Editorial

Carnage in Vegas: the dangers of lax gun control

The ‘mass shooting’ must awaken the U.S. to the dangers of lax gun ownership regulation

The famous Las Vegas Strip became the scene of a bloody gun rampage when a shooter fired high-powered automatic rounds into dense crowds at a music concert, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500. This is the worst mass shooting in modern American history, although the June 2016 shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, came close with 49 people dead. Perched high on the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock sat in a virtual sniper’s nest, armed with a collection of 23 rifles, some of them automatic ones. And some of the semi-automatic rifles were boosted to automatic-speed firing using “bump stocks”. He was subsequently found dead in the room from a self-inflicted injury. Initially, confusion prevailed over whether this attack was linked to the Islamic State. Speculation mounted further after its Amaq news agency reportedly claimed credit for the attack. However, with the authorities saying there was no evidence of a connection between Paddock and such terror groups, the authenticity of Amaq’s claim has been questioned by several experts. Whether Paddock had links to the IS or not, the Las Vegas shooting once again puts the spotlight on a painful and oft-debated policy issue in the United States — that of gun control reform.

Despite authoring 15 attempts to bring common-sense gun control regulations to the floor of the U.S. Congress, former President Barack Obama had in the last days of his administration launched one final attempt to close loopholes in gun laws through executive action. These aimed at expanding background checks for gun ownership, boosting funding for federal agencies enforcing the laws, and improving treatment of mental health conditions nationwide. Earlier, his most ambitious push to tighten the lax regulation of gun proliferation, floated in 2013 in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, was speedily shut down by hostile conservative lawmakers. At the heart of the U.S. Congress’s reluctance to take steps to address the regular occurrence of gun rampages in public spaces is the insidious lobbying on Capitol Hill by the deep-pocketed National Rifle Association and a myriad of gun manufacturers. After several mass shootings, NRA spokespersons have claimed that the only answer to gun deaths is more guns. In President Donald Trump, they may have found their strongest ally yet. Although he described the Las Vegas shooting as an “act of pure evil”, during the 2016 campaign he had pandered to the gun lobby’s interest on occasion, particularly through fear-mongering that if the Democratic agenda succeeded, “Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.” The gun lobby’s multi-generational success in this regard is built upon a cultural proclivity for gun ownership rooted in the Second Amendment of the constitution. Until Americans apply reasonable, if not stringent, restrictions to gun ownership, they are unlikely to escape the regular visitation of such mass tragedies.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 7:28:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/carnage-in-vegas-the-dangers-of-lax-gun-control/article19791900.ece

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