Las Vegas and the need for change

By Isaac Simon

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

On Dec. 16, 2012, President Obama delivered remarks at a memorial service in Newtown, Connecticut, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I have been reflecting on this for the past few days, and if were being honest with ourselves, the answer is no, we are not doing enough,” he said. “And we will have to change. Since I have been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings…We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

It is appropriate for anyone to offer condolences in light of such brutality. What is equally appropriate is to have a conversation in light of such calamity—one that not only serves the families hurt the most, but works to promote change.

Last week, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old Nevada resident with no prior criminal record, fired 280 rounds in 31 seconds using semiautomatic weapons he purchased legally, and killing 59 people before taking his own life. Between Oct. 2016 and Oct. 2017, Paddock legally purchased 33 firearms.

In the days since the shooting, many individuals have voiced their opinions on how we should move forward as a nation. But it is unfortunate how polarizing these comments have been. Congressional Democrats, rightfully so, want to take this opportunity to reflect on this country’s inertia with respect to sensible gun policy, whereas those on the right are chomping at the bit to disavow leftist arguments and profess that now is not the time.

That said, there seems to be no middle ground. Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected questions regarding gun control in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, saying, “There will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.” Talk of policy, according to Sanders, would not take place on “a day of mourning.”

But then she continued, shifting the narrative and saying, “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there.”

Sanders’ logic is flawed in the sense that there is no evidence to suggest that creating relaxed gun policy in Chicago would result in less crime in the inner cities. Staunch second amendment supporters seem to only want to discuss the violence in Chicago as a way to hide behind the realities of mass shootings.

Recent data conducted by Gallup suggests that 55 percent of Americans believe in tighter regulations regarding gun sales. Polling conducted by Gallup in the fall of 2015 also revealed that 86 percent of Americans favored a universal federal background check. When asked if implementing such a policy would help curb mass shootings in the United States, 69 percent of people believed that it would make at least a small difference. A sensible gun debate in this country should not involve polarizing arguments nor all-or-nothing conclusions.

The Supreme Court’s decision in The District of Columbia v. Heller sets the standard for private gun ownership in this country. Given the current ideological breakdown of the Supreme Court justices, especially given the fact that some members are now entering their early and mid-80s, the bench will likely have strong support for the second amendment for the next generation.

Of the last 17 mass shootings in this country, a vast majority of them were carried out with guns that were legally acquired by the killers. An AR-15-style rifle was one of the guns confiscated from Paddock’s hotel room. The Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, failed to prevent the purchase of an AR-15, but included restrictions on ways the weapon could be modified. We know that Paddock was able to legally purchase 12 ‘bump stock’ add-ons, making his weapons work at an almost automatic rate. Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a bill on Oct. 4 that would ban the purchase of these features.

The founders could have foreseen an end to slavery, but they surely could not have foreseen the instant violence that is carried out by machines of the caliber that we have today. The time has come when this country must differentiate between weapons that are used for assault and weapons used for defense.

“Never,” is typically the response to ideas behind sensible gun legislation. “Now,” is typically the response to calls for prayers and sympathy intended for those who have been effected by the horrors of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers are gracious and necessary, but you can’t pray for legislation, nor is it ever a substitute for inaction. Thomas Jefferson believed that the constitution should change with the times. As we come up on five years since Sandy Hook, let us not only promote change but produce action.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]