On Sunday night, the U.S. fell victim to the deadliest mass shooting in recent history. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white male, released a barrage of bullets on a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 people and wounding at least 515 more. In the wake of the attack, President Donald Trump condemned Paddock’s actions as “pure evil.”
The Las Vegas tragedy is just one example of the epidemic of mass shootings plaguing the country.
Mass shootings are defined as any incident where four or more people are shot and wounded. Following this definition, the U.S. is responsible for 31 percent of public mass shootings worldwide in the past 46 years.
A spike in mass shootings in the past decade has resulted in 16 of the 30 most deadliest shootings in the nation’s history occurring in just that ten year time span. This includes the Sandy Hook school shooting, which claimed the lives of 27 people, the Virginia Tech massacre, which claimed another 32 and the most recent attack prior to Las Vegas in Orlando, which claimed an unprecedented 49 lives. There have been more than 1,500 smaller scale mass shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012.
Regardless of the blatant spike in gun violence and mass shooting in the 21st century, legislators have done little to restrict American’s access to guns.
Americans, representing 4.4 percent of the world’s population, are the proud owners of nearly half of the world’s civilian owned firearms. Nevada’s gun laws are some of the loosest in the country. Nevadans don’t need a permit to purchase rifle, shotgun or handgun — they are allowed to purchase machine guns and silencers, both illegal in most other states, and assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines are allowed.
It is high time for American leadership to realize the plethora of guns in circulation nationwide is incredibly dangerous, as demonstrated by the Las Vegas shooting and all of its predecessors. It has been proven multiple times over that the more guns there are, the higher the rate of gun related violence and deaths — states with more guns, not surprisingly, witness more gun deaths.
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This isn’t rocket science. If guns are widely available for purchase with little to no prerequisites for purchase, such as background checks or permits, people who wish to commit mass shootings have unfettered access to the weapons that will allow them to do just that.
One pro-gun argument asserts that people who truly desire to commit violence against a large amount of people can seek out alternative methods such as knives or bombs, or could obtain guns illegally. This is not based on any real facts, as the vast majority of studies show that violence increases with access to weapons, and therefore decreases when access is restricted.
Putting restrictions on the amount of guns a person can own, and who can purchase them, will inevitably lead to a decrease of the amount of guns available for perpetrators like Paddock to obtain.
Paddock had at least 19 weapons in his hotel room in Las Vegas, exorbitantly more weapons than any one person can justify needing. Stricter gun control laws could help track the amount of firearms purchased by an individual and put a limit on how many one person can own.
A second argument against gun control laws claims that if an gunman walked into a room and began to shoot, the situation could be diffused or prevented if an onlooker also carried a gun. In essence, this situation would become a zero-sum standoff that, according to gun rights activists, would lead to the miraculous assuaging of the crazed gunman, preventing all violence and making a hero of the person who had exercised their Second Amendment right.
Once again, the crux of this argument rests on the fact that more guns owned and used by the general public will somehow reduce gun violence, which has been proven time and again to be false. Two guns in a room, instead of one, increases the possibility for gun violence to happen in the first place. A shooter on the 32nd floor, as Paddock was, will not be dissuaded from shooting because someone in the crowd far below him may have a gun they might have used, if given a clear shot at ending Paddock’s frenzy.
The Second Amendment, in all it’s presumed glory, did not intend for every man, woman and child to own multiple automatic weapons or carry handguns on their belt loops constantly. The right to bear arms, as written into the Bill of Rights in 1791, referred to guns that routinely jammed when a person went to use them. Duals were a commonplace way of resolving conflict.
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There’s no indication the founding fathers intended their law to protect the proliferation of semi-automatic and automatic weapons across the country. The Second Amendment simply cannot be taken literally in the context of today’s firearm technology because the founding fathers had no way to envision how the meaning would change over time.
There is a sure-fire way to reduce gun violence and mass shootings, and that is to reduce the amount of guns in circulation with stricter gun control laws. It’s not enough for politicians to condemn the actions of Paddock and other perpetrators as “evil” if they aren’t going to enact legislation that denies people the opportunity to commit these actions in the first place.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.