In 2015, The New York Times responded to a horrific incident, where two Virginia journalists were shot and killed as they broadcasted live, by outlining the extent to which Americans were dying from gun violence. Two years later, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings on October 1, which left at least 59 dead and over 500 injured according to ABC News, these statistics resurfaced, unfortunately still far too relevant. Each stat is guaranteed to break your heart, but one does the best to demonstrate the bigger picture of how truly large America's gun violence casualty count really is. According to The New York Times, it's reported that the number of Americans killed on battlefields in all wars in history is a saddening 1,396,733 but, the number of Americans killed by firearms from 1968 to 2015 is even higher at 1,516,863.
As you may have figured, this number isn't slowing down. The New York Times reported that more Americans die every six months from gun homicides and suicides than have died from ever terrorist attack and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined. So, it's completely normal to ask, why are so many American's dying from guns?
What Guns Were Used In Vegas?
According to the New York Times, the police found 23 guns in the Las Vegas shooter's hotel room, including AR-15-style assault rifles. Grab A Gun's website reports that AR-15s are used alongside AK-47s by many of the world's strongest military forces. While the AK-47 is the top-selling weapon on the globe, the AR-15, happens to be the top-selling rifle in America. The AR-15 is not only lighter and longer than it's counterpart, but can also fire more rounds per minute.
While it has not yet been released which guns were used in the attack, AR-15s have been used in mass shootings before. The assault rifle was used in the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012, where 20 children and six adults were killed while at school, and Aurora, Colorado where 12 people were killed at a movie theater.
Fully automatic weapons have been banned from civilians since the Firearm Owners' Protection Act of 1986, but the use of "bump stocks" converts semi-automatic weapons, such as the AR-15, into automatic ones. The Chicago Tribune reports that the shooter had two of these "bump stocks." This would have allowed him to turn his semi-automatic assault rifles into weapons that were able to fire 400-800 rounds per minute. As a result of this increase in fire power, "bump stocks" have been the subject of increased scrutiny by law enforcement. Authorities are still investigating whether the shooter used these devices in the attack.
Regardless of whether or not the shooter manipulated his firearms, there is no reason he should have been allowed access to a weapon that is used by some of the world's strongest military forces. That is where the argument that carry a gun is for protection ends. No one is carrying around a semi-automatic assault rifle as a means of self-defense. This is a device that is designed to kill and allowing civilians to purchase one is not only reckless but, as was demonstrated on Sunday, extremely deadly.
Who Controls Which Guns Can Be Sold?
The nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Nevada an "F' rating when it comes to gun control, according to Quartz. For one, you don't need a permit in Nevada if you want to buy a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. The gun does not have to be registered and you don't need a license to own it. If you have a concealed handgun, you require a permit, but open carry is allowed without one. However, if you meet certain requirements then authorities must issue you a permit for concealed carry if you haven't registered yourself. Considering the shooter had 23 firearms in his hotel room, it should come at no surprise that there is no limit to how many guns you can purchase at the same time in Nevada, and there is no waiting period required.
However, in November 2016, Nevada residents voted to enact change, narrowly passing a law calling for all private sellers to conduct the same criminal background checks on buyers that are used by licensed gun dealers. Then, days before it was to go into effect, Nevada's Republican attorney general, Adam Paul Laxalt, called the new law unenforceable and stated that citizens were "excused from compliance," according to the Guardian. Earlier this year, that same attorney general spoke at the NRA's annual meeting and was hailed as a hero for his opposition to the background checks.
While the enforcement of this law might not have stopped the shooter from purchasing guns, considering he had no serious criminal record, it could for many others. Plus, limiting which guns he could purchase would have made a real difference.
People are literally dying because of unnecessary access to guns. David Hemenway, a Harvard professor, reported in his book Private Guns, Public Health that the odds of an American child dying from guns is 14 times as likely than in any other developed country. Children are being taken from this world before they've even had a chance to experience it because lawmakers refuse to limit access to guns.
As part of Trump's repayment to the NRA, in February he rolled back Obama-era legislation that had been implemented to decrease the amount of mentally ill Americans with access to guns. On top of that, the House is voting as early as this week to allow silencers to be much more easily purchased. Since 1934, they have been considered "destructive devices," placed in the same category as grenades and rocket launchers. If used, silencers make it much harder to identify the source of the shooting or even realize that an active shooting is taking place. To purchase one you must pay a $200 tax stamp, get federal registration and a special license. The new Act would allow silencers to be purchased as ordinary firearms. Originally, the vote was scheduled for June 14 but when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot during congressional baseball practice on the same day, the vote was delayed.
A gunman shot at a crowd of 22,000 people from 32 floors above and across the street with military assault rifles. This is not the America we have the potential to be. We must speak out until gun control laws are passed. We must be better, do better, and, once and for all, implement gun control.