Las Vegas massacre highlights the deeper problem of gun control in the U.S.
Fifty-eight people lost their lives when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor in his Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. This was the 273rd mass shooting of 2017—also the deadliest in modern American history, according to Time.
Various conservative news sources have reported that no one could have seen this tragedy coming. It was totally out of the blue. That’s strange given the fact that Paddock bought a total of 33 guns in the last year, according to CNN. In February, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that forbade the U.S. Social Security Administration from submitting the names of people with mental illnesses to the national background check system. I believe this has no other purpose than to get more guns into the hands of more people.
When a man like Paddock can amass nearly 50 guns throughout his lifetime, the main problem isn’t mental illness or hotel security. The real culprits are the gun laws (or lack thereof) currently in effect in the United States, and the people unwilling to change them.
Even though assault rifles are illegal in the United States, Paddock had bump stocks—small pieces of hardware attached to his guns that help semi-automatic rifles fire nearly as quickly as full automatic ones. The kicker? They were purchased legally. Why are they legal?
The answer is the NRA (National Rifle Association). The answer is always the NRA. For decades, they have pushed for increased deregulation of firearms and even opposed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The group has so much power through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts that it’s literally undemocratic. They have spent over $200 million in the last 20 years promoting their agenda, according to the U.S. Federal Election Commission, and that somehow seems to drown out the fact that nearly eight out of 10 Americans are in favour of implementing the most basic gun control laws, according to the Pew Research Center.
Even the majority of Republicans (82 per cent) advocate for barring people on the no-fly list from getting guns. More than half of Republicans (54 per cent) approve of background checks for private sales or gun shows and a database that will track gun sales across the country, according to Pew Research Center.
Many Americans will argue that it is their constitutional right to protect themselves. In reality, nowhere in the American Constitution does it say people have the unalienable right to own a gun just because they are American. Word-for-word, the Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Notice a very curious group of three words that is often left out of the NRA’s and many Republican’s speeches: Well. Regulated. Militia. That means if the freedom of the United States is under threat and militias are brought into action, their right to have arms will not be infringed. It does not say anything about private citizens. I imagine the beginning of the Second Amendment is often left out because “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” sounds a whole lot better for gun advocates.
In my opinion, the NRA has ignited this pro-gun fervor by convincing millions of people there is a secret, totalitarian super-government hell-bent on taking away their guns and freedom. Truthfully, what gun control advocates are trying to do is simply make sure gun owners don’t misuse them or put anyone in harm’s way. Like, you know, the nearly 100,000 people who have died in the United States since 2014 from gunshots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Right-wing media and politicians have a go-to tactic when a mass shooting they can’t politicize occurs. They avoid talking about the real problem at hand. Take Fox News’ Sean Hannity, for example. He spent more time talking about how he would have been able to help the people of Las Vegas had he been there, rather than discuss the serious ramifications of the lack of gun control. These commentators and politicians give their thoughts and their prayers, and that’s it. However, they had no problem politicizing shootings when they happened in San Bernardino, Fort Lauderdale, Brussels or any other instance of violence that fit their anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Every time we say “never again,” people seem to think doing nothing will solve the problem. What really needs to happen is a significant overhaul of the current legislation and a bipartisan effort to limit who can obtain firearms to avoid more senseless deaths.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth