Sorry, people, we need to politicize this one.
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.
On Oct. 1, a gunman reportedly opened fire from a hotel window, killing dozens at a country music concert in Las Vegas.
The massacre was shocking because of its size — at least 58 dead and 400 injured — but, truthfully, not surprising. According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have already been 338 mass shootings in 2017 — a rate of more than one per day. The Las Vegas attack wasn't even the only entry on Sunday.
Predictably, gun company lobbyists are already storming the barricades, urging concerned citizens not to read too much into it. Early Monday morning, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch posted on Twitter to ask outraged gun control advocates to "temper [their] desire for politics while the facts come in."
Indeed, skepticism is always warranted, prudence is wise, patience is a virtue, etc., etc., etc. On another context-free, history-free planet, Loesch might have a point. But we've been here before.
Too many times.
"Thoughts and prayers" aren't gonna cut it. We need action.
By sheer macabre coincidence, the United States Congress is currently considering a bill that would lift restrictions on purchasing gun silencers.
The legislation, introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, ends the nine-month waiting period currently required to purchase "sound suppressors" and eliminates a measure requiring buyers to submit fingerprints and a photo. Given the news out of Las Vegas, the timing could not be worse, though with a mass shooting taking place at the rate of roughly once a day, it would almost be weirder if one didn't occur while the bill was being considered.
While the bill's supporters characterize it as designed to help hunters and target-shooters prevent hearing loss, it doesn't take an expert to realize that, in the wrong hands, the result could be deadly. After all, it's harder to save oneself from a mass shooting (or for law enforcement to find the shooter) if it's harder to hear that one is taking place. In an opinion piece for USA Today, Virginia Tech massacre survivor Jeff Twigg railed against the bill, insisting that he only managed to escape because he heard loud gunshots.
Not politicizing mass shootings like Las Vegas does serve a political end — it helps gun rights absolutists slip measures like this by.
The silencer bill is proceeding with the full support of the firearm industry, which is looking for new revenue streams after suffering a post-Obama reported decline in sales. They know it's political, and they're making it so. They're counting on the vast majority of Americans who support tighter gun laws shrugging, praying, and moving on.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Proponents of the measure might point to the fact the Las Vegas shooter likely used an automatic weapon and that fully automatic weapons made after 1986 are already illegal to own. Or that the guy probably didn't use a silencer. Yes, there are all sorts of reasons why stopping this specific bill would not have prevented this specific shooting. Or the last specific shooting. Or the one before that or the one before that.
But no mass shooting looks exactly like the one before it.
Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen used a (legally obtained) semi-automatic rifle and pistol to kill 49 and wound dozens more. Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho also purchased his pistols legally. Christopher Dorner, who killed four colleagues and their family members in a span of just over a week in 2013, used a silencer to avoid detection for days.
Lax, patchy gun laws make loopholes easier to find and exploit. While the silencer bill may not map 1:1 onto the next act of mass killing, it does provide potential killers another deadly option.
Mass shootings aren't inevitable.
They are the result of choices we — and our government — make. It's not a coincidence that countries with stricter gun laws have far fewer of them.
In order to stop the next one, we can't just hope and think and pray. We have to actually try. Stopping the silencer bill is a place to start.
The Las Vegas shooting was evil. It was also political.
Correction 10/3/17: An earlier version of this piece identified the main author of the "silencer" bill as California Rep. Duncan Hunter. The bill was introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan.