I woke on Monday morning to my girlfriend’s text that a shooting had occurred in Las Vegas. She wrote that over forty people had been killed. A chill went down my spine, and I got a bad taste in my mouth, but I didn’t respond. She kept texting, horrified, looking for some sort of reaction from me. I finally texted back, “Are you really surprised?”
Perhaps that was not the tone she needed after hearing such grievous news. But it was my initial feeling, filled with cynicism and disappointment. My girlfriend and everybody in America shared in heartbreaking despair on Monday as we watched the news about the Las Vegas shooting pour in. Over fifty people dead and hundreds more hospitalized. It was the most horrific and deadly shooting in the history of the United States. Sadly, this story is hardly new in modern America.
In Nevada, where some of the biggest gun shows in America are held, as long as you are 18 years old and are willing to fill out a form, you can buy an assault rifle, just like one of the forty something guns that Stephen Paddock owned. Paddock amassed an arsenal that could equip a platoon, brought 29 of them locked and loaded into a Las Vegas hotel room, and before he pulled the trigger, he hadn’t broken a law in the state of Nevada. All he had to do was break the window from his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort, and fire into a crowd of thousands.
How can people feel safe in crowded areas in a country that makes it so easy for someone to own a gun? How do mothers and fathers not live in constant fear that some mad man or woman could walk into their child’s elementary school and shoot up the classroom?
The NRA claims that the solutions to those fears are “good guys with guns.” Wherever a shooter is lurking ready to attack innocent victims, there will be a law-abiding citizen with a pistol in his or her holster ready to save the day. Where were the good guys with guns at the Mandalay Bay? There were 22,000 people at the Route 91 Music Festival Sunday evening. In a state where you can legally carry a gun wherever you want, was nobody there to stop the massacre after Stephen Paddock fired the first few bullets? Of course there were, but they helped no one. Had someone started blindly firing up at the Mandalay Bay, it would have only made matters worse.
I hope our nation is able to make true changes after this tragedy. A person is 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the United States than in any other developed nation. It is long past time for our representatives and leaders to call for gun policy reform. It was long past time after Charleston, after Newtown, and after Virginia Tech. On Fox News on Monday, I heard guest defense experts and risk consultants say that nothing could have been done to stop a massacre like this from occurring. That just isn’t true. After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia imposed strict gun laws, and has not had a mass shooting since.
Guns are entrenched in American society. The nation was founded on ensuring the survival of democracy, and the right to a firearm is the second strongest pillar of that foundation. But weapons have become far more advanced than anything our founding fathers could have envisioned, and the Second amendment needs to be reexamined in a modern lens. Guns were purchased legally in more than 80% of mass shootings in the past three decades. I wonder if the store workers who sold guns to those committing those massacres assumed they, too, would just be “good guys with guns.”
Banning guns is not likely to happen in America, but there is no logical reason for Stephen Paddock to own over 40 guns, many of them being the same guns our troops use in combat. He does not need automatic rifles fitted with machine-gun like capability to protect his property or personal freedoms.
Over 100 pieces of legislation on gun reform have been introduced since 2011, and none have passed into law. Most of these bills merely hope to expand background checks and prevent those on terrorist watch lists from purchasing weapons. Our nation has seen so much bloodshed in recent memory that these measures are surely justified.
Tragedies like what happened in Las Vegas will only continue to happen until our government takes steps to try and prevent them. We elect our senators, congressmen and women to protect us, but they are letting us down on this issue. When a shooting happens again, after our government has still failed to act, you must ask yourself: are you surprised?