After Vegas, 59 More Notches for Congress

Notches on a gunstock

Notches on the stock of a rifle
I suppose somewhere in the sick mind of Stephen Paddock, he fancied himself a western gunslinger. But a gunslinger of the Old West had to cock the hammer on his six shooter before he could fire a single round. Paddock, on the other hand, was able to fire off 600 rounds per minute with one pull of the trigger. That’s because he used a bump stock on several of his semi-automatic rifles, which effectively turned them into machine guns, and enabled him to terrorize thousands of people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on October 1. The barrage of gun fire lasted for about ten minutes, and left 59 dead and over 500 others injured. And unlike the Old West villain who carved a notch on the handle of his Colt to commemorate every kill, Paddock didn’t live long enough to put 59 notches on his guns. No matter, though, because those 59 notches belong as much to Congress as they do to Mr. Paddock. Certainly, Paddock pulled the triggers, but our federally elected representatives, past and present, made it possible for him to have those weapons in the first place.

Time and again, in the aftermath of a mass shooting, Congress has had a golden opportunity to enact substantive gun reforms, but always failed to do so. And those opportunities have not been scarce. Since 2012, the United States has experienced no less than nine massacres, and the Vegas shooting was the bloodiest. In December of 2012, for example, parents of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school, pleaded with Congress to enact new gun laws, but even their pleas fell on deaf ears. The same thing will happen in the aftermath of Vegas. The question is, Why? The answer is the NRA, an organization whose original mission was to promote gun safety, but now stands for gun proliferation.

Not surprisingly, today there are more guns in circulation than there are people, and those guns kill over 11,000 Americans each year. That compares to 165 gun deaths in Canada, 68 in the UK, 55 in Australia, and 39 in Japan. In those countries, government officials aren’t controlled by the NRA, nor do they condone the sale of semi automatic assault rifles for either home protection or hunting.

The truth is, I can stop an intruder with a double action handgun, or a double barrel shotgun. And I can kill a deer seven times over with an old-fashioned Trapper model Winchester. Clearly, no one needs an assault rifle, so those guns should be banned. We also need to ban all after-market modifications and accessories for those rifles. We need to charge a premium price for all ammo. And, once the reforms are in place, we need to confiscate all banned weapons and devices without regard for grandfathered exemptions. In other words, the new laws would go into effect retroactively.

No doubt we will have to wait on these reforms until Democrats hold a super majority in both chambers. But when and if that happens, they must also strictly enforce a Conflict of Interest rule, whereby any member of Congress who receives even a penny from the NRA, must abstain from voting on any gun related legislation. In the meantime, we’re stuck with a do-nothing Congress who believes in the NRA’s mantra, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” True enough, but Stephen Paddock couldn’t have knifed or clubbed 600 people inside of ten minutes, so guns DO kill people, especially assault weapons.

And so, for now, the best we can hope for is enacting stricter background checks, longer waiting periods, and a base-line mental health predictor, such as standardized psych evaluations for middle school and high school students, as well as for new hires of government agencies and publicly held companies. I just hope we won’t have to carve any more notches until then.

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