Exploiting a tragedy doesn’t take long. It never does. Before the blood was cleaned from the pavement at Mandalay Bay Hotel predictable demands for more gun control lit up the media. Shooters who take the lives of the innocent are clearly deranged, and pols and pundits who immediately seize upon shootings to polish their attacks on the Second Amendment reveal their own cold inclinations. The rest of us are twice victimized.
The fusillade of bullets that Stephen Paddock rained down on the assembled country-music fans appears to have come from rifles that had been illegally modified to fire as automatic weapons. Paddock killed at least 59 and wounded more than 500. This inspired Tom Brokaw, formerly of NBC-TV, to rail erroneously against the availability of fully automatic guns: “You listen to those weapons — they’re on full auto at that point,” he cried. “Where did he get that kind of a gun?” The correct answer to his question is probably nowhere legally.
The sale of most types of fully automatic guns that keep firing with one pull of the trigger have been highly regulated in the United States since 1934, and the rest have been strictly controlled since 1986. Unless the shooter got his hands on a contraband machine gun, he likely used reconfigured guns whose modification is already prohibited by the law.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded a new select congressional committee to study gun violence. Hillary Clinton hurried to pin a target on the National Rifle Association: “We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again,” she tweeted.
The NRA was founded to protect the Second Amendment rights of 5 million law-abiding American gun owners, not the extreme outliers whose psychotic derangements lead to murder. There is no discernible evidence that an NRA member has ever committed a mass shooting. To suggest that the NRA is responsible for the grim work of one madman is silly.
No one suggests that the American Automobile Association was responsible for the crime of the man who drove a car into the crowd at Charlottesville. Just as the AAA has posted video warnings about driving while distracted by texting or using a telephone while driving, the NRA trains more than a million persons annually in its gun-safety classes. There’s common sense in the folk wisdom that “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
Readers and television viewers must be wary of thoughtless gun-control conclusions uncoupled from objective reporting. Sentiment and ignorance drives the unwary to pick the NRA as a convenient target whenever a nut opens fire. Paris, where 130 individuals were gunned down in 2015, has some of the world’s most stringent firearms restrictions. So does Chicago, where 519 persons have been murdered already this year.
The humane response to the tragedy visited upon Las Vegas is not legislation but consolation, for both victims and survivors. Politicians are unable to stop mass murder because the black heart responsible for the finger that pulls the trigger occupies a dark place beyond the reach of reason. If law alone could govern the actions of mankind, a law comprised of only four short words would have been enough: “Thou shalt not kill.”
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