So it wasn’t apparently a politically motivated massacre or one conducted by a criminal mastermind or someone with a severe mental illness.
Instead, the mass killing in Las Vegas Sunday night was noteworthy primarily for the body count and just how easy it was for the gunman to pull it off. A real estate speculator and gambler holed up on the 32nd floor with nearly a dozen semi-automatic weapons and 22,000 unsuspecting concert-goers at his feet. “Targets of opportunity” simply won’t mean the same anymore.
We’ve said it consistently ever since the Gabriel Giffords shooting in 2011 that killed six people in Tucson: An armed-to-the-teeth America, contrary to what the NRA would have us believe, is not a safe America. That there are groups defending the right to be allowed to tote 10 suitcases full of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition around an American city, much less set up a killing lookout post for the price of a hotel room, shows how far down the strict constructionist rabbit hole the NRA and its allies have taken us. Take those types of guns and that kind of easy access out of the equation, and far, far fewer people are killed and wounded before the shooter is taken out by police.
We know, based on the blowback from previous editorials after mass shootings, that Second Amendment diehards swing in just the opposite direction: the more guns among an armed populace, the more likely that populace won’t risk using them. It makes for an appealing soundbite, but reality bites back. For starters, what if a shooter like the Las Vegas gunman doesn’t care whether he survives a shootout, so long as gets off a few thousand shots first? And then there’s those studies that the NRA hasn’t managed to squelch that make for another soundbite: fewer guns, fewer deaths. As the share of households with guns drops, a drop in the homicide rate follows. And taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers reduces intimate partner homicide by 10 percent.
And now, after a mass shooting at a country music concert full of gun rights supporters, some chinks in the NRA mantra are starting to open up. “Gun control” might deserve a closer look, some of the high-profile performers are beginning to say out loud, to which the NRA responds, “Too late.” You can’t put 300 million personal firearms back in the bottle, even if you wanted to.
That is, of course, a red herring. Nobody is talking about confiscation or even registration. But they are talking about mass shootings as something akin to a natural disaster that unleashes a public health crisis so traumatic that no one wants to endure it again. So if communities that have come through floods, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes can regroup around ways to make themselves safer in the future, why can’t we even talk about gun safety after another round of the slaughter of innocents?
Actually, polls show the public -- gun owners or not -- are overwhelmingly ready to take up common-sense gun controls, starting with a “No Fly, No Buy” rule: If you’re on a no fly terrorist list, you don’t get to buy a gun until you get yourself off the list.
What are some other measures with high, bipartisan poll numbers aimed at reducing irresponsible gun ownership and use?
—lengthen the waiting period for gun purchases when background checks have been delayed.
--ban the sale of firearms without background checks by unlicensed dealers at gun shows
—ban the sale of armor-piercing bullets;
—limit magazines to 10 bullets;
--block semi-automatic weapons makers from selling any weapon or accessory that can be converted to automatic
—provide greater access under the law to mental health records to prevent persons with serious mental illness from purchasing weapons;
—expand restrictions on gun possession and ownership to those with a history of domestic violence and stalking
—repeal the ban on studies by the Centers for Disease Control on the effects of gun ownership and use on public health
Again, the Second Amendment crowd will point out that nothing on that list would have stopped the Las Vegas gunman, a man apparently without a criminal history or evidence of mental instability. And besides, with 300 million guns in circulation, if it wasn’t him, it would be someone else.
That, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if nothing is done. The NRA has blocked even a committee hearing, much less a floor vote, on most of the proposals above, yet offered no plausible alternatives to stanching the bloodshed other than more guns make a safer America. And yet, since 2011, with ever more high-powered guns in circulation, we have seen just the opposite trend in the U.S.: more frequent mass killings with ever higher body counts, along with escalating rates of overall gun violence.
It’s time, as the residents of Houston, Mexico City and Florida have learned in another context, to realize that the public’s health and safety is at risk when we fail to address the practices that put us in harm’s way. With easy access by a single individual to scores of military-style weapons, those risks are not just to property, they are lethal. No sport hunter, no collector, no responsible gun owner of any sort can justify the use and abuse of the weaponry that resulted in the Las Vegas massacre. They’re the ones we are counting on to stand up and say enough. More guns are making us less safe, and if we want to keep the ones we have, we have to move to disarm the time bomb of mass casualty shootings that went off in Las Vegas and which, without action, will go off again and again and again.