The nation is in terror after what happened in Las Vegas this week. 64-year-old Stephen Paddock shot and killed at least 59 people and injured 500 more. This event is being called the deadliest shooting in recent US history. Across the internet, pictures and videos of victims of this man’s gunfire depict the gruesome consequences of his use of firearms on an open concert from his hotel room balcony. For all those affected, we at Better Utah send you our sincerest hopes and pray this tragedy doesn’t continue to play out.
With the suspect dead, his suicide preventing police from knowing his motive, one question remains: How did this happen?
The answer, unfortunately, is quite controversial. In the United States, we have a massive industry that distributes weapons on a regular basis. Places like gun shows allow many people to buy firearms with very little regulation. The suspect was found surrounded by 23 guns, including 10 rifles, which were most likely used to kill a high volume a people. These guns, all of which so far have been found to be legally purchased, were the sole instruments Paddock used to commit an act of true terror.
Despite his use of guns, many politicians have been reluctant to have a serious discussion about gun control. Indeed, the President himself stated, when asked about gun control, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
“As time goes by?” At least 500 people are now facing massive injuries and/or death because of our insistence to wait this issue out! Deflective rhetorical devices like these only serve to keep the current situation in existence. The solution is not to let time go by; it is to call on Congress to address the issue of powerful firearms getting into the hands of regular citizens. Until we stand up and take precautionary measures to ensure shootings do not happen in the first place, we will keep seeing them happen.
This controversy is a great reflection of our faults as a nation. Even when so many families are harmed and so many innocent lives are taken by firearms, we still refuse to call out the issue. Rather than use this opportunity to create an important discussion on gun control, many politicians on Capitol Hill are simply ignoring the issue of gun control altogether, spitting in the face of hundreds of victims and their families that did not deserve to be harmed the way they were.
I will be honest: I am utterly disgusted by many people’s ability to simply tune gun control out. Every year, record numbers of people lose their lives to shootings because we insist on giving groups like the NRA a pass on their practices. By not passing policies such as reinstating semi automatic weapons bans, required psychological background checks, and a registry for gun owners, we make events like this happen much more often. In fact, a 25-year long study done by Mother Jones shows a strong correlation between the expiration of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 and a sudden rise in mass shootings. Essentially, the lack of regulation on semi-automatic weapons in particular make cases like this more likely. For the sake of all of the victims in this country, we MUST take this issue seriously and do something about the high occurrence of shootings we have seen recently.
I know many people will oppose me on this issue. There are quite a number of people who argue that gun control will never work, that the “bad guys will always get hold of guns.” But what they do not realize is that even if that is true, we should still at least attempt to implement reasonable gun control laws. For far too many years, we have let these kinds of defensive arguments serve as mere excuses that only give organizations like the NRA more power. In my opinion, the sheer volume of semi-automatic and assault-grade weaponry in this country in the hands of everyday citizens could easily be reduced. Even if the “bad guys” still get hold of some, at least there would be measure to stop the events of the status quo from happening if we reduce the number of the kinds of weapons that Paddock used.
In the end, Paddock is not a one-off instance, but part of a recurring pattern within the United States. Because of powerful gun lobbying groups like the NRA, our country’s government has neglected to take action, favoring a hand-off approach especially under this administration. Until then, we will simply have to “pay the price for freedom.”