Mass shootings are so commonplace in America that news outlets can practically recycle old stories verbatim, changing only the names of the suspects, the locations, and the number of dead. When pundits are summoned to give their opinion, those responses, too, are predictably rote. Whether it’s said once or it’s said a thousand times, though, there is only one solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence: stricter regulation of the weapons in question.
In Las Vegas late Sunday night, nearly 60 Americans at a country music concert were murdered in the nation’s largest modern mass shooting. At this still-early stage, the story is swirling with speculation and rumor. Little is actually known about the shooter except that he was a white male who opened fire on thousands of innocent Americans from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room window.
He is believed to have used multiple guns to carry out this atrocity. Reports suggest he used semiautomatic weapons and modified them to be able to fire more shots in rapid succession. Both his weapons and the modifications to them were likely legal. He purchased guns from Nevada gun shops, including a shotgun earlier this year that was likely not used in this incident. Gun laws in Nevada are among the most lax in the country.
This raises perhaps the most important question in any mass shooting: where did the guns come from? Any time tighter gun control is suggested, the gun lobby says such laws wouldn’t prevent mass shooters from obtaining weapons. But that assertion simply isn’t borne out by available data, which shows that more than 80 percent of the guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased. Shooters aren’t going to the black market. They’re going to gun stores and conventions.
Simply making certain kinds of guns less convenient to purchase would doubtlessly curb gun violence significantly. We know that in places like the UK and Canada, where firearms are heavily regulated, there is no epidemic of gun violence. Since initiating a buyback program and instituting massive gun reform in 1996, Australia has had zero mass shootings. In America, a nation with more guns than people, gun violence is a leading cause of unnatural death.
American legislation like the Assault Weapons Ban, despite being watered down and allowed to expire, had mixed success; researchers believe it would have had greater success if implemented longer. Since most mass shooters procure their weapons legally, it stands to reason that changing what is legally accessible would change what these people can acquire. All these issues deserve much more research. But the NRA is afraid of what the research might find and pays off politicians to suppress and defund it.
Death is their business. In times of mass shootings, business soars. The NRA has an answer for everything, and it’s always more guns. The solution to mass shootings is more guns. The solution to inner city crime, terrorism, and the Democrats is more guns. Second Amendment dogmatists will doubtlessly argue that if only every concertgoer in Las Vegas had been adequately armed, they could have returned fire into the shooter’s hotel room and gone on dancing.
The modern NRA uses intense, racially-charged propaganda to encourage Americans to buy and carry guns. It wasn’t always so extreme. The NRA president in 1934, Karl Frederick, once said to Congress, “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one… I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” Previous incarnations of the NRA even supported effective gun control legislation.
A majority of Americans, Republican and Democrat, support common-sense gun control measures like banning assault-style weapons, creating a federal database to track gun sales, and requiring background checks at gun conventions. Only about 1 in 5 gun-owning Americans belongs to the NRA, and polling consistently shows that these are among the most radicalized gun owners in the country. Virtually every proposal, no matter how mild, is hysterically treated as a first step toward tyranny.
As much as anything, our problem is cultural. A disastrous far-right misreading of the Second Amendment dominates our national conversation on guns. It’s gotten so ridiculous that disgraced conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly declared the Americans murdered and maimed in Las Vegas to be “the price of freedom.” Every time we suffer an atrocity like this, the pro-gun lobby immediately urges us not to think of solutions, but to instead offer prayers and avoid “politicizing” the issue.
The gun industry makes billions of dollars yearly and the NRA, which labels itself a nonprofit civil rights organization, brings in hundreds of millions of dollars of its own. Their payees in Washington ensure that there is no hindrance of any kind to those enormous earnings. Don’t be misled. Basic regulation of deadly weapons is not tyranny; the Second Amendment itself calls for a “well-regulated militia.” Tyranny is the abject domination of our political system by an industry lobby concerned only with its own wealth.
Carnage in Las Vegas surpassed a record established just last year, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. If history is any indication, nothing will change and the record will be surpassed again in due time. While the NRA and the far-right accept this as a cost of living, most Americans don’t. It’s long past time for people concerned with human life, and not the profiteers of the gun industry, to do the talking on this issue.