Arsenal America, Gun Crazy
To no one’s surprise, the nation has experienced yet another mass shooting, the deadliest to date. In Las Vegas, Nevada, in the span of only ten minutes, one man killed 58 people and wounded almost 500 more. Soon, every major city in the nation will have its own mass shooting. Yet, when these atrocities occur we engage in a familiar pattern of faulty analysis, empty moments and political dodgeball; anything to avoid the issue of gun control.
It is more than appropriate to humanize the victims and their families with stories, montages and ceremonies. It is just as fitting to recognize the Vegas heroes of which there were many, e.g., the first responders and law enforcement that protected those on the ground and quickly ended the carnage, the medical community which treated the injured and the concert goers who shielded others at the risk of their own lives.
Still, determining how to prevent future mass shootings is significantly more important than debating the proper time to discuss gun control or labeling the shooter as a terrorist, loser or mental defect. The culprit here is not so easily categorized.
Sixty-four-year old Stephen Paddock was a licensed pilot, successful businessman and wealthy gambler. He worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, and an IRS agent in the auditing department for over 10-years. He had no criminal record, documented mental illness or apparent political motive. In short, he may have been depressed, angry, even mad. But as mass murderers go, he appears to have been quite normal.
The problem is and always has been guns, or which there are too many, far too accessible and far too lethal. Gun obsessed if not gun crazy, America leads the world in the number of guns, gun violence and mass shootings.
In 2013 alone there were more guns than people, i. e, 317 million people versus 357 guns. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/05/guns-in-the-united-states-one-for-every-man-woman-and-child-and-then-some/. Three percent of the population own 50 % of the firearms. https://qz.com/#1095899/gun-ownership-in-america-in-three-charts/.
Gone are the days of the six-shooter. Instead we are an armory of high powered, long distance, multi capacity, military assault weapons whose sole purpose is to kill as many people as quickly and decidedly as possible.
The Las Vegas shooter was armed with a large quantity of ammunition and 23 firearms including a AR-15, Kalashnikov, AR 10 and other .308 caliber rifles, some of which were enhanced by the latest high tech killing accouterments, including bi-pods, telescopic sights and 12 “bump fire stocks” which can be attached to and turn semi-automatic weapons into rapid fire machine guns. An additional 24 high powered weapons were found in Paddock’s home and 50 pounds of explosives were found in his car.
A single automatic rifle can fire 750 to 900 rounds per minute. One bullet can splinter inside victim’s body, or exit that person’s body, enter another victim or ricochet off cars, buildings and pavement.
These killing machines are made even more deadly by paraphernalia that make killing not only impersonal, but easy and exciting. It bears repeating that armed with these weapons of mass destruction, a 64-year-old man, with no enhanced skills, military training or assistance, killed 58 people and injured almost 500 others in the time it takes to order lunch.
Recent terrorist attacks in England and Charlottesville prove that everyday instruments like vehicles can be weaponized. Additionally, no law is perfect. Thus, there will always be those who abuse firearms, even with stricter gun laws.
However, the Second Amendment is not without limit. The right to bear arms affords no right to own tanks, rocket launchers or flame throwers.
More importantly, neither the Second Amendment nor the rights of gun owners control the issues of gun violence and mass shootings. Public safety as well as the rights of non-gun owners must also be considered, e.g. the right of concert goers to a safe venue, the right of church goers to kneel in prayer or the right of the 6 and 7 year old Sandy Hook Elementary School children to a school free of deadly fire.
Marches, moments of silence or other gestures which do nothing to prevent future shootings are therefore inadequate. And it is wholly improper to limit the discussion of gun control. We honor the memory of Las Vegas and every other incidence of mass shootings and gun violence, not by political dodgeball but by passing comprehensive gun control measures that preserve the right to bear arms while curtailing Arsenal America.
In conclusion, no one needs 47 high powered firearms and 50 pounds of explosives just to defend themselves. We failed to act during the Sandy Hook massacre when children and their teachers were slaughtered. We look the other way when every weekend, tens of people are shot and killed in Chicago. We must not make the same mistake now.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum