news reports today that the handguns used in the Virginia Tech shooting were Glock Model 19 and Walther P22 pistols, the Violence Policy Center released the following information:

Since the mid-1980s, the gun industry has embraced increased firepower and capacity to resell the shrinking base of gun buyers in America. In the 1980s, a very significant shift in gun design and marketing occurred: high-capacity semiautomatic pistols became the dominant product line. Formerly, the most popular handgun design was the revolver, most often containing six-shots.

In 1980, semi-automatic pistols accounted for only 32 percent of the 2.3 million handguns produced in America. The majority were revolvers. By 1991 this number had reversed itself with semiautomatic pistols accounting for 74 percent of the 1.8 million handguns produced that year.

Semiautomatic pistols fire one round of ammunition for each trigger pull. (Highly regulated fully automatic machine guns that fire continuously with one trigger pull are generally unavailable to the general public.)

The dominance of the semiautomatic pistol greatly increased the firepower in civilian hands. Not only are semiautomatic pistols capable of rapid fire, they utilize high-capacity magazines and can be quickly reloaded. The combination of these features makes semiautomatic pistols efficient killing machines.

Click here to see a chart and graph illustrating the shift from six-shot revolvers to high-capacity pistols:

Click here to see current catalog copy for current models of both handguns: for Glock 19 catalog copy, for Walther P22 catalog copy.

Click here to see an excerpt from Violence Policy Center Senior Analyst Tom Diaz’s 1999 book Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America, detailing Glock’s history in the United States and select import numbers for the pistol:

Since 1979, 7,031,596 22 caliber pistols have been produced in the United States, making the .22 the most popular pistol caliber produced in America during this period. Since 1979, 6,453,930 9mm pistols have been produced in the United States, making the 9mm the second most popular pistol caliber produced in America during this period.

Click here to see a chart detailing 9mm and .22 production:

Click here to see the most recent data on the decline in gun ownership in the United States, contained in the April 2007 Violence Policy Center study A Shrinking Minority: The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America:

The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational organization working for a safer America through research, analysis, education, and advocacy.

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