It was a warm and pleasant evening on the Las Vegas strip, truly Chamber of Commerce weather. More than 20,000 people, from near and far had gathered to hear several country music acts perform. Suddenly, and for no discernible reason, someone begins firing a high-powered rifle into the crowd from a hotel window overlooking the gathering. In less than 15 minutes, there are 59 dead, including the shooter, and nearly 500 wounded or injured trying to escape the carnage.
The next day, the president was asked about the possibility of addressing more stringent gun control measures. His reply was, "this is not the time for such discussions." My question is, if not now, when? When are the members of Congress, unfortunately mostly the Republicans, going to finally wean themselves from the trough of contributions from the National Rifle Association and do something to protect our citizens from much of this senseless slaughter? There have been suggestions floated out there by concerned lawmakers from both parties for simple regulations which would still protect a citizen's right to own firearms.
I read something, written by a retired policeman, where he describes how he was taught to respect firearms. His father took him target shooting frequently as a child and he was taught that each type of weapon that he had the opportunity to fire had a purpose. Hand guns were for protection, from animals and possibly an intruder, and that those only needed, at most, 9 rounds because if you were attacked by a bear, after nine shots the bear would be down or on top of you where another shot wouldn't be possible. Rifles and shotguns were for hunting where 3 or 4 rounds should be enough to bring down your target. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons were strictly designed to kill people and no one outside the military needed to have even one of those. I agree with all of those statements.
The latest murderer whose name I, like the mayor of Las Vegas, will not use out of respect for the dead and wounded, had more than 40 weapons in the hotel room, in his car and at his nearby home along with thousands of rounds of ammunition and bomb-making materials. According to the police, each weapon had been purchased legally with the required background checks performed. This begs the question, how does one amass such an arsenal legally, many over a reportedly relatively short period of time, without it raising a red flag somewhere? Along with the weapons themselves, the killer also purchased about a dozen "bump stocks" which effectively turn a now legal semi-automatic rifle into an illegal nearly fully automatic weapon. How and why was this thing made legally available in the first place? On Friday, it was reported that the NRA and the White House have indicated a willingness to "consider" additional regulations on these attachments.
Unfortunately, the NRA leadership has long dug in its heels and rejected out-of-hand any attempts to regulate the types of firearms that can be legally sold or owned and any restriction on the size of the magazines that can turn a firearm into an overly efficient killing machine. The association's leaders are also against common sense restrictions on who can safely use a firearm and regulations on background checks for private sales and gun show sales which can allow felons and those with mental illnesses to purchase firearms when they couldn't through normal channels.
Erich Pratt of the Gun Owners of America is even more clueless. He stated that the industry is prepared to have the weapons scrutinized but suggest that it's unfair to go after firearms since other weapons such as trucks and fertilizer aren't criticized after their use in attacks. He doesn't seem to understand that fertilizer and trucks are designed with other uses in mind while AK-47s and AR-15s and the like have only one use: to kill. Fertilizer helps grow his food and trucks deliver that food, the furnishings and appliances, and even the building materials used to build his comfortable home.
There have been enough mass shootings by people with military grade weapons. From the children at Sandy Hook Elementary, to this latest massacre in Las Vegas. Now is the time for Congress to stand in support of rational gun laws. In any case, we can't go about our daily lives in fear of some demented person randomly attacking a gathering in a stadium, park, theater or anywhere else.
Bill Kennedy writes every other Monday from Taneytown. Email him at email@example.com.