We have all heard the news – the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history on Sunday evening during an open-air festival at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Nearly 60 people died and more than 500 were injured; the death toll is expected to climb.
According to reports, 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor window of his hotel room. He allegedly had in his possession over 20 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition – all which were legally procured. In Nevada, anyone at least 18 years old can own a firearm. Nevada also does not require gun owners to hold a license or register their guns, nor does the state limit the number of guns a person can purchase in any one sale. Furthermore, Nevada allows the sale of high-capacity magazines, high-caliber weapons and ammunition, and military-style weapons. Although the state does restrict the sale and manufacture of automatic weapons, reports indicated that Paddock used a legal device to effectively circumvent that, ultimately giving him the ability to fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds a minute. Audio coverage of the tragic event clearly depicts extended rapid bursts.
Immediately following this horrific act of violence, President Trump called the mass shooting "an act of pure evil.” In his speech, the president made no mention of guns or gun laws. Then, during the White House briefing, a reporter asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether the shooting had “made the President think anything more about pursuing tighter gun laws . . . to prevent massacres like this from happening again.” Sanders replied that “the aftermath of such a crime is not the right time to discuss gun legislation.” “There’s a time and place for political debate, she said. “Now is the time to unite as a country.” Sanders went on to say, “one of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t . . . stop these types of things from happening. I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over four thousand victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country.”
While there is no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, the Gun Violence Archive defines it as an incident in which “four or more [are] shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.”
Mass shootings are a near daily occurrence in America with the four deadliest U.S. mass shootings in the past 10 years. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American history, back to the American Revolution. There have been more than 11,600 deaths linked to gun violence so far in 2017. In terms of the death toll, that is roughly the equivalent of four 9/11 attacks.
We should take a moment of silence. We should mourn. We should pray. But that isn’t enough. It does nothing to prevent such acts of violence from continuing – in some other state, in some other city, at some other event – next week or next month. As a nation, we cannot continue to ignore gun violence.
As the events of Vegas continue to unfold, let’s not forget that there is a pro-gun bill currently moving through Congress. The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act aims to deregulate the use of silencers, for hunting sake. If passed, the bill would make it easier to import assault-style rifles, transport weapons across state lines, and purchase silencers. The Hearing Protection Act is a provision within the SHARE Act that would eliminate restrictions on silencers and instead treat them as ordinary firearms. On September 12, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed the SHARE Act by a vote of 22 - 13. The bill now awaits floor action in the U.S. House and supporters, including the N.R.A. are expecting a victory.
Las Vegas will be no different than Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Orlando if we do nothing to stop gun violence. Contact your state representative now. Ask him/her to vote no on the SHARE Act. We owe it to ourselves and the next generation to do everything possible to create a safer America.